Reports of the its imminent demise notwithstanding, the immigration bill passed by the Senate last week has higher education administrators ecstatic. Under the terms of the bill, foreign-born students who earn PhDs at American schools would be eligible for green cards, and those who earn master’s or PhDs in STEM fields at schools outside the US could also petition for a card. The Chronicle of Higher Ed reports:
“The real game changer in the bill for universities is in the green-card section, where advanced-degree graduates for STEM fields have green cards stapled to their diplomas,” said Craig Lindwarm, assistant director for international issues and Congressional and governmental affairs at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.Through an amendment passed on the Senate floor, the bill would also keep colleges exempt from the national cap on H-1B visas, allowing them to temporarily employ researchers who are not citizens. It also would cut and limit student-visa fees.
By lowering the barriers to residency and work, this bill could do much to entice the world’s best and brightest to come to America. Other countries have already made similar moves. Canada now allows foreign graduates and their partners to apply for work permits for up to three years, with a track to permanent residence. Australian universities allow foreign graduates to obtain a two- to four-year work visa.The Senate immigration bill now moves to the House, where it is expected to be voted down. But it’s not inconceivable that a House-approved measure that has similar higher ed provisions could pass. We hope that’s the case.