Wednesday, April 17, 2013

STEM green card gets into the Senate "Gang of Eight"'s immigration bill summary?

Yesterday, the "Gang of Eight" group of senators released the comprehensive immigration reform bill summary (not the bill itself, but a plain English summary of the bill). Here's an interesting set of tidbits from page 7 of the summary itself (emphases mine):
On the employment green card categories, the bill exempts the following categories from the annual numerical limits on employment-based immigrants: derivative beneficiaries of employment-based immigrants; aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics; outstanding professors and researchers; multinational executives andmanagers; doctoral degree holders in STEM field; and physicians who have completed the foreign residency requirements or have received a waiver. 
The bill then allocates 40 percent of the worldwide level of employment-based visas to : 1) members of the professions holding advanced degrees or their equivalent whose services are sought in the sciences, arts, professions, or business by an employer in the United States(including certain aliens with foreign medical degrees) and 2) aliens who have earned a master’s degree or higher in a field of science, technology, engineering or mathematics from an accredited U.S. institution of higher education and have an offer of employment in a related field and the qualifying degree was earned in the five years immediately before the petition was filed.
I am not an immigration lawyer, but I think this means that:
  • US based employers can hire and sponsor for green cards as many Ph.D. scientists (from any country) as they desire, without concern about a quota. 
  • Sounds like master's-level and above STEM degree holders get higher priority for employment-based visas. 
Again, I'm not an immigration lawyer, so I could be completely incorrect. Here's the actual bill (in legislative language), as it stands right now. 

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, and who the winners and losers are.

[I'd also like to know how different this is from the status quo? If you listen to the tech companies, DHS is throwing students out on their ears right after they get their diplomas. I don't really think that's true, but that's about all I can gather from the situation.]

[Here's another problem: there is no objective source of expertise on STEM immigration. It's pretty much major corporations and their think tanks against the Ron Hiras of the world. Everyone knowledgeable has an opinion -- and even the non-knowledgeable people (ahem, me) have opinions too. If anyone knows of one, I'm all ears.]

15 comments:

  1. OK, fine, I'll put my tinfoil hat back on for a moment. The encouragement of STEM immigrants is nothing more than a ploy todecrease salaries for those of us that are typically seen as a cost center (at least in R&D, sometimes on the manufacturing floor as well).

    I don't have a problem with immigration for the sake of hiring the "best and brightest from around the world". The problem I have is with the de facto indentured servitude associated with this high tech immigration solution. The whole situation is bad for everyone involved...except the companies that abuse it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AConcernedImmigrantMay 26, 2013 at 12:20 AM

      The existing situation of tech companies hiring H-1B workers and a long drawn out green card application process often stretching to decades is indentured servitude. When you provide the STEM graduates easy access to green cards, you put them on a level playing field with everyone else and prevent tech companies from depressing wages for the average high-skilled worker.

      For this reason alone, the STEM green cards would be a great idea. But then there's the other economic and humanitarian aspect as well. When you keep someone on a temporary status as an H-1B employee for over 10 years in their twenties and early thirties, you're asking them to spend the best years of their life as second class residents. They can't start their own businesses, buy homes or raise families. Is that something the country wants?

      Delete
    2. Well, indentured servants were not allowed to leave at all. H1-B holders can return to their home countries if the benefits of their employment outweigh the negatives. And I know plenty of H1-B holders who started families before obtaining permanent residency. Buying a house is another story, but most that I knew lived in San Jose.

      Regardless, I'll concede that you have a point about keeping a class of workers in a disadvantaged position. However, increasing the quantity of MS- and PhD-level workers *will* drive down wages for everyone. Supply and demand do work in the labor market. I and other H1-B skeptics would argue that there isn't even a need for a profession-specific visa program at all. In-demand professions pay more and, as a result, attract more people.

      Delete
  2. "aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics; outstanding professors and researchers;"

    I think these two are scarier because they are broader in scope than PhD scientists. What constitutes an "extraordinary ability" or what is an "outstanding researcher"? With a little creative interpretation, it can be construed to mean anyone you want that does anything remotely in the sciences.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think this is an immigration term of art, and one that is currently in use. Don't know if anyone has done any relevant work on defining it for laypeople.

      Delete
  3. I still don't see why the Digital Masters want such a broad bill that includes the underemployed portions of STEM. Push from Big Pharma seems unlikely, since they a) don't seem as effective politically and b) have a completely opposite interest in patent law from my understanding. But I do have the feeling that opening the door to MS isn't enough for them--a IT worker often only needs a BS if that. Maybe Bachelor's level STEM majors get shipped out too quickly for them, but i don't see it with MS or PhD-level now. Certainly if foreign nationals with PhDs are having a hard time staying here, i haven't seen it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. From what I've seen of bill suggestions, it will just make things worse or keep them the same because the 'green card' is tied to an employer for five years. If you're going to staple green cards, do it right and give it without conditions so that there is no exploitation of workers and the downward wage pressure is reduced. The way it is now, a Chinese grad still can't walk out on a shitty and abusive, low-paying job for five years. After the five year term ends, I suppose they would get fired to be replaced by a recent grad with a new conditional green card.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's good for me. :D

    There are a few categories of people who can immigrate. I believe the "extraordinary ability" one actually refers to Nobel prizewinners etc, who can basically go wherever they want whenever they want to, and fair enough. That's the top category. The rest of us are somewhat below that and have more issues getting visas processed. Let me tell you now there are a lot of up-front costs and it is a pain in the dick!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the threshold for extraordinary abilities is much lower. A bunch of papers in Angewandte, recommendation from good professor(s) and a bit of creativity is enough.

      Delete
  6. i am so confused about it. I think they are still working on it. so I hope they make it clear for us.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "2) aliens who have earned a master’s degree or higher in a field of science, technology, engineering or mathematics from an accredited U.S. institution of higher education and have an offer of employment in a related field and the qualifying degree was earned in the five years immediately before the petition was filed."
    Why the degree has to be earned in the five years?
    Whoever went abroad after earning MS/PhD and got more experience would be excluded because it's more than 5 years?
    It doesn't seem right to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree.. What does this help if they are targeting people only in the last five years to be included in the bill. What happens to ones who graduated earlier.. Are they considered not qualified.. Americans they are something..

      Delete
  8. Look up lump of labor fallacy, people. Supply and demand work differently in general equilibrium. You really need to go beyond Econ 101 to understand the macroeconomic impact of greater immigration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good to know. I'm going to demand a 10% raise from my boss on Tuesday armed with the knowledge that "supply and demand work differently in general equilibrium."

      Of course, she might argue that others are willing to work for 10% less than I'm costing her. And she might have some wind in her sails because she thinks the Senate bill will likely make its way to law and because she keeps up with the labor economics literature...

      http://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/gborjas/publications/journal/Freeman2009.pdf

      On second thought...

      Delete
  9. I have a PhD in chemistry and got laid off from the company since they do not want to sponsor a Visa. I am OPT and only a few days left. What should I do. Keep applying to dozens of jobs a day including BS levels.

    ReplyDelete