New York: The prospects for US immigration reform looked up on January 28 with a bipartisan group of senators unveiling a plan. The high-skilled portion of their plan promises to grant a green card to anyone who completes a postgraduate degree in science, math, or engineering from an American university.
The senators’ proposals will form the basis of a bill, which will be introduced to the Senate by March, gain approval of the chamber by late spring or summer and then spend the autumn in the House of Representatives before being sent for the president’s signature by the end of the year.
It could be a windfall for Indian students, who typically come to the US in large numbers to study in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
“The United States must do a better job of attracting and keeping the world’s best and brightest,” the Senate framework says. “It makes no sense to educate the world’s future innovators and entrepreneurs only to ultimately force them to leave our country at the moment they are most able to contribute to our economy.”
The idea of supplementing America’s scientific talent pool with some of the brightest scientists and programmers from places like China, India, and Brazil holds obvious appeal for Congress. Green cards for STEM graduates and a streamlined process for their families had already been agreed upon in last year’s STEM Jobs Act, which cleared the Republican-controlled House. There is now likely to be bipartisan support for the high-skilled portion of the Senate plan, which promises to:
* Award a green card to immigrants, who have received a PhD or Master’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or math from an American university.
* Reduce backlogs in the family and employment visa categories so that future immigrants view the future legal immigration system as the exclusive means for entry into the United States.
The idea of pinning green cards to the degree certificates earned by science and engineering graduates has garnered the support of Silicon Valley and corporate America.
“For a well-to-do engineering graduate in, say, Chile, spending $50,000 on a one-year master’s at Arizona State, or somewhere similar, in exchange for a relatively easy green card could be an irresistible option,” observed The New Yorker daily.
The senators promoted their proposal a day before President Barack Obama presents his own blueprint. Obama’s plan will play second fiddle to the initiative from the eight US senators and his own vision is expected to be similar to that of the senators.