Congress Focuses Immigration Efforts on High-Skill Fields

Senator Chuck Schumer is introducing a bill to create a two-year pilot program that would give green cards to 55,000 foreign students who graduate from American universities with an advanced degree in the science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields.

“It makes no sense that America is educating the world’s smartest and most talented students and then, once they are at their full potential and mastered their craft, kicking them out the door,” Schumer said in a statement. “Fixing our broken green card system will help ensure that the next eBay, the next Google, the next Intel will be started in New York City, not in Shanghai or Bangalore or London.”

Both Democrats and the Republicans want to give green cards to foreign students who earn Master's or Ph.D. degrees, but there are a few important differences in their approach.

Lamar Smith, a Republican Congressman from Texas, introduced his own bill in the House.

His bill calls for the elimination of the diversity visa program, which grants 55,000 green cards to residents of countries with low immigration rates to the U.S. People who enter through this program are randomly selected. Instead, the Republicans want to reallocate those green cards to STEM graduates. The GOP would also allow graduates of for-profit and online institutions to apply for green cards, while the Democrats want to exclude those institutions.

Attempts to craft a bipartisan bill broke down last week, according to a person familiar with the talks, but who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on Smith’s proposal on Thursday.

According to a Georgetown University’s study, by 2018 the U.S. is projected to face a shortage of 230,000 workers in the STEM fields.