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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 18, 2012


Current Immigration Policy Encourages Foreign Students With Advanced Degrees To Move Home, Despite Shortage of Engineers in U.S.

“BRAINS Act” Would Make It Easier For The Most Talented Foreign Students To Stay In U.S. After Graduation And Fill High-Tech Jobs Vital To Emerging Start-ups and Tech Giants In And Around NY’s Silicon Alley

Legislation Will Particularly Benefit New York, Long a Magnet For Immigrants and Home To Quickly- Growing Tech Industry


U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today, joined by rising stars of New York’s tech industry at the New York General Assembly, unveiled legislation to reform the U.S. visa system to encourage the world’s best and brightest to stay in the United States after receiving their graduate degrees in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.  The “BRAINS Act” would fix a long-existing problem in our visa system that, despite a growing shortage of highly-skilled tech workers based in the United States, forces many of the world’s brightest students to return to their country of origin, taking with them any economic growth and jobs that they might create.  A recent Center for an Urban Future report on the New York City tech industry identified broken immigration laws and the shortage of engineers as the top challenge to New York industry’s growth.


The legislation creates a pilot program through which 55,000 new green cards per-year will be available for foreign students who graduate from U.S. universities with advanced-degrees in STEM fields. It also reduces the red tape to obtain a student visa, and allows high-tech workers currently in the United States on temporary visas to renew their visas without first returning to their country of origin. 


“It makes no sense that America is educating the world’s smartest and most talented students and then, once they are at their full potential and mastered their craft, kicking them out the door,” said Schumer.   “We should be encouraging every brilliant and well-educated immigrant to stay here, build a business here, create wealth here, employ people here, and grow our economy.  Fixing our broken green card system will help ensure that the next eBay, the next Google, the next Intel will be started in New York City, not in Shanghai or Bangalore or London.”


“The BRAINS Act will provide a critical boost to the economy,” said Jonathan Bowles, Executive Director of the Center for an Urban Future and co-author of “New Tech City.” “Right now, the single biggest obstacle to the continued growth of the tech sector in New York and the U.S. is the lack of skilled engineers and programmers. It will be years before our higher education system produces the pipeline of science and tech workers that's sufficient to meet the demand. Until then, the only answer is to make it easier for the top engineers, programmers and scientists from overseas to come and stay here. Senator Schumer's bill will make that possible.”


Current immigration policy encourages foreign students to study and get their degrees from America’s top universities, butdiscourages foreign students from remaining in the United States and starting new companies in America. Schumer noted that those students who wish to make America their permanent home must compete for very limited H1-B temporary visas that make it difficult to change jobs, earn a promotion, or travel abroad; or they must eventually give up and return home, wasting what is often up to a decade of educational investment by our American schools.


Schumer said that New York in particular stands to benefit from the legislation since it is not only a long-time magnet for the world’s smartest and most driven immigrants, but is also the sight of a booming tech industry badly in need of well-trained employees.  In fact, a recent report from the Center for an Urban Future on the New York City tech industry suggested that current immigration laws and a shortage of engineers are the top challenges to New York industry’s growth. “New Tech City,” a study conducted by the Center for an Urban Future, concluded that New York’s technology industry is growing faster than anywhere else in America with over 400 technology companies that have been founded in the city since 2007. Schumer made the case that as a technology hub, New York would particularly benefit from this legislation and continue to create and fill more high-tech jobs vital to emerging start-ups and technology giants in and around Silicon Alley.



Overview of the Benefits to Research and American Innovation through Nationality Statutes Act of 2012 (‘‘BRAINS Act’’)


The BRAINS Act will finally provide the much-needed reform to our high-skilled immigration system that America needs toensure that the industries of the 21st century take root here in the United States.  It will accomplish this goal in the following ways:


1.    It creates a 2-year pilot program to provide 55,000 new green cards per-year for foreign students who graduate from U.S. universities with advanced-degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”). 


2.    To be eligible, an alien must 1) have received a master’s degree or higher from an eligible U.S. university in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics; 2) have an offer of employment in the U.S. in a STEM field, and 3) 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 at the wage level paid by the employer to all other individuals with similar experience and qualifications for the job.


3.    To be eligible for its students to receive green cards, a university must be: 1) accredited; 2) at least 10 years old; and 3) classified as a research institution by the Director of the National Science Foundation.  The school cannot provide incentive payments to persons based on securing foreign students for the university.


4.      It encourages the best and brightest foreign students to study, live, and work in the United States by allowing them to receive student visas to attend our colleges and universities to study in STEM fields. STEM students will no longer be required to demonstrate that they have no desire to stay permanently in the U.S. as a precondition to being allowed to attend school here. 


5.      It provides any unused green cards from this program to be used to reduce the backlog for employment-based green cards that exists for highly-skilled STEM advanced-degree graduates from foreign universities.



6.   It allows temporary workers on high-skilled visas who have not violated their status to renew their visas from within the United States.


7.    It provides labor protections to ensure that foreign workers do not take high-paying high-skilled jobs that American workers are available to fill.      


8.      It codifies the practice that the priority date (for determining an alien’s place in line) for an employer’s green card petition is the date that the employer files the labor certification application.  The bill also ensures that an alien who switches from one green card family-preference category to another retains their original priority date, and that an alien who switches from one green card employer-preference category to another retains their original priority date.


9.      It expands “age-out” protection in current law to benefit minor children who turn 21 while they wait for their green cards to become available.


10.  It encourages highly skilled workers to remain in the United States by providing for faster reunification with their spouses and minor children.  This is done by creating a new entry slot for a nuclear family member of a highly-skilled permanent resident when a lawful permanent resident is deported.  Consequently, net immigration is not increased, but family reunification is expedited. 



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