Durbin, Colleagues Introduce Legislation To Retain International Graduates With Advanced STEM Degrees

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced a bill that would remove unfair barriers for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) educated international students who want to work in the United States after they complete their advanced degrees.  The Keep STEM Talent Act of 2022 aims to grow the economy by retaining talented international graduates who have earned STEM advanced degrees from American universities by exempting these graduates from restrictive green card limitations that significantly delay or prevent their pathway to citizenship.


Last year, U.S. Representatives Bill Foster (D-IL) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Chairwoman of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, introduced companion legislation in the House.


“America should always be focused on maintaining a strong STEM workforce because it strengthens our economy and enhances our ability to compete on the world stage,” Durbin said.  “By denying international students with 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.  We believe this bill represents a common sense idea that the Senate should take seriously.” 


“This bill will help boost American innovation and economic leadership,” Blumenthal said.  “We must encourage the international students who come to the United States to pursue STEM degrees at our world-class academic research universities to keep their talents in our country.  This legislation will expand their opportunities for success after graduation and enable these hardworking students to contribute to American competitiveness.”


“Retaining talented and enthusiastic international students with advanced STEM degrees is a no-brainer,” Wyden said.  “The Keep STEM Talent Act will allow international students to build their careers in America, which will make our economy more competitive and innovative on the international stage.  This legislation ensures we no longer waste our national investments and handicap our competitive industries by sending away STEM talent educated here in the United States.”


“America cannot afford to shut out the world’s talent if we want to retain our competitive edge in the global economy,” Klobuchar said.  “By making it easier for international students with advanced STEM degrees to remain in the U.S., this legislation will help ensure America continues to benefit from these students’ talents and innovations.”


“The United States has long been a hub for the sharpest and most talented minds in the world, and we should allow those who come here to study to stay and thrive in our country,” Padilla said.  “The Keep STEM Talent Act is crucial to ensuring the U.S. can retain these bright minds to help us keep our competitive edge as top innovators, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this bill.”


“We need to do more as a country to ensure we remain competitive on the global stage,” Hirono said.  “I am proud to support the Keep STEM Talent Act, which broadens participation in STEM while making sure talented STEM graduates from U.S. colleges and universities continue making important contributions to the United States.  I look forward to advancing this important legislation during the 117th Congress.”


“We have immigrants to thank for some of our country’s greatest inventions,” Brown said.  “Students come to the United States from all over the world to study and get advanced training in STEM because we have the best institutions of higher education anywhere in the world.  It’s a mistake to then ask them to leave and take all of that talent and training elsewhere.  Let’s instead give more international students the ability to become Americans, contribute to our shared economic prosperity, and grow opportunities here in the United States.”


Under the Keep STEM Talent Act, a STEM advanced degree graduate could obtain lawful permanent residence if:

  • The STEM graduate secures an offer of employment from, or is employed by, a U.S. employer in a field related to their degree at a rate of pay above the median wage level for the position in the geographic area of employment; and  
  • Their employer receives an approved labor certification for the position, which requires the Secretary of Labor to determine and certify that no qualified U.S. workers are available for the position and that the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers are not adversely affected by the hiring of the foreign worker. 


Full text of the legislation is available here.