H.R. 6429X: STEM Jobs Act of 2012

H.R. 6429X

STEM Jobs Act of 2012

Date
November 29, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

On Thursday, November 29, 2012, the House is scheduled to begin consideration of H.R. 6429, the STEM Jobs Act of 2012, under a rule.  The bill was introduced on September 18, 2012, by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. On September 20, 2012, the House failed to approve H.R. 6429 under suspension of the rules by a vote of 257-158.  Changes made to H.R. 6429 as considered under a suspension of the rules can be found under the “Changes to Bill as Introduced” section below.  

The rule for consideration of H.R. 6429 would provide for 90 minutes of debate on the legislation, equally divided by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary. The rule would also provide that the manager’s amendment (summarized below) be considered as adopted.

Bill Summary

H.R. 6429 would eliminate the diversity lottery green card program and reallocate up to 55,000 green cards a year to new green card programs for foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degrees. 

The bill would create a new green card category for immigrants who have received STEM doctorates from U.S. universities.  The bill would require immigrants meet the following eligibility requirements in order to apply for a STEM green card:

  • Hold a doctorate from an eligible U.S. university in computer science, engineering, mathematics, or the physical sciences (other than biological sciences);
  • Have taken all their course work (including internet courses) while physically present in the United States; and
  • Be petitioned for by an employer who has gone through labor certification to show that there are not sufficient American workers able, willing, equally qualified and available for the job (unless this requirement is waived by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as in the national interest).

H.R. 6429 would require universities meet the following requirements to be eligible institutions:

  • Be eligible for federal student financial aid programs;
  • Be accredited;
  • Be classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a doctorate-granting university with very high or high level of research activity or classified by the National Science Foundation after the date of enactment, pursuant to an application by the university, as having equivalent research activity to such schools; and
  • Be at least 10 years old.

The bill would also create a new green card category for immigrants who have received STEM master’s degrees from U.S. universities.  The bill would state that any of the green cards not used by aliens with doctorates are available for aliens with master’s degrees.  H.R. 6429 would require immigrants meet the following eligibility requirements in order to apply for a master’s degree STEM green card:

  • Generally have received a two year master’s degree from an eligible U.S. university in computer science, engineering, mathematics, or the physical sciences (other than biological sciences);
  • Have majored in college in a STEM field;
  • Have taken all their course work (including internet courses) while physically present in the United States;
  • Be petitioned for by an employer who has gone through labor certification (unless waived by DHS as in the national interest); and
  • Agree to work for at least five years for the petitioning employer or in the U.S. in a STEM field.

To be eligible, a university must meet the standards set forth for the doctoral STEM green card program in the bill.

The bill would require, as part of the labor certification process, that an employer submit a job order to the appropriate state workforce agency (this provision is in accord with current regulations).  In addition, the bill would require that the state workforce agency post the job order on its official agency website to make it more accessible to American workers seeking employment. 

H.R. 6429 would require that DHS post on its official website information about the employers who sponsor STEM graduates for green cards, the number of STEM graduates they sponsor and the occupations of the STEM graduates they sponsor.

The bill would allow foreign students to receive student visas to attend college in STEM fields without having to demonstrate that they have no desire to stay permanently in the U.S.  H.R. 6429 would also codify the practice that the priority date (for determining an immigrant’s place in line) for an employer’s green card petition is the date that the employer files the labor certification application.  Finally, H.R. 6429 would ensure that an immigrant who switches from one green card employment-based category to another retains their original priority date.

CHANGES TO BILL AS INTRODUCED

The bill would expand the “V” nonimmigrant visa program to allow the spouses and minor children of permanent residents to wait in the U.S. (without work authorization) for green cards to become available after they have spent one year on the green card waiting list.

The bill would allow unused STEM green cards made available in fiscal years 2013 through 2016 to be utilized in future years under conditions set forth in the bill.  The introduced bill would have provided for rollover of STEM green cards made available in 2013 and 2014.

The bill would eliminate a provision of the introduced bill that would have required a STEM green card recipient to promise to work for at least five years in the U.S. or for the petitioner in a STEM field.

The bill would eliminate a provision of the introduced bill that would have required that in order to be eligible for the STEM green card programs, universities could not provide incentive payments to persons based on securing foreign students.

Manager’s Amendment:

The manager’s amendment would extend the imposition of increased guarantee fees charged by the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to lenders for assuming the credit risk on the loans GSEs purchase in the secondary mortgage market. These fees are in effect a premium to guarantee the repayment of principal and interest on those securities, insuring Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) investors from the risk that the securities will default. These fees were increased by 10 basis points, or one-tenth of one percent, over 2011 levels by H.R. 3630, The Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Act of 2012. That legislation phased-in the fee increases over two years and implemented the fee increases through 2021. The manager’s amendment would extend these fee increases for one additional year, through FY 2022. According to CBO, the one-year extension of these increased fees would reduce the deficit by $3.8 billion over ten years. The increased fees would fully offset the cost associated with H.R. 6429 and would reduce the deficit by an additional $2.2 billion, according to CBO.

The manager’s amendment would also change the effective date of the legislation to fiscal year 2014.

Background

According to the bill’s sponsor, under the current system, we educate scientists and engineers only to send them home to work for our competitors abroad.  The STEM Jobs Act would allow us to keep these students here. 

In order to safeguard the career prospects of graduating American STEM students, the STEM Jobs Act would require that employers seeking to sponsor foreign STEM graduates for green cards first successfully complete labor certification.   Labor certification is designed to ensure that the employment of an alien will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of American workers and that there are not sufficient American workers who are able, willing, qualified and available to do the job the foreign graduate will perform.  It would also require that an employer pay the foreign graduate the prevailing wage.

According to the sponsor, because of the bleak career prospects for American students graduating with PhDs in biological and biomedical fields, foreign students with degrees in these fields will not be eligible for STEM green cards.  The American public strongly supports STEM legislation.  A recent poll by Public Opinion Strategies found that 76% of likely voters support creating a new category of green cards for foreign students graduating with advanced STEM degrees from American universities who are sought after by American employers.

Cost

According to CBO, provisions in H.R. 6429 would increase direct spending for certain programs. However, any increase in direct spending would be offset by extending mortgage guarantee fees. All told, the legislation would have the effect of reducing the deficit by $2.2 billion over ten years.