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May 2012 has seen a great deal of activity in the US Senate on the ‘war for talent’ front with two similar bills being introduced only days apart. The bi-partisan Sustaining our Most Advanced Researchers and Technology (SMART) Jobs Act of 2012 and the Securing the Talent America Requires for the 21st Century (STAR) Act of 2012 both target the somewhat exclusive group of foreign-born science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) masters and doctoral graduates of US institutions.
The major difference between the two proposals is in the migration status of prospective applicants. The SMART Act would, if adopted, create a new non-immigrant visa category for this group of students, including a one year job-seeking period after the conclusion of their degree. This status could later be changed into that of a Legal Permanent Resident upon finding employment in the STEM area and these former students would not be subject to any existing numerical limitations on employment-based migrants. On the other hand, the STAR Act proposes to directly allocate 55 000 green cards for STEM masters and PhD graduates from US research institutions, but does not seem to increase the overall number of green cards set aside for the lottery annually.
At the moment, both acts are at the initial stages of their journey through the legislative process and it is uncertain whether they will be enacted in the end. Many original proponents of the DREAM Act (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, October 2011) which was re-introduced in the Senate in 2011 and which would provide a path to green cards for children of undocumented immigrants educated in the US still prefer a comprehensive immigration reform rather than piecemeal acts. At the same time, with the presidential election campaign heating up, it is questionable whether either of the bills will receive serious contemplation before November 2012. Although both President Obama and Mitt Romney - the Republican challenger - favour a solution that would be conducive to strategic skilled immigration, their most recent efforts (see Time) can be seen as jockeying for Latino voters rather than a serious take at reforming the current system.SMART Act STAR Act Time magazine