The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Friday, November 30,  to make green cards available to foreign students graduating from U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.  The STEM Jobs Act, proposed by the Republican Party (GOP), is a symbolic step forward toward meaningful immigration reform.

The STEM Jobs Act (The Act) would provide up to 55,000 green cards a year to foreign students who earn a Masters or Doctoral degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics at a U.S. university.  The Act would also make it possible for spouses and children of legal permanent residents to come to the U.S. while waiting for visas to become available to them, a wait that is currently two years or more.  Conversely, the Act calls for the elimination of the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which provides up to 55,000 green cards annually to people from countries with traditionally low rates of immigration, including most countries in Africa.

The Act is a positive step forward in the arena of Immigration Reform and indicates that the GOP has taken a lesson from the 2012 election, and may be ready to work on comprehensive legislation.  The Act is also supported by high-tech industries hoping to keep highly-trained, US educated employment prospects in this country instead of losing them to competitors abroad; a problem that if resolved will boost innovation and job growth in the US economy. 

Passage of the  Act confirms that the GOP is willing to vote in favor of increasing visas for highly skilled foreign nationals, the Act is not broad enough to get complete bipartisan support.  Those opposed to the Act believe that it does not meet the long-term objectives of attaining comprehensive reform and are vehemently opposed to the elimination of the Diversity Visa Lottery Program.

While passage of the Act is a step forward, it is doubtful that the bill will make any additional progress once it reaches the Senate.  With such little time left in the lame duck session, it is unlikely that the bill will acted on  prior to the end of the session.  However, with both parties seeming ready to tackle the country’s broken  immigration system, the Act is a progressive and promising precursor to what 2013 may hold for immigration reform.