SPIE-Endorsed STEM Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate

The Keep STEM Talent Act of 2019, if passed, would offer eligible international students robust path to U.S. citizenship

06 June 2019

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA and CARDIFF, UK - Today, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Keep STEM Talent Act of 2019. The bill provides a clear path for international students studying at a U.S. institution for STEM advanced degrees to stay and work in the U.S. by exempting students who have criteria-approved job offers from the Green Card cap. It also offers dual intent for international students pursuing advanced degrees in STEM, meaning that students could claim interest in staying in the U.S. upon graduation when applying for a student visa.

Under current law, international students pursuing advanced STEM degrees at a U.S. institution can be denied a work authorization after degree-completion, resulting in talented international graduates of U.S. STEM advanced degree programs often facing challenges to staying in the United States. The new legislation, endorsed by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, would address these obstacles and help grow the U.S. economy by creating a clear and welcoming path to citizenship for students.

"SPIE supports policies that allow for the international mobility of scientists, and we are proud to support the Keep STEM Talent Act of 2019," said SPIE CEO Kent Rochford. "As our development of technology, the sciences, and engineering grows by leaps and bounds, it is imperative for the U.S. to embrace and nurture a workforce capable of growing these areas in innovative and exciting directions. The peace-of-mind that stable and ongoing employment provides is critical to retaining the level of knowledge, expertise, and commitment that optics and photonics and its fellow scientific arenas now need. SPIE thanks Senators Durbin, Blumenthal, Harris, and Klobuchar for introducing this transformative bill, and we urge their fellow lawmakers to support their efforts and move forward this piece of legislation."

SPIE has specific policies regarding the international mobility of scientists as well as visa/Green Card options for international students: "Sharing knowledge and talent through collaboration has been core to scientific breakthroughs for over a century and will continue to be a vital element to innovation across the sciences....Upon graduation, many foreign-born students studying at U.S. institutions are forced back to their home countries due to a lack of proper work authorization. Students educated in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields are a benefit to the U.S. economy an innovation, and should be provided a secure and clear path to receiving work authorization if they desire to stay and work in the U.S."

SPIE works on behalf of the optics and photonics community to endorse and move forward legislation that supports our industry's growth and longterm health. In addition to visa and immigration issues, SPIE is an active participant in legislation on export controls, research and development funding, and SBIR/STTR funding, among others.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering, and technology. The Society serves 257,000 constituents from 173 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2018, SPIE provided more than $4 million in community support including scholarships and awards, outreach and advocacy programs, travel grants, public policy, and educational resources. www.spie.org.

Daneet Steffens
Public Relations Manager
+1 360 685 5478