A companion bill aims to help immigrant STEM students stay and work in the U.S. to improve the nation’s standing in advanced technological fields.
A team of Democratic lawmakers introduced new legislation last week to increase the volume of top tech talent regardless of nationality or immigration visa status.
Backed by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Alex Padilla, D-Calif.; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the Keep STEM Talent Act of 2022 seeks to keep international students graduating with at least a master’s degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics in the United States.
“America should always be focused on maintaining a strong STEM workforce because it strengthens our economy and enhances our ability to compete on the world stage,” Durbin said. “By denying international students with STEM degrees the opportunity to continue their work in America, we are losing their talents to countries overseas and won’t see the positive impacts of their American education. We believe this bill represents a common sense idea that the Senate should take seriously.”
For immigrant students who have a qualifying degree from a U.S. university or college and have a high-paying job offer from a U.S.-based company, the bill would exempt them from the limitation imposed on the quota of visas granted per year.
Notably, the company sponsoring these workers with job offers must secure approval from the secretary of Labor to certify that no qualified U.S. citizens are eligible for the same job offer extended to an immigrant student.
Some of the sectors the bill is targeting for top talent retention include computer sciences and information technology, mathematics, engineering, agricultural sciences and biological and biomedical sciences.
“America cannot afford to shut out the world’s talent if we want to retain our competitive edge in the global economy,” Klobuchar said. “By making it easier for international students with advanced STEM degrees to remain in the U.S., this legislation will help ensure America continues to benefit from these students’ talents and innovations.”
The Senate bill is a companion piece to an identical bill introduced in the House of Representatives in 2021. That bill was introduced by Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill.
Legislating growth in the competitive and critical STEM fields in both the public and private sectors has been a popular initiative within the Biden administration. The White House has launched several programs aimed at encouraging STEM education, namely the U.S. Digital Corps and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Quantum Sciences education plan.