The STEM bill aims to add 55,000 visas for highly educated workers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Despite White House opposition, the House appears likely to pass a bill this week that would allow more foreign students who graduate from U.S. schools with advanced technical degrees to stay in the country.
The House failed to pass the bill, drafted by Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, when it was brought to the floor in September under a procedure that requires a two-thirds vote to pass. But based on the vote from that first attempt, the legislation appears to have enough support to pass the chamber this week by a majority vote.
The bill would eliminate the Diversity Visa Program and shift up to 55,000 green cards a year to foreign students who graduate from qualified U.S. schools with a doctorate or master’s degree in the “STEM” disciplines: science, technology, engineering and math.
Smith’s STEM bill is slated to come up for debate on Thursday. Smith did make some minor changes to the measure, including making it easier for family members of STEM green-card holders to stay in the United States while they wait for their own green cards, and allowing unused STEM green cards made available in fiscal years 2013 through 2016 to be used in the future. The original bill would have only allowed for unused STEM green cards that were available in the first two years covered by the bill to be rolled over into future years.
Still, even supporters acknowledge that the bill faces long odds in the Senate, where Democratic leaders on the issue, such as Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., favor including STEM green-card legislation as part of broader immigration reform.
Schumer introduced his own STEM green-card bill in September.
On Wednesday, the White House issued a statement of administration policy opposing passage of the House bill for several reasons, including that it “would allocate immigrant visas for advanced graduates of a limited set of STEM degree programs.” The statement said the Obama administration is “deeply committed” to immigration reform but “does not support narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet the president’s long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform.”