STEM Jobs Act: House votes to give green cards to US-trained math and science experts


US citizenship candidates take the oath during a naturalization ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center on June 27, 2012.


Kevork Djansezian

The US House passed a bill today that would replace the green card lottery with a program that awards permanent residency visas to foreign graduates of US master's and doctoral programs in science, technology, engineering and math, Reuters reported.

Under the current green card lottery system, people from countries with low rates of immigration are randomly selected for permanent residency visas regardless of their education level or areas of expertise, USA Today reported.

According to USA Today:

The majority of those visas end up going to African nations, and others such as Ukraine, Fiji and Bangladesh.

The STEM Jobs Act, which would reserve 55,000 visas a year for STEM graduates, was mostly supported by Republicans and opposed by Democrats, Reuters reported. The measure passed 245-139, generally along party lines.

On Wednesday, the Obama administration said it opposed the bill, in part because it would eliminate a visa program designed to increase diversity in the US, USA Today reported.

"Talk about picking winners and losers," Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, told Reuters. "There was no special line for PhDs and master's degree holders at Ellis Island. There was no asterisk on the Statue of Liberty that said your IQ must be this high to enter."

"We want to put to the head of the line the people ... that create net jobs,” Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, told USA Today. “They'll create jobs for people of all colors, of all races.”

It’s unlikely that the bill will pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, USA Today reported. Sens. Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, are sponsoring a bill that would increase STEM visas while keeping the green card lottery.

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