Congress urged to exempt immigrants with advanced STEM degrees from green card caps

A group of former United States national security officials is pushing for green card cap exemptions for immigrants with advanced STEM degrees.

The officials are requesting that lawmakers allow immigrants with extensive educational degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to be exempt from green card restrictions and limits.

“In today’s technology competition, the most powerful and enduring asymmetric advantage America has is its ability to attract and retain the world’s best and brightest,” the former officials wrote in a letter dated Monday, and addressed to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as well as members of the Bipartisan Innovation Act Conference Committee.

“Bottlenecks in the U.S. immigration system risk squandering this advantage,” they explained and continued by comparing U.S. policies with other competing countries, including China. The officials assert that such immigrants are an asset to the nation’s workforce while pushing for STEM graduates to be exempt from current green card caps.

“China is the most significant technological and geopolitical competitor our country has faced in recent times,” the group wrote. “With the world’s best STEM talent on its side, it will be very hard for America to lose. Without it, it will be very hard for America to win.”

The group is making an effort to finalize a China competition bill, which has garnered the support and signatures of dozens of former senators and officials from the departments of Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security, as well as former leaders of United States intelligence agencies, including the CIA, NSA, and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The effort is part of a larger plan to maintain a House provision that would exempt immigrants with advanced STEM degrees from green card caps.

As mentioned during his annual State of the Union address earlier this year, President Biden called on the House and the Senate to take action on the bill, which was designed with the intention of making the United States even more competitive with China through an increase of domestic supply chains and scientific research.

“So let’s not wait any longer. Send it to my desk. I’ll sign it,” Biden said of the bill at the time. “And we will really take off in a big way.”

“Global STEM talent drives American leadership in very important sectors that underpin the defense industrial base, from computing to aerospace. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. graduate students in artificial intelligence (AI) and semiconductor-related programs were born abroad,” the letter from the former national security officials states.

Yet, they note, the U.S. “remains the most desirable destination for the world’s best international scientists and engineers,” something that even China’s extensive investments have not come close to reproducing. Restrictions in the U.S. immigration system “risk squandering this advantage.”

For instance, “top Indian STEM graduates are projected to face decades of wait time” before receiving an American green card,” the letter adds. “Such delays are driving talent away — more than half of AI PhDs who leave the country after graduating say they did so because of immigration issues.”


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