Proposed Visa Program Prioritizes STEM Grads, Excludes Others
A Republican-backed bill will replace the diversity visa lottery, which offers visas to people from countries with low immigration rates to the US, with a program that focuses exclusively on people with advanced STEM degrees.
Foreign-born graduates of American universities will get a chance to stay in the US if they have the right degree, thanks to a bill recently introduced in the House that proposes granting 55,000 visas a year to holders of advanced degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) says of the bill, “In a global economy, we cannot afford to educate these foreign graduates in the US and then send them back home to work for our competitors.” Priority is granted to PhD recipients who come from a specific set of universities and who will work in the States for a fixed number of years.
What’s the Big Idea?
While STEM visas have always had broad bipartisan support, this is the first time that a bill has been offered that provides those visas at the expense of others: specifically, the 55,000 visas that are currently granted to winners in a lottery diversity program designed to open America to people from countries with low immigration rates. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) sees this as problematic: “Republicans are only willing to increase legal immigration for immigrants they want by eliminating legal immigration for immigrants they don’t want.” Another Democratic representative has presented a competing bill that doesn’t impact existing visa programs. However, only Smith’s bill is up for a vote, which takes place later this week.