STEM Immigration Pathway Gets Fresh Life in Defense Proposal

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Advocates for streamlined green cards for immigrants with advanced degrees are pinning their hopes on an annual defense authorization package, after facing resistance to including a measure in a separate competition deal.

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a proposal to speed green cards for immigrants who have doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math from US research institutions or comparable schools abroad.

Those seeking to work in an industry deemed critical for economic or national security, plus their immediate family members, would be eligible to bypass visa processing delays that can last decades.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), John Curtis (R-Utah), Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) proposed the measure as an amendment to the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 7900). It’s narrower than a similar STEM provision included in a House-passed competition bill (H.R. 4521), which didn’t include the critical industry standard.

House and Senate negotiators are working to hash out divergent versions of the competition bill. Supporters of the House-passed STEM immigration measure struggled to persuade key Republican senators to back it. The measure hasn’t yet been declared dead, but broader negotiations have been strained and are now in limbo, a congressional aide said Tuesday.

Science, Technology Immigration Measure Gets Eleventh-Hour Plea

The defense package provides a potential alternative route for an initiative supporters say is key to supporting American defense, aerospace, and other industries. National security professionals who have worked in Democratic and Republican administrations have argued that Congress must ease the path for STEM visas to ensure the US can recruit and retain specialized workers.

The proposed amendment would apply to immigrants with doctoral degrees focused on advanced computing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, advanced missile propulsion technologies, semiconductors, and other areas of study.

House lawmakers proposed several additional immigration-related measures for the must-pass annual defense bill. One measure from Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) would expedite the immigration process for vetted Russian scientists.

Another amendment from Rep. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.) would address the plight of youth known as documented Dreamers: children of foreign workers and green card applicants who face aging out of legal status.

The House is likely to consider the defense bill next week.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at; Anna Yukhananov at

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