STEM Visa Bill Defeated in Congress but Debate Goes On

One of the most talked about measures to improve the competitiveness of the United States in the area of technology and innovation is the STEM Jobs Bill. On September 20th, the bill, put forth by Republican Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas, was defeated in the House, failing to receive two thirds of the votes.

The Bill would enable 55,000 students with a doctorate or a master’s degree in one of the STEM subjects to apply for a Green Card upon graduation. If enacted, the STEM Jobs Bill would have discontinued the Diversity Visa Program, or Green Card Lottery, which currently allocates 55,000 Green Cards to people from countries with low levels of immigration to the United States. The Bill was struck down mostly by Democrats unwilling to eliminate the Diversity Visa Program. Two more bills are on the table, one by Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California, the other by Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. Both of these bills aim to keep the Diversity Visa Program alive while introducing the STEM Visa program simultaneously.

Politicians on both sides, as well as heads of industry all agree that something needs to be done in order to not lose highly educated workers to other countries. Without the ability to stay and work in the United States, these foreign students are forced to leave and end up working for companies overseas. These students are especially important to the future of the US economy because of the low rates of American students who decide to go in to science and engineering, only about 5% of graduates.

Solving the issue of talent leaving the US will be essential in order to ensure America’s continual success in leading the world in technology and innovation in the 21st century. If Congress can manage to cooperate across the aisle and reach a compromise, the STEM Jobs Bill would supply hi-tech companies with much needed workers and boost the US economy.

Progress is being made, but a lot more has to be done in order for the United States to reverse the current trend of lagging behind other countries in competitiveness. Ultimately, the problem of American students lacking interest in studying science and engineering has to be tackled in order to ensure future prosperity.

Posted by: Samuel Benka

Sources: Forbes, Politico, The Huffington Post

Photo Credit: US Capitol Courtesy of Flickr user katieharbath


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