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Tech companies push for new green card program

It's no secret that foreign-born workers are essential to the STEM fields -- as the areas of science, technology, engineering and math are referred to. That's why the biggest tech companies in the United States are urging lawmakers to pass a bill that would grant permanent residency to holders of advanced degrees in STEM fields.

Apple, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Microsoft are just a few of the tech companies that have written letters to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) -- the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee -- persuading him to support the bill. According to reports, it looks like the lawmaker is responding favorably to the idea.

Last week, the so-called gatekeeper of immigration bills in the house said the United States "cannot afford to train these foreign graduates in the U.S. and then send them back home to work for our competitors." In the past, bills granting green cards to these graduates have been successful.

Typically, foreign-born students attending American universities apply for a temporary H-1B work visa and then apply for permanent residency. However, the United States only allows 140,000 employment-based green cards each year, and each individual country is limited to 7 percent of the total. Therefore, applicants from large countries like China and India often face wait times of several years.

The bill that has been proposed would include a maximum of 55,000 green cards per year. The new STEM program would put an end to a "diversity lottery" program that currently grants the same number of green cards to randomly selected applicants throughout the world.

Finally, there would be rules in place that would prevent people from attending online universities from other countries and qualifying for the green cards. There would also be restrictions on the type of universities from which diplomas are acceptable, preventing "diploma mills" from popping up.

Source: ComputerWorld, "Tech giants urge passage of STEM green card bill," Patrick Thibodeau, July 17, 2012

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