A new bill has been introduced in the US Congress to exempt foreign graduates of US PhD programmes from counting towards a cap on H-1B visas and give them 'green cards' or permanent residency directly.
Jeff Flake, Republican member of the House of Representatives, last week introduced what he calls the Stopping Trained in America PhDs From Leaving the Economy Act of 2009 (HR 1791) to stem a reverse brain drain of highly skilled immigrants, mainly from India and China, due to the economic downturn.
By design, the bill's acronym, STAPLE, represents the stapling of science, technology, engineering and mathematics PhD degrees onto green cards, granting their holders permanent residency.
Foreign students make up a substantial portion of US doctoral graduates with a large majority of them coming from India and China. According to a survey conducted by the Computing Research Association, foreign students received 55.5 percent of the 1,597 computer science doctoral degrees awarded in the last academic year.
There have been a number of efforts to increase the H-1B visa cap apart from a comprehensive immigration reform push. But supporters of an overhaul of the immigration system have managed to stymie such efforts to get Congress to separately consider changes to the H-1B programme.