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Visa Policy Updates
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January 7, 2015

Bill introduced by S.98 - STEM Jobs Act of 2015

The STEM Jobs Act of 2015 bill was introduced by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to promote innovation, investment, and research in the United States, to eliminate the diversity immigrant program, and for other purposes. The STEM Jobs Act of 2015 amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to make up to 55,000 visas available in FY2016 and subsequent fiscal years to qualified immigrants who:

(1) have a doctorate degree in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM degree) from a U.S. doctoral institution of higher education; and

(2) have taken all doctoral courses in a STEM field, including all courses taken by correspondence or by distance education, while physically present in the United States.


March 13, 2013

Subcommittee Explores STEM Education Initiatives to Stimulate American Competitiveness

Washington D.C. – The Subcommittee on Research held on March 13 a hearing to examine industry and nonprofit philanthropic science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education initiatives.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): "America lags behind other nations when it comes to STEM education. American students rank 23th in math and 31st in science.  These are troubling statistics that could spell disaster in the future.  We have to invest in STEM education if we want to remain globally competitive in the 21st Century."

Research Subcommittee Chairman Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.): A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report completed in January, 2012 concluded a need for strategic planning to better manage the overlap of federal STEM programs. GAO suggested the Office of Science and Technology Policy should work with agencies and produce a government wide strategy for STEM initiatives that ensures efficiency and eliminates duplication and ineffective programs.

The following witnesses testified: Ms. Shelly Esque, President, Intel Foundation; Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs; and Director, Corporate Affairs Group, Intel Corporation Dr. Bob Smith, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Engineering and Technology, Honeywell Aerospace Dr. Vince Bertram, President and Chief Executive Officer, Project Lead the Way Ms. Andrea Ingram, Vice President of Education and Guest Services, Museum of Science and Industry


February 4, 2013

Bipartisan group of senators unveil framework for immigration overhaul

A key group of senators from both parties unveiled the framework of a broad overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, including a pathway to citizenship for more than 11 million illegal immigrants.

The detailed, four-page statement of principles carries the signatures of four Republicans and four Democrats, a bipartisan push that would have been unimaginable just months ago on one of the country’s most emotionally divisive issues.

Amonst general immigration issues, the plan also addresses the need to expand available visas for high-tech workers and promises to make green cards available for those who pursue graduate education in certain fields in the United States.


December 3, 2012

Bill HR 6429 passed by the House

The NPA has been following bill HR 6429 that would increase eligibility for Green card applications for PhD and Master holders (from US institutions) in the STEM fields (this is done by decreasing the number of Green Cards gained through the ‘lottery’ system). Please see below for more details, in particular for PhD holders it states the definition of STEM as:

ii) The term `field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics' means a field included in the Department of Education's Classification of Instructional Programs taxonomy within the summary groups of computer and information sciences and support services, engineering, mathematics and statistics, and physical sciences.

Whilst for Master’s holder’s as:

iii) hold a baccalaureate degree in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics or in a field included in the Department of Education's Classification of Instructional Programs taxonomy within the summary group of biological and biomedical sciences.

The Bill HR 6429 has now been passed by the House (11/30/12) but will now have to pass also in the Senate.


Latest Title: STEM Jobs Act of 2012 Sponsor: Rep Smith, Lamar [TX-21] (introduced 9/18/2012)      Cosponsors (68) Related Bills: H.RES.821 Latest Major Action: 11/30/2012 Passed/agreed to in House. Status: On passage Passed by the Yeas and Nays: 245 - 139 (Roll no. 613). Latest Action: 11/30/2012 Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.


November 26, 2012

Report "Immigration of Foreign Nationals with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Degrees" issued

The Congressional Research Service issued the report "Immigration of Foreign Nationals with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Degrees."


October 2, 2012

Bills H.R 6429 and H.R 6412

On 20 September 2012, the House of Representatives failed to pass the STEM Jobs Act of 2012 (H.R. 6429), which would have created a new visa category for up to 55,000 PhD and masters degree graduates in disciplines relating to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The bill would have held the total number of legal immigrants to the United States constant by also eliminating a current program that grants 55,000 visas based on a lottery of applicants (known as diversity visas). The bill was proposed by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) as a strategy to keep U.S.-trained scientists and engineers in the United States after they graduate. “Under the current system,” Smith argued, “we educate scientists and engineers only to send them back home where they often work for our competitors.”

