STAR Act – Immigrant Visas for STEM Students

One issue that America faces is the dwindling number of advanced degree workers in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Half or more of students who graduate with a Master’s degree or Ph.D. in these areas that are educated in American universities are foreign nationals with student visas.

But due to restrictive immigration laws, these US educated foreign students are made to leave the U.S. after graduation. “American universities are educating the world’s leading STEM graduate students – only to export this talent to our competitors overseas,” declares Senator John Cornyn of Texas.

Senator Cornyn has introduced a bill that will solve the “brain drain” problem through an immigration reform act. Known as the STAR Act of 2012 (Securing The Talent America Requires for the 21st Centrury Act of 2012), the bill proposes that graduates from academic institutions that receive at least $5 million in federal research grants may apply for US permanent residency.

The Act proposes an additional 55,000 green cards annually for STEM graduates only. Students who pursue such degrees would be “dual intent” non-immigrants and could pursue green cards while in student status.

Applicants could also file for adjustment of status applications for an extra fee even if no green card numbers available. They will still have to wait for their green card number, but could get work authorization while waiting.

Although, the outlook for the bill is still uncertain, it clearly shows that Congress is beginning to recognize the merit of foreign students and how they could help America survive the current economic crisis.