House to Vote to Award More Green Cards to Highly-Skilled Immigrants

House to Vote to Award More Green Cards to Highly-Skilled Immigrants

The House will vote on a bill to give more green cards to highly-skilled immigrants who hold advanced degrees in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines from U.S. universities. 

The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Jobs Act, introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), will be voted on in the House next Friday.

The bill failed to pass the House in September with the two-thirds support it needed because it was voted on under suspension of the rules. 

The bill that will be considered next Friday will include a new provision “that would allow spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents to come to the U.S. to wait for their green cards.” These spouses and children will not, however, receive authorization to work.

This provision is intended to assuage Democrats, who voted against the original bill because it reallocated 55,000 visas from the diversity visa program that awards green cards via a lottery to people from countries that have traditionally low rates of immigration to America. 

Though foreign students receive nearly 40% of the advanced degrees awarded in STEM fields, only 5% of the country’s green cards are awarded to immigrants based on such skills and education. Meanwhile, those who come to the United States through the “diversity visa” program usually have the highest levels of unemployment and the lowest levels of social integration. 

The technology industry has pushed both parties to increase the number of skill-based visas. Politicians on both sides have argued awarding visas to those with advanced STEM degrees will increase the number of potential immigrants who will start businesses and become job creators in America instead of in their native countries. 

Those opposed to more high-skilled visas have argued technology companies would use them, despite the safeguards written into the bill, to undercut American wages or hire foreign workers instead of equally qualified Americans. 

The bill is likely to win the support of a majority of House members.