Study in the USA

US senator wants to add 50,000 visas for science students

When U.S. Sen. Mark Warner [of Virginia] held a town-hall meeting at the University of Mary Washington last week, the first audience question he got concerned employment and immigration.

As it happens, that’s an issue Warner has been working on. Last December, he and Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran filed a bill they call the Start Up Act.

It contains a number of provisions for businesses, but it includes components to provide new visa categories for certain foreign workers. One would target students in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math). It would create 50,000 new visas for foreign students who get an advanced degree in a STEM subject from a U.S. college or university.

Recipients of the visa would have to work in a STEM area in the U.S. for five years, and once that requirement is completed they’d be given permanent legal resident status with the option to become naturalized citizens.

Warner said that would keep students who are trained here working here.

“The fact that we are training the best and the brightest in the world and sending them home makes no sense,” he said.

The other new visa category he proposes targets entrepreneurs. It would create up to 75,000 visa slots for immigrants with an H–1B visa or who have completed graduate-level work in a STEM field. Those visa recipients would have one year in which to register a new business that employs at least two non-family members full time, and invests or raises at least $100,000 in capital.

If those requirements are met, the recipient then can stay in the U.S. for three more years, and must employ five full-time non-family employees. After those three years are up, the person’s “conditional” status is removed.

The bill would require the Government Accountability Office to study how those new visas are used, within three years of their becoming available.

Government officials and politicians have been putting more emphasis on STEM subjects in recent years, saying that science and technology are critical to the future and the economy.

Warner isn’t the only one with a bill on the subject; there are several others, including one from Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennett.

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