WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced legislation that would remove unfair barriers for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) educated international students who want to work in the United States after they complete their advanced degrees. The Keep STEM Talent Act of 2019 would help grow the economy by retaining talented international graduates who have earned STEM advanced degrees from American universities by exempting these graduates from restrictive green card caps that significantly delay or prevent their pathway to citizenship.
“America is a country created and sustained by immigrants, whose contributions are a pillar of our nation’s competitive edge in the global economy,” Klobuchar said. “We should be working to keep students pursuing advanced STEM degrees here in the United States, and this bill will ensure that those who want to bring their talent to our country can succeed here.”
“America should always be looking to maintain a strong STEM workforce because it will help us compete in the global economy,” said Durbin. “By denying international students with STEM degrees a chance to continue their work in America, we are shipping their talents overseas and won’t see the positive impacts of their American education. We think this bill represents a common sense idea that the Senate should take seriously.”
“This bill is about sustaining American competitiveness. As we work to improve access to STEM education for young people who grow up here, we must also encourage international students who benefit from our great academic research universities to keep their talents in the United States after they graduate,” said Blumenthal. “This bill will ensure robust opportunities for people from every corner of the world to come here to learn, and contribute to American innovation and economic leadership.”
“Ours is a nation of immigrants, and our strength has always come from our diversity and our unity,” Harris said. “We have invested in these students who have learned at our universities and we must do everything we can to keep their talent here. I am proud to join my colleagues on this important legislation which will ensure the U.S. remains competitive in the global economy, and hardworking students are welcome on our campuses and in our country.”
Under the Keep STEM Talent Act, a STEM graduate could obtain lawful permanent residence if:
- The STEM graduate secures an offer of employment from, or is employed by, a U.S. employer in a field related to their degree at a rate of pay above the median wage level for the position in the geographic area of employment; and
- Their employer receives an approved labor certification for the position, which requires the Secretary of Labor to determine and certify that no qualified U.S. workers are available for the position and that the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers are not adversely affected by the hiring of the foreign worker.
Klobuchar has long fought to boost science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. In 2015, key provisions of her Innovate America Act were included in the Every Student Succeeds Act to allow states to award funding to create or enhance a STEM-focused specialty school or a STEM program within a school. Klobuchar also helped pass into law the America COMPETES Act of 2007, which increases support for math and science education and new technology initiatives.
Klobuchar has also worked to ensure that international students and professionals are able to succeed in the United States. In March, Klobuchar and Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to boost the number of doctors able to work in rural America. The Conrad State 30 & Physician Access Act would allow international doctors to remain in the United States upon completing their residency under the condition that they practice in underserved areas, such as rural communities. In March, Klobuchar and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) launched the bipartisan Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus to address the most pressing issues facing entrepreneurs and serve as a forum for collaboration and coordination. She also cosponsored the Startup Act, bipartisan legislation to encourage job creation, grow entrepreneurial activity, increase innovation and advance economic development. The bill also creates both entrepreneur and STEM visas for highly-educated individuals so they can remain in the United States legally to promote new ideas, fuel economic opportunity and create good-paying American jobs.