29 May 2012

Senator’s US visa plan gets business backing

A Texan senator's plan to replace the diversity lottery with a new US visa programme which would allow foreign students graduating from American universities remain in the country has gained the support of technology businesses in the senator's home town.

US visa

Republican Senator John Cornyn's US visa proposal has received support from technology businesses.

Republican Senator John Cornyn's proposal, Securing the Talent America Requires for the 21st Century, the STAR Act, would grant as many as 55,000 foreign students a year graduating with master's or PhDs in science, technology, engineering or maths courses (STEM) a US visa.

The senator's plan, which was announced earlier this month, would include a job offer required to qualify and safeguards to prevent any immigrant from taking the place of an American.

Visa policy is currently a controversial topic in the US right now; with the presidential election on the horizon, both Democratic and Republican politicians are doing their best to promote openness to the world without appearing soft on immigration.

Senator Cornyn claims current policy, including the Green Card lottery he hopes to replace, allows thousands of foreign students, who want to stay in America, to graduate from America's top universities and return home, often fuelling America's competing nations.

"In the global competition for the world's best and brightest minds in math and science, the United States should take a backseat to no one," said Senator Cornyn when he announced his bill.

"I am confident the STAR Act will bolster American competitiveness and provide a stronger foundation for long-term economic growth and job creation."

The STAR Act has already received support from Austin's technology industry, who claim it would allow them to keep much needed talent working for them.

"The bill is the right approach to encourage the best and the brightest people to stay in the US and contribute to the innovation economy," said a spokesperson for Dell.

The senator's plan is just one of many US immigration bills proposed by American politicians in recent weeks; just one day after the STAR Act was proposed, two more senators proposed their own, bipartisan bill which would create a new visa category to allow STEM graduates to remain.

However, opponents of the senators' bills, combined with the looming election, make many doubt the potential of either bill to make it through treacherous political waters. Muzaffar Chishti of the Migration Policy Institute has called for a more flexible immigration system which is capable of addressing a variety of needs.

"What we need is a more flexible system, which responds to the real needs of the economy and the labour market," said Mr Chishti.

"That's why we recommend a review of our immigration system in terms of numbers every two years. We may need 55,000 computer engineers today, but we might need 55,000 nurses for an aging society in the future."

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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