Introduction to this report, produced by the Congressional Research Service (CRS):
Congress is renewing its interest in facilitating the immigration of foreign professional workers in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields. The STEM workforce is seen by many as a catalyst of U.S. global economic competitiveness and is likewise considered a key element of the legislative options aimed at stimulating economic growth. "STEM visa" is a shorthand for an expedited immigration avenue that enables foreign nationals with graduate degrees in STEM fields to adjust their immigration status to legal permanent residence (LPR) without waiting in the queue of numerically-limited LPR visas. The fundamental policy question is: should the United States create additional pathways for STEM graduates to remain in the United States permanently? Or, are current avenues adequate?
The answer to the question lies at the nexus of education policy, labor force needs, and immigration priorities. More precisely, the key elements are: the source countries of international STEM students; the hiring choices of U.S. employers; and, the statutory limits and priorities of U.S. immigration law. This report opens by presenting a statistical portrait of foreign nationals studying STEM fields in U.S. institutions. An analysis of the current avenues foreign nationals with STEM degrees use to work in the United States temporarily and permanently follows. Discussions of the legislative history, current legislation, and major issues of debate conclude the report.