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Legislation Aimed at Retaining High-Tech Immigrants

Mark Marich

A new piece of legislation introduced by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) aims to stem the tide of high-tech immigrants returning to their home countries immediately after they finish their studies. The Sustaining Our Most Advanced Researchers and Technology (SMART) Jobs Act of 2012 allows foreign-born, American-educated holders of masters and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields to remain in the United States to work and create jobs.

The Act creates a new visa category, giving students in STEM fields up to 12 months to find work related to their field of study and then change their immigration status and receive a STEM green card. These new green cards would not count toward any existing caps or limits.

The legislation is in line with recommendations from the Kauffman Foundation Startup Act released last year and other studies that have called for “stapling” green cards to STEM diplomas.

According to the bill’s authors, the SMART Jobs Act has been endorsed by Compete America, Oracle, Bloom Energy, Third Way, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Tech America, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Immigration Voice, Delaware State University, and Steve Case, the CEO of Revolution LLC and a member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

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