Looks as if the GOP is getting active on elements of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. After introducing the ACHIEVE Act in Congress, the House has now passed the a bill (STEM Jobs Act of 2012) that would allow foreign born students with doctorate diplomas to get permanent residency without having to go through the H visa route. At this time, if you are a foreigner and you are a student at an American university, after the optional practical training (OPT) visa for one year, unless an employer comes forward to sponsor you for an H-1B visa (or similar other not so common visas) you have to leave the country. These visas typically last up to a maximum of six years and if no green card petition is filed on your behalf, you have to go back to your home country. Unfortunately, these visas are employer specific and there is very limited flexibility in changing jobs. For instance, if your employer goes out of business or lays you off due to poor business environment, you have practically no time to find a sponsor, and have to abandon your life in the US. This causes tremendous amount of anxiety, uncertainty, and inconvenience to well educated foreigners who want to work in the United States. Even those immigrants who are waiting for a green card can experience a lot of suffering due to delays in processing.
The STEM green card makes the process very easy because it allows you to apply for permanent residency as soon as you graduate either with a doctorate or a masters degree (assuming enough doctoral candidates do not apply each year) and find a sponsoring employer for the purpose of labor certification. The process will also be fast, and is expected to be complete in less than three months after labor certification. It is very important to understand that one needs to be a science, technology, engineering, or Math graduate from a real university in the United States, and have good academic credentials. Obviously, illegal immigrants are now allowed to participate in this program even if they are otherwise eligible. It is not clear if this bill will pass in its current form and when will it be enacted into law, but I will keep you updated.