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Provision to Retain International STEM Skills is Needed in the Final Competition Bill

May 26, 2022


Elaine Dezenski

While the world’s leading technology companies call America home, the U.S. is facing a STEM skills shortage that is putting our global leadership position in the technology and innovation sectors at risk. The last several years have highlighted our vulnerabilities in regard to STEM skills and supply chains, and shined a light on how dependent the world is on China for technology-related manufacturing.

Both the House and the Senate have passed legislation to bolster American competition and reduce our reliance on China. However, only the House bill includes a provision that removes green card caps on professionals with advanced STEM degrees, directly addressing the shortage in the U.S.

The House bill also includes additional immigration provisions that the Senate version lacks. One initiative would formalize the International Entrepreneur Parole Program, allowing a three-year grant of status for international entrepreneurs and essential employees working for startups. Other provisions would grant Temporary Protected Status to Hong Kong residents currently in the U.S. and close an adoption-related loophole in the Child Citizenship Act.

Both bills are now in conference, where senators and representatives will reconcile the differences between them and agree on a final piece of legislation that can pass in both chambers.

Given the importance of retaining advanced STEM professionals in the U.S., senior national security leaders who have served in Republican and Democratic administrations urge the conferees to include key provisions to better recruit and retain international STEM talent in the final bill. National security leaders believe that American leadership in technology, a cornerstone of competitiveness, rests in large part on our ability to leverage domestic and international talent. Remaining competitive is especially critical in the face of unprecedented competition from China.

For example, among U.S. graduate students studying semiconductor-related programs and artificial intelligence (AI), nearly two-thirds were born overseas. And while the U.S. remains a desired location for overseas professionals, the bottleneck in the immigration system is threatening the talent pipeline. Today, top Indian STEM graduates are projected to face decades of wait time before being issued a green card. Such delays are driving talent away — more than half of AI Ph.D.s who leave the country after graduating say they did so because of immigration issues.

The conference committee must address the skills shortage by including language from the House bill in the reconciled legislation. The House version passed with a provision (80303) exempting from green card caps those with advanced STEM degrees, the tech talent that America needs to compete with China. National security leaders urge the committee to retain this provision or some appropriately modified version in the final bill, so as to help address national security and global competition issues.

This post drew from a letter sent recently to congressional leaders urging the inclusion of STEM immigration provisions in the final bill. The Council on National Security and Immigration is proud to be a part of this effort. Members of the Council who signed are Doug Baker, Randy Beardsworth, Barbara Comstock, Elaine Dezenski, Don Kent, Robert Mocny, Julie Myers Wood, Michael Neifach, Paul Rosenzweig, Stewart Verdery, Joe Whitley and Jim Williams.

Read the full letter here.

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