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Bill trading green card lottery for STEM workers passes House

Green cards are a very coveted item in the United States, which is why there is much anticipation each year before the "diversity visa lottery," which randomly grants 50,000 green cards for permanent residency to immigrants from counties with low immigration rates who have at least a high school degree.

For people who face a green card waiting list several years long, the lottery can be a saving grace. But the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would do away with the current randomized green card lottery in exchange for providing green cards to foreign nationals with higher degrees in science, engineering and math.

A similar bill failed in the House in September, but this time around the Republican authors of the bill made changes that allow legal immigrants to bring their spouses and minor children to the country right away instead of being forced to wait for years in their home countries.

The technology sector is standing behind the bill, but Democrats are more reluctant. Most say they support welcoming highly-skilled immigrants into the country, but believe the 50,000 green cards used in the lottery should not simply go to immigrants with a master's or doctorate in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

Many immigrant advocates also disagree with the approach. They say that cutting off the visa lottery, which has been in effect for roughly 20 years, would mean closing the door on immigrants from poor countries where master's and doctorate degrees are rare. As one immigrant advocate put it, a single mother with a high school degree has as much of a chance in the lottery as a successful businessman.

Additionally, some say immigration overall would slow down because there will soon not be enough foreign nationals with advanced degrees to want to immigrate.

Ultimately, it is expected that the bill will have trouble passing the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Source: Mercury News, "High-skill green cards get lame-duck push in Congress," Matt O'Brien,

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