SPIE-endorsed STEM bill introduced in U.S. Senate

June 10, 2019
SPIE says that the Keep STEM Talent Act of 2019, if passed, would offer eligible international students robust path to U.S. citizenship.

Conference attendees at SPIE Photonics West, San Francisco, CA. (Image: SPIE)

On Friday, June 7, 2019, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Keep STEM Talent Act of 2019. The bill provides a path for international students studying at a U.S. institution for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) advanced degrees to stay and work in the U.S. by exempting students who have criteria-approved job offers from the Green Card cap. It also offers dual intent for international students pursuing advanced degrees in STEM, meaning that students could claim interest in staying in the U.S. upon graduation when applying for a student visa.

The bill has been endorsed by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

Under current law, international students pursuing advanced STEM degrees at a U.S. institution can be denied a work authorization after degree-completion, resulting in talented international graduates of U.S. STEM advanced degree programs often facing challenges to staying in the United States. The new legislation would address these obstacles and boost the U.S. economy by creating a clear and welcoming path to citizenship for students, says SPIE.

"SPIE supports policies that allow for the international mobility of scientists, and we are proud to support the Keep STEM Talent Act of 2019," says SPIE CEO Kent Rochford. "As our development of technology, the sciences, and engineering grows by leaps and bounds, it is imperative for the U.S. to embrace and nurture a workforce capable of growing these areas in innovative and exciting directions. The peace of mind that stable and ongoing employment provides is critical to retaining the level of knowledge, expertise, and commitment that optics and photonics and its fellow scientific arenas now need. SPIE thanks Senators Durbin, Blumenthal, Harris, and Klobuchar for introducing this transformative bill, and we urge their fellow lawmakers to support their efforts and move forward this piece of legislation."

SPIE notes that it has specific policies regarding the international mobility of scientists as well as visa/Green Card options for international students: "Sharing knowledge and talent through collaboration has been core to scientific breakthroughs for over a century and will continue to be a vital element to innovation across the sciences . . .  Upon graduation, many foreign-born students studying at U.S. institutions are forced back to their home countries due to a lack of proper work authorization. Students educated in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields are a benefit to the U.S. economy an innovation, and should be provided a secure and clear path to receiving work authorization if they desire to stay and work in the U.S."

SPIE works on behalf of the optics and photonics community to endorse and move forward legislation that supports the industry's growth and longterm health, says the organization. In addition to visa and immigration issues, SPIE participates in legislation on export controls, research and development funding, and SBIR/STTR funding, among others.

Source: http://spie.org/about-spie/press-room/press-releases/spie-endorsed-stem-bill-introduced-in-us-senate?SSO=1

About the Author

John Wallace | Senior Technical Editor (1998-2022)

John Wallace was with Laser Focus World for nearly 25 years, retiring in late June 2022. He obtained a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and physics at Rutgers University and a master's in optical engineering at the University of Rochester. Before becoming an editor, John worked as an engineer at RCA, Exxon, Eastman Kodak, and GCA Corporation.

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