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Defeated STEM program bill would have increased number of visas

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In past months on our Maryland blog, we have talked about the STEM visa program, which provides green cards to foreign students with advanced degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Some of that discussion has centered on the short supply for those green cards despite the great employment demands of technologically-inclined companies in the country.

High-tech businesses in the U.S. need employees with masters and graduate degrees in STEM fields. But because of a cap on the number of visas available, many foreign students receive their education here and depart for foreign companies that compete with domestic businesses. Congress has been attempting to draw up legislation that would provide more STEM visas, but its most recent proposal failed to receive the necessary support in the House of Representatives.

It appears that the bill failed to achieve passage there because Democratic members were unwilling to sacrifice another visa program in exchange. While the bill would have increased the number of available STEM visas, it would have done so by ending the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which provides visas to immigrants who come from nations with reduced immigration rates. People from African countries have been frequent recipients of visas under the program in recent years.

The defeated bill would have made 55,000 STEM visas available. In addition to receiving an advanced degree from a qualifying university in one of the STEM fields, visa applicants must also meet other requirements. They must demonstrate that current citizens are not eligible for the position and they must consent to remain employed by the company that is hiring them for a minimum of five years.

Source: The Washington Post, "House bill to increase visas for science and technology students defeated," Sept. 20, 2012

• Other bills reforming the STEM program are in the works. Interested applicants should keep abreast of legislative developments affecting this visa program. You can find more information on visas by visiting our Washington, D.C. employment-based green cards page.

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