Visas

The House of Representative on Thursday rejected House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) STEM Jobs Act of 2012 (H.R. 6429), a measure that would have created a visa program for international graduates earning advanced degrees in the STEM fields from U.S. institutions, CQ.com reports.

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Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) last week introduced the “Student Visa Integrity Act” (S. 3527), a bill that would install harsher penalties for individuals misusing the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), would deny certain institutions access to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), and would mandate certification of institutions enrolling international students [the Alliance reported].

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A number of pieces of legislation dealing with visa issues—proposed by members of both parties and in both the House and Senate—are currently circulating in Congress. These various bills can be difficult to keep straight, so below is a brief guide to help:

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A bipartisan group of Senators including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) plans to propose a bill that would improve oversight of the student-visa system and would weed out sham colleges, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report yesterday critical of the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP), saying that the program lacks processes to identify risk and prevent fraud, and does not have proper controls to verify the legitimacy of schools that accept international students. SEVP is responsible for certifying schools to accept international students in academic and vocational programs, as well as managing the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which assists the Department of Homeland Security in tracking and monitoring certified schools and international students.

A coalition of more than 130 employers, industry groups, and regional chambers of commerce, including Microsoft, Apple, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives urging them to pass an immigration bill that would make it easier for international STEM-field graduates of U.S. universities to stay and work in the U.S., CQ.com reports.

The letter says:

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In a video message recorded on the occasion of the third EducationUSA Forum, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once more underlined the importance of bringing international students to the United States for study and the critical work of the EducationUSA Advising Centers in more than 170 across the globe.

Several Democratic, Republican and bipartisan proposals aimed at “grant[ing] more visas to foreigners who earn science and technology degrees from U.S. universities” have recently surfaced in both the House and the Senate, CQ.com reported.

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A Department of State policy directive issued last week states that any academics at campus-based Confucius Institutes who are teaching at the elementary- and secondary-school levels are violating the terms of their visas and must leave at the end of this academic year, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports. The memorandum also says that, “after a ‘preliminary review,’ the State Department has determined that the institutes must obtain American accreditation in order to continue to accept foreign scholars and professors as teachers.”

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Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) plan to introduce a bill this week that would create a new visa category for international graduate students seeking U.S. degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (the STEM fields), CQ.com reports (subscribers only). Once these students graduate and get a job, they would automatically be eligible for green cards granting them permanent resident status and, later, the chance to become a citizen:

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