Drawn up by bipartisan lawmakers, the Keep STEM Talent Act aims to give certain advanced STEM degree holders eligibility to apply for permanent residency in the US after graduation.
So far, it has gained bipartisan support in both the House and Senate from those who would keep more international STEM students in the country, though it has not yet been voted on by congress.
If passed, the law could potentially create a direct path to green card status for graduates of certain US STEM degrees, while also removing annual green card caps for these graduates.
The US representatives involved in the legislation—which includes Bill Foster, representative for Illinois's 11th congressional district, and Sylvia Garcia, representative for Texas's 29th congressional district—believe that by helping STEM graduates stay in the US, it will create greater opportunities for the entire country.
“We must expand America’s STEM workforce to compete in the global economy,” congressman Bill Foster said.
“Our country gives international STEM students world-class educations, only to turn them away when they want to stay in the United States after graduation and contribute their skills to our economy,” he added.
According to research by FWD.us, the law could benefit an additional 100,000 international graduates of US universities and college who would like to stay and work in the US, including many business school grads.
Foster stated that by making it easier for such global talent to find permanent residence, it would create more jobs and help the nation hold an edge on technological and scientific developments.
It would also increase the value of US education, allowing it to vie more competitively with Canada, Europe, and Australia for international students.
Even more crucially, the change would provide an alternative to the current system, in which international STEM graduates on an international F-1 student visa who wish to stay in the US have to apply for an OPT visa, granting them a total of just three years residency.
After this three year period, international workers must then apply for a H1-B visa if they want to continue to stay. To be considered eligible, they need to have been offered a temporary position by a US employer, who in turn must vouch for the necessity of their specialized skillset.
The new laws would make it comparatively easier for international graduates to spend longer in the US and remove barriers to finding work.
However, political commentators point out that in the wake of a looming government shutdown and the state of present inflation, getting the Act passed through congress may prove challenging.
Heather Stewart, counsel and director for Immigration Policy at NAFSA, told The PIE News: “As illustrated by the failure of both the House and the Senate to pass their necessary bills to fund the government in the next fiscal year, there are significant political challenges facing the passage of any bills of consequence.”
She added that how the senate resolves next years’ budget will be a strong indicator of whether the act will make it through congress.