STEM Visa Measures Introduced

September 18, 2012

Just days before Congress is expected to leave town for recess, Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) have introduced two separate science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) visa bills, which seek to provide visas to foreign-born students graduating from an American University with an advanced degree in a STEM field in hopes of promoting and facilitating entrepreneurship, job creation, and economic growth. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is expected to introduce a similar measure soon.

Last Friday, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (@RepZoeLofgren), Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration Policy and Enforcement Subcommittee, introduced the Attracting the Best and Brightest Act of 2012 (H.R. 6412), which would, among other things, create a new “EB-6” green card category for persons with an advanced degree in a STEM field from an American research university, provide up to 50,000 STEM visas without eliminating the diversity visa program, prohibit participation by students graduating from for-profit schools or those who obtained on-line or correspondence degrees and require that wages paid to STEM graduates are comparable to wages paid to U.S. employees.  The increase in visas quota would expire after two years.

Yesterday, Rep. Lamar Smith (@LamarSmithTX21), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the STEM Jobs Act of 2012 (the “STEM Jobs Act”). If enacted, the STEM Jobs Act would eliminate the diversity visa program and reallocate the program’s 55,000 green cards to foreign-born students graduating from an American university with an advanced degree in a STEM field. The House is expected to vote on the STEM Jobs Act this week.

Sen. Schumer (@ChuckSchumer ) is expected to introduce on Wednesday his STEM visa bill which is not expected to eliminate the diversity visa program.

The debate over STEM visas and highly-skilled immigration reform would not be complete without discussing the NSBA-supported Startup Act 2.0. (S. 3217) (#StartupAct) originally introduced by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) (@JerryMoran), Mark Warner (D-Va.) (@MarkWarner), Chris Coons (D-Del.) (@SenCoonsOffice) and March Rubio (R-Fla.) (@SenRubioPress) in the Senate and Reps. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) (@repmichaelgrimm ) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) (@LorettaSanchez) in the House.  The Startup Act provides for a more comprehensive approach to highly-skilled immigration reform, jobs and economic development.

In addition to creating two new visa categories for highly-skilled immigrant students and entrepreneurs and eliminating the per-country numerical limit on employment-based visas, the Startup Act contains language long supported by NSBA to require a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of all proposed federal rules with an economic impact of $100 million or more, extends the R&D tax credit and lowers capital gains tax rates, creates a Biennial State Startup Business Report and New Business Formation Report to determine how state laws affect new business formation and growth and compile critical data on new business formation in the U.S. (respectively), and allocates existing federal R&D funding to foster the commercialization of innovative technologies from American universities’ research programs.

All of the foregoing measures would help small businesses across the country attract and retain the workers they need to expand their businesses, create jobs, and maintain long-term economic growth. The importance of attracting and retaining highly-skilled entrepreneurs and workers is critical to the success of America’s small-business community.

For additional information or real-time updates on the above-referenced bills, please follow us on Twitter at @NSBAAdvocate or search for the hashtags #STEM, #DidYouKnow, or #StartupAct.