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USA: STEM Jobs Act to expand visas is defeated

A bill that sought to expand the number of visas issued to international students of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) by 55,000 was defeated last week in the US House of Representatives, although commentators observe this may only have been because the same bill proposed scrapping the US Green Card lottery at the same time.

“The empirical fact is that more immigrants with advanced degrees mean more jobs for all Americans"

Political support for easier access for STEM students to the UK to work and study is also gathering in the UK following a push by the Liberal Democrats for better resources and retention of talent.

Rep. Lamar Smith introduced the STEM Jobs Act in the US House of Representatives, which needed a two-thirds majority to go through and failed to achieve this by 19 votes. He explained the Act meant no change to net migration but “a potential boost to the US brain trust”. According to Christian Science Monitor, democrat sources claim the Act was brought in an effort to appease the high-tech industry which wants more international students and potential employees.

Indeed, Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of Consumer Electronics Association, (CEA), commented, “The STEM Jobs Act would have allowed these individuals to use their knowledge and skills to create jobs here in America. Defeat of this bill means we are continuing to train foreign-born students only to force them to work for our global competitors.”

He continued, “The empirical fact is that more immigrants with advanced degrees mean more jobs for all Americans. We urge both parties to put the promise of their platforms into action and forge a deal to keep the best and the brightest in America.”

Nevertheless, there is hope that some progress on more access for STEM scholars will be made this year. “We remain hopeful that bipartisan discussions on STEM green cards can start up again when Congress comes back in November…” said Randy Johnson, a senior vice president of labor, immigration, and employee benefits at the US Chamber of Commerce, which backed the bill.

And news sources acknowledged that significant accord on this issue had been reached.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the Liberal Democrat party, which forms part of the Coalition government, used its party conference this week to endorse a motion to boost science and research funding and to amend visa laws to ensure STEM students study in the UK and can settle and work after graduation.


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