House Could Vote on Tech Visas Next Week

The STEM bill would add 55,000 visas for highly skilled workers.

ByABC News
November 23, 2012, 4:25 PM

Nov. 23, 2012— -- The House could vote on a Republican bill next week that seeks to create 55,000 additional visas per year for workers with master's and doctoral degrees in science, tech, engineering and math.

The STEM Jobs Act, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), came up for a vote in September but required support from two-thirds of the House to pass. With opposition from 80 percent of Democrats, it failed. This time around, however, Republicans have amended the legislation to include a provision that would make it easier for green card holders to reunite with their spouses and children in the U.S. The hope is that this will help garner it the appropriate support.

The bill could reportedly come up for a vote on Friday, a week from today.

Since the election, Republican party leaders, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, have said immigration reform will be a main priority in 2013. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are resurrecting talks over a bipartisan reform bill in the Senate.

The STEM bill could potentially be incorporated into a broader reform bill in 2013, if it doesn't secure passage sooner.

If it does pass, it would cut the same number of visas from the diversity visa program -- also known as the green-card lottery -- which offers visas to applicants in countries underrepresented in the U.S. immigration system.

In 2012, this annual lottery offered more visas to applicants from Africa than any other continent, with Nigeria and Ghana as the top countries.

Republican Rep. Smith criticized the lottery program during the House debate on the bill in September: "The diversity visa invites fraud, and absolutely means that we would have a security risk if we were to continue it."