Congressman Erik Paulsen, R-Minnesota, and Congressman Mike Quigley, D-Illinois, reintroduced a bill that if passed by Congress would further smooth the path for highly educated Indian-Americans with degrees in the sciences from U.S. universities, to remain in this country.
The bipartisan legislation entitled, Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s from Leaving the Economy (STAPLE) Act, would exempt foreign-born individuals who have earned an American Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) from the limits on the number of employment-based green cards and H-1B visas awarded annually. It was earlier introduced on April 30, 2015 House Resolution 2181), and reintroduced by the lawmakers on May 25 this year.
“It is no surprise that the brightest minds from around the world come to the United States to pursue their advanced degrees, and we should be doing all we can to ensure students we educate and train here use what they’ve learned to contribute to the American economy,” Congressman Paulsen is quoted saying in a May 25 press release introducing the legislation. “With thousands of high-skilled jobs going unfilled, the STAPLE Act makes sure American companies are getting the talent they need. By stapling a green card or visa to their diplomas, these professionals can invent and innovate new discoveries that grow our economy.”
“If we are serious about fostering innovation, spurring economic activity, and staying competitive in the global marketplace, we must encourage the brightest minds in the world to study, work, and stay in our communities,” said Congressman Quigley. “We cannot advance our technology or research if we continue sending foreign-born, but U.S. educated, students with advanced degrees away,” he added
H-1B visas, also known as high-skilled visas, are subject to annual caps that the lawmakers said, are “woefully” short of the number necessary to fill high-skilled jobs. Since April 1 when the U.S. began accepting H-1B petitions, the U.S. has received 233,000 applications for these high-skilled visas. Only 65,000 will be available this year, meaning that applicants will be subject to a lottery where two-out-of-three applicants will be denied a visa, they point out. Indian-Americans have the highest levels of education and income in this country.
They also contended that numerous studies have found H-1B visas end up creating jobs for native citizens. They quoted a 2011 study from the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, which found that “an additional 100 foreign-born workers in STEM fields with advanced degrees from U.S. universities is associated with an additional 262 jobs among U.S. natives.”
If one goes by a Pew Research Center study, people of Indian origin would stand to benefit more than other ethnic or racial groups if this bill was to become law. Seventy percent of Indian- Americans aged 25 and older had college degrees in 2010, by far the highest rate among the six Asian-American groups studied by Pew, and 2.5 times the rate among the overall U.S. population. More recent (2013) data from the American Community Survey provides more detail, according to the Pew study. It shows 40.6% of Indian Americans 25 and older have graduate or professional degrees, and 32.3% have bachelor’s degrees; an additional 10.4% have some college education.