House Votes to Ease Visa Restrictions for Educated Immigrants

The bill, which now faces a vote in the Senate, would provide additional visas for certain immigrants with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

Posted: 12/03/2012 01:29 PM EST
House Votes on New Visa Rules for Educated Immigrants

The House of Representatives recently voted in favor of a bill which would provide additional visas for foreign graduates of American universities who have doctoral and master’s degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).

While the bill seems to be a heaven send for both immigration advocates and critics alike, the bill is not likely to pass in the Senate where Democrats have control. Key democrats including President Obama have addressed their concerns about the bill being exclusive and too narrowly tailored to serve American interests.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) called the bill “a naked attempt to satisfy anti-immigrant groups,” according to the New York Times.

Traditionally, the diversity lottery visa program makes 55,000 visas available per year and eligible applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States are drawn at random. The bill, STEM Jobs Act, H.R. 6429., would get rid of the diversity lottery green card program and instead issue up to 55,000 green cards per year to to foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees.

African immigrants have been more reliant on the diversity visa program as nearly half of all immigrants who received diversity visas in 2010 were born in Africa. However, despite the great disadvantage many African immigrants may face as a result of the bill, over 40 percent of African immigrants hold bachelor’s degrees or higher — meaning a large population of visa seekers may still be eligible under the bill's rules. Immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean face the reverse scenario as over 40 percent of immigrants from this region obtain visas through family members or an employer.

Despite speculation that the bill's requirements may set immigrant groups against one another, for business owners and certain immigrant groups, the House-approved bill may be a boon to obtaining legal status.

“Entrepreneurship and job creation won’t kick into high gear until businesses have the workers they need to drive growth and innovation,” wrote House majority leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) in an an op-ed this week, “and immigrants have always been a key part of the equation.”

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(Photo: Jabin Botsford/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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