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Stapling Green Cards to Diplomas

Mark Marich

The National Foundation for American Policy released a policy brief last week that says international students who graduate from U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) should get a green card “stapled” to their diplomas. With a growing number of Ph.D.s and Masters degrees earned by foreign nationals in these fields, plus a tremendous backlog on available green cards, US competitiveness is suffering.

"Keeping Talent in America”, funded by the Kauffman Foundation, shows a highly skilled Indian national sponsored today for the most common skilled employment-based immigrant visa could wait 70 years to receive a green card.

An exemption from green card quotas for at least 50,000 advanced degree STEM graduates annually from U.S. universities would make green cards immediately available to many highly skilled foreign nationals that U.S. employers – and the country – would like to retain. That is compared to currently projected waits for Indian nationals of 8 years or more in the employment-based second preference (EB-2) category and up to 70 years for Indians in the EB-3 (employment-based third preference) category if sponsored today for an employment-based green card.

The report says an exemption of 50,000 for STEM fields, plus removal of the per country limit, would eliminate the backlog in both EB-2 and EB-3 categories.

The study—and another like it done by NFAP—were at the center of discussion during a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement Oversight hearing pointed out in last week’s issue of PDE. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like there is a lot of hope for expanding exemptions or removing limits. According to a recap of that hearing on the Washington Post blog Ideas @ Innovations:

Committee members on both the right and the left showed a reluctance to increase the number of green cards and visas distributed, as unemployment continued to brush 10 percent in the U.S.

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