As controversial as many immigration issues have become in the U.S., most politicians and economists recognize the economic benefits of granting permanent residency to skilled workers. Immigration based on employment makes all the more sense when the visa recipient obtained an advanced degree at an American university and will bring technical skills to the economy.
Texas Senator John Cornyn recently proposed federal legislation that would allocate more than 50,000 permanent immigrant visas to foreign students who have obtained graduate degrees at American universities. The STAR Act (Securing the Talent America Requires for the 21st Century) would focus on foreign students who have masters degrees or doctorates in engineering, science, mathematics or technology fields and already have job offers.
Top American universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cal Tech graduate a new crop of innovators and budding geniuses every year, and a significant number of those students come from other countries. For instance, more than a third of the graduate students enrolled at MIT this past year came from foreign countries, and that proportion has remained consistent over the last fifteen years.
Technology companies like Google and Intel support passage of the STAR Act because they know that remaining competitive means hiring the best and the brightest students. Robert Hoffman, a vice president of government affairs at the Information Technology Industry Council, issued a note of caution: “Absent action by Congress to reduce the waiting period for green cards, we run the risk of a brain drain that threatens America’s current and long-term innovation leadership.”
Keeping talent in the U.S. provides a significant return on the investment our society makes in its institutions of higher learning. However, the STAR Act as currently proposed would come at a cost to other types of immigration by offsetting the same number of diversity visas for applicants from certain countries.
An immigration lawyer can explain a range of employment-based visa solutions, including H-1B work visas and L-1 work visas for executives of multinational companies who need to work temporarily in the U.S. By recognizing that smart immigration policies promote the flow of commerce and ideas, American lawmakers can ensure that the coming economic rebound will provide benefits to our economy.