Sweeping immigration reform legislation passed by the Senate would create a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., and would change the immigration system for foreign-born researchers.

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) would remove numerical limitations on immigration for people who have earned a Ph.D. in the U.S. or abroad, or have extraordinary skills as professors or researchers. The legislation would also open immigration for people who graduate from an American university with a Master’s degree or Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) and have an offer of employment in that field. Not all science degrees would qualify, however. Degrees in agricultural sciences, natural resources conservation, linguistics, and social sciences would not be eligible.

The legislation also promises to increase funding for STEM education and job training. Employers who sponsor high-skilled temporary workers would have to pay a larger fee, a portion of which would be directed to a special STEM fund. That money would be used to recruit more science teachers for grades K-12, fund grants to minority groups, and improve community college and job training programs. The new fund could generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year for STEM education.

S. 744 passed the Senate with the bipartisan support of 68 Senators.


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