H-1B bill seeks to 'staple' green cards to Ph.D.s

Arizona congressman introduces bill to exempt foreign Ph.D. grads from H-1B limits

The inability of Congress to agree on immigration reform legislation has become a roadblock for H-1B proponents looking for new laws that would boost the number of available visas.

But the backers of the program are not giving up, as a new bill introduced this week aims to exempt foreign graduates of U.S. Ph.D. programs from counting toward a cap on H-1B visas.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), introduced what he calls the "Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s From Leaving the Economy Act of 2009 (HR 1791)." By design, the bill's acronym, Staple, represents the stapling of science, technology, engineering and mathematics Ph.D. diplomas onto green cards, granting their holders permanent residency.

Foreign students make up a substantial portion of U.S. Ph.D. graduates. According to a survey conducted by the Computing Research Association, foreign students received 55.5% of the 1,597 computer science Ph.D. degrees awarded in the last academic year.

There have been a number of efforts to increase the H-1B visa cap apart from a comprehensive immigration reform push. But supporters of an overhaul of the immigration system have managed to stymie such efforts to get Congress to separately consider changes to the H-1B program.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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