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Durbin, Rounds Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Retain International Graduates with Advanced STEM Degrees

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) today introduced bipartisan legislation that would streamline the path for advanced Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) international graduates who studied at our nation’s universities to remain in the United States.  Today, nearly two-thirds of U.S. graduate students in key fields such as artificial intelligence (AI) and semiconductor-related programs were born abroad.

“America should be focused on maintaining a strong STEM workforce—to strengthen our economy and enhance our ability to compete on the world stage,” Durbin said.  “By denying international students with advanced STEM degrees the opportunity to continue their work in America, we are losing their talents to countries overseas and won’t see the positive impacts of their American education.  I thank Senator Rounds for joining me in this commonsense effort.”

“Where would our country be if we had not opened our doors to Albert Einstein? Legal, highly-skilled STEM immigration is crucial,” said Rounds. “With the advancements of artificial intelligence, keeping talent in the United States will help our country as we try to stay ahead of our near peer competitors, China and Russia. This bill enhances national security by imposing new, stringent vetting requirements, while also promoting national security by making certain talent stays serving the United States, not our enemies.”

Specifically, the Keep STEM Talent Act of 2023:

  • Addresses Green Card Backlogs: This legislation would exempt advanced STEM graduates who are educated at U.S. universities and have a job offer in the United States, along with their spouse and children, from numerical limitations for employment based green cards. 
  • Protects U.S. Workers: This legislation would protect American STEM workers by requiring that employers sponsoring foreign STEM graduates under this bill recruit U.S. workers first and agree to pay workers hired above-average wages.   
  • Permits Dual Intent: Currently, a student visa holder cannot apply for a green card while in student status.  This legislation would allow advanced STEM degree students at U.S. universities to have a dual intent, meaning that they will not lose their student visa status if they are sponsored by an employer for a green card.
  • Imposes Rigorous Vetting: This legislation requires advanced degree students in STEM fields to apply for a visa or status before starting their advanced degree program, requiring them to undergo rigorous vetting and address any national security or counterintelligence concerns prior to being approved for student status.

Endorsers of the Keep STEM Talent Act of 2023 include: National Defense Industrial Association Emerging Technologies Institute, Optica, American Mathematical Society, Department for Professional Employees- AFL-CIO, and the Federation of American Scientists.

Bill text is available here.