H.R. 6429: STEM Jobs Act of 2012

Sponsor: Rep Smith, Lamar [TX-21] (introduced 9/18/2012)      Cosponsors (67) Committees: House Judiciary Latest Major Action: 9/20/2012 Failed of passage/not agreed to in House. Status: On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill Failed by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 257 - 158 (Roll no. 590).

Note: In this bill BIOSCIENCES was excluded.

But those who track the scientific workforce say that Smith is right to exclude those in the biosciences from qualifying for the new STEM visas.

"The people who wrote this bill seem to have done their homework," says Michael Teitelbaum, a demographer and senior adviser at the Albert P. Sloan Foundation in New York City. "They have avoided the sledgehammer approach of saying that everybody in a STEM field is the same, which is not true."

An aide to Smith, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, explained that the biosciences were excluded because "there is a very high unemployment rate in that sector already. It doesn't make sense to make it any harder" for U.S. citizens looking for work in that sector, the aide says.

To date, the biomedical community has been silent on the exclusionary language. A higher-education lobbyist who follows biomedical issues said shortly before the vote on Smith's bill that her organization wasn't even aware of the narrow definition of STEM fields, and another said her organization had taken no official position on the issue. A lobbyist for the biotech industry confessed that he wasn't even tracking the legislation and that the exclusion had never come up in discussions with member companies.

That indifference reflects the tough job market for life scientists, Stephan and Teitelbaum say. "I'm not hearing from the biotech community that there is a shortage of applicants," Teitelbaum says. "We don't have good data on recent hiring, but it sure doesn't look like a booming industry."

Stephan hopes that the pending legislation will have an impact on those even earlier in the STEM pipeline. "Perhaps the language in this bill will send a message, not only to international students but also to U.S. students, to think twice about their job prospects before committing to 7 years of training!" she says.

Democrats and Republicans, including both presidential candidates, have supported “stapling a green card to diplomas,” and many universities, state and local governments, and corporate representatives also supported the bill. However, many Democratic members of the House opposed the bill, primarily due to the elimination of diversity visas. Consequently, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) proposed an alternate version of the bill (Attracting the Best and Brightest Act; H.R. 6412), in which the diversity visa lottery program is retained, thereby increasing the total number of legal immigrants to the United States each year. This bill seems to have replaced her bill H.R.2161 from 2011 (“IDEA Act of 2011”)

HR 6412

Latest Title: Attracting the Best and Brightest Act of 2012 Sponsor: Rep Lofgren, Zoe [CA-16] (introduced 9/14/2012)      Cosponsors (56) Related Bills: S.3553 Latest Major Action: 9/14/2012 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Because the STEM Jobs Act H.R. 6429 was brought directly to the House floor, without first going through a committee, it required a two-thirds majority vote to pass. With only one Democratic co-sponsor (Henry Cuellar, D-TX), and Lofgren’s bill available as an alternative, the STEM Jobs Act failed to garner the bipartisan support it needed. The final vote fell 257-158, 20 votes shy of passing. The outcome of the election in November could influence when and if the House revisits this issue.


June 11, 2009

NPA Endorses Statement and Recommendations on Visa Issues

The NPA joined 30 higher education and scientific associations to endorse a statement of recommendations to the U.S. State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In the statement, the associations recommended eight action steps to make the processing of visas for visiting scientists, engineers and scholars quicker and more reliable. The press release and letter are available at:


June 4, 2009

Shorter Visa Delays for Foreign Students & Researchers

The U.S. Government has implemented several changes to the visa process for foreign students and researchers. The new changes will shorten the visa process from several months to 2 weeks.  Read more at:


March 30, 2009

New Bill Removes Limitations and Grants Permit Residence to Select Visa Holders

On March 30, 2009, Representative Jeff Flake introduced bill H.R. 1791, the Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s From Leaving the Economy (STAPLE) Act of 2009. The bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act "to authorize certain aliens who have earned a Ph.D. degree from a United States institution of higher education in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics to be admitted for permanent residence and to be exempted from the numerical limitations on H-1B nonimmigrants" (H.R. 1791).  For more details about the bill and to follow its progress in the U.S. Congress, visit