STEM bill part of larger immigration reform

Immigration reform has seen very few measurable and lasting results in the past several years. However, a new group of senators has introduced an immigration system revamp that could substantially alter the way the country treats immigration. Part of the legislation proposal is a bill aimed at improving workforce talent in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through new visa procurement processes. Now that the federal government has renewed its focus on STEM jobs, engineering recruiters will become even more valuable for tech-minded firms.

Increase in available visas
The plan to improve domestic STEM talent by making more visas available to immigrant workers is part of the Immigration Innovation Act sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware). The plan is to increase the availability of employment-based nonimmigrant H-1B visas for individuals studying STEM fields of education.

There is currently a cap for STEM visas extended to immigrants with college degrees who want to work in the country. Upping the allocation of such visas would ensure those in STEM fields would have access to permanent residency in the United States.

“Our immigration system needs to be modernized to be more welcoming of highly skilled immigrants and the enormous contributions they can make to our economy and society,” Senator Rubio said when the bill was announced. “This reform is as much about modernizing our immigration system as it is about creating jobs. It’ll help us attract more highly skilled workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, which will help our unemployed, underemployed, or underpaid American workers find better jobs.”

Not the first try
Businesses in STEM fields and technical recruiters across the country are hoping the renewed action on immigration reform and STEM job creation will take root and not lose steam like a previous legislative attempt similar to the Immigration Innovation Act.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) introduced H.R. 6429: STEM Jobs Act of 2012 and the bill was approved by the House of Representatives in late November. The bill would reroute visas from a diversity lottery and give them to college-educated immigrants with STEM degrees. However, the legislation drew intense criticism from opponents and since being submitted to the Senate for a vote has languished without any attention, possibly due to the fact it was introduced in the previous session of Congress.