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Immigrant STEM students may need legal help to get green card

In the United States, the industries of science and technology don't have enough workers who are skilled in what are known as the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math. But there are many immigrants who study these subjects at American universities. For New Yorkers who are concerned about the American economy and are sympathetic to the plight of immigrants seeking a green card, these facts present a problem that could be solved with meaningful immigration policy.

However, last month Congress did not pass a bill that would have given more permanent-residency visas to immigrants who are getting their doctorate or master's degrees in the United States. Some critics have said the failure to pass the bill was intentional and politically motivated.

Here is another interesting fact: of all Americans who have science or engineering degrees, over 20 percent were born in another country. As for engineering and computer science, the numbers are even higher: more than a third of those who have computer science or engineering degrees are immigrants. Still, America has a huge shortage of workers in these fields.

So far, 140,000 permanent-residency visas are given each year to scientists and educators with "sustained national or international acclaim and recognition." That number represents only 13 percent of all the permanent-residency visas given to immigrants last year.

Regardless of whether you have a STEM background, immigrants in New York who are seeking a work-related visa face some challenges that are best handled with the help of an advocate with experience in immigration law. Successfully filing a petition for permanent residency can be complex and time-consuming, and consulting with an immigration law attorney can help expedite the process.

Source: Bloomberg, "Blame Politics for the U.S. Engineer Shortage," Evan Soltas, Oct. 23, 2012

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