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Obama wants green cards for foreigners with US STEM degrees

The Obama administration’s much-anticipated immigration reform proposal, announced on 29 January, includes a plan to attach green cards to the diplomas of foreigners who have earned advanced degrees in scientific and technical disciplines from US universities.

“The proposal encourages foreign graduate students educated in the United States to stay here and contribute to our economy by ‘stapling’ a green card to the diplomas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) PhD and Master’s degree graduates from qualified US universities who have found employment in the United States,” a White House fact sheet explained.

The plan also would require employers to pay a fee that will support education and training to grow the next generation of American workers in STEM careers.

In addition, the administration is proposing to create a visa category for foreigners to work in federal science and technology laboratories on critical national security needs.

A limited number of highly-skilled and specialised immigrants would be able to benefit from this visa category after being in the US for two years and passing rigorous national security and criminal background checks.

“Right now, there are brilliant students from all over the world sitting in classrooms at our top universities,” President Obama said when announcing the proposal in a speech in Las Vegas, Nevada. “They’re earning degrees in the fields of the future, like engineering and computer science. But once they finish school, once they earn that diploma, there’s a good chance they’ll have to leave our country.”

He noted that Intel and Instagram were both started with the help of an immigrant who studied in the US and then stayed there.

“We’re giving them all the skills they need to figure that out, but then we’re going to turn around and tell them to start that business and create those jobs in China or India or Mexico or someplace else,” the president added. “That’s not how you grow new industries in America. That’s how you give new industries to our competitors.”

During his speech, Obama endorsed a bipartisan immigration framework that came out of the Senate on 29 January. The statement of principles, offered by four Democratic and four Republican senators, also proposed to award a green card to immigrants who have received a PhD or masters degree in STEM fields from an American university.