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Senate group proposes more 'STEM' green cards

Today, a group of U.S. Senators who are leading the effort for bi-partisan immigration reform released an outline for an immigration bill that would include a special visa for immigrants in the Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) fields. The visa would make immigrants with a Ph.D. or master's degree eligible for green cards.

As of yet, there is only a broad framework for the proposed bill, but it did specifically say that employers should be able to hire immigrants "if it can be demonstrated that they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American to fill an open position and the hiring of an immigrant will not displace American workers."

Although the outline does not specifically mention the H-1B program at this point, an earlier bill proposed by many of the same group members amended the cap on H-1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000. Additionally, the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 allowed for the cap to be increased to as high as 300,000 to accommodate demand.

Currently, 20,000 H-1B visas are available to immigrants with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. Employment-based green cards require that U.S. workers be recruited for positions first, but H-1B visas do not have such requirement.

It is unclear when a formal bill will be introduced. It is expected that months will pass before a final bill is put to vote, and it could look far different from the framework, which could just used for a point of negotiation. However, increased green cards for STEM graduates is something that has been widely popular in Congress in recent years.

Source: Computerworld, "Senate immigration 'framework' calls for STEM green cards," Patrick Thibodeau, Jan. 28, 2013

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