For the student collective who fled across the pond to complete their studies and then are summarily booted back to their own countries after graduation -- unless they find an employer who is willing to be coerced, flattered or offered marriage in return for the golden ticket of a permanent visa -- there may be hope.
Recently introduced to the Senate, legislation known as the Startup Act 2.0 has the potential to help spur economic growth through tapping the core of postgraduates who land, learn, graduate and vanish after using up their 29-month student visa.
If you're one of the lucky ones who are studying a STEM subject ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) then a bright future filled with lucky charms and cookie peanut butter may be on the horizon.
On the heels of the JOBS Act becoming legalized -- which allows for crowdfunding-based startup investments to keep fledgling businesses ticking over -- the new proposal would create two new types of visa.
One visa would focus on STEM. After foreign students earn advanced degrees in these areas and graduate from a U.S. university, they could be offered the chance to change their allegiance and work in the United States without ignoring their visa parole or sleeping with the boss -- in return, the student stays in the field for five years.
The other is primarily known as an "Entrepreneur's visa". For foreigners slaving at the mouth to exploit U.S. markets, it paves the way for them to stay in the country -- as long as they continue to expand their business for three to five years -- and hire an American or two.
Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Chris Coons worked with Republicans Jerry Moran and Marco Rubio to propose the bill. In addition to the easing of visa restrictions, it would also create a credit system targeted at encouraging startup firms to specialize and invest in research development through the lure of tax breaks.
The political arena has shifted. Previously, visas for immigrating workers were arguably used as a bargaining chip, and often became meshed with concerns over what could become a horde of illegal immigrants jumping the border.
However, the current economic climate has altered the playing field. Now, similar scenarios that UK border patrols have to face -- digging people out of hijacked lorries and simply escorting them back to try again later due to lack of identification -- is far from priority.
Now, how to encourage and stabilize economic growth is at the forefront of the U.S. government's mind -- and this may involve the grudgingly-given green card to grace American soil.
The first visa, which would allow STEM subject graduates to apply for residency could lower the rising number of vacancies in these areas. In a society which is dependent on technology, by retaining more highly-skilled workers, this may help businesses fill their job positions as well as expand and maintain good profitability levels -- in turn, securing livelihoods and creating more job opportunity in the wider economy.
It may also encourage development in research fields -- everything from smart grid technology to innovative design and products. If this occurs, business booms, jobs are created and new businesses can exploit consumer niches and stay afloat.
To some, STEM may seem like a niche concept, but it can affect every facet of our economy.
As an example, a research centre hires foreign postgraduates -- in the U.S. as their applications were approved -- and creates a new type of medical device that monitors a person's health. This is accepted for consumer manufacture. A business purchases the patent, and sets up a venue for its production.
New jobs appear, for both manufacture and distribution of the product.
Not only did the science-based device keep the scientists in work, it also created a ripple effect -- contributing to the advancement of the medical world, but also contributing to the workforce. Possibly, the device's success inspired additional research -- and the pattern may have repeated itself, to the delight of many an unemployed, debt-crippled student who have little better to do than camp outside Wall Street.
The business in question may have been a startup, and the owner, a budding entrepreneur -- fresh and perky from college and unwilling to become the office monkey that files pointless paperwork 9 to 5. This person believed the American market is the way to afford the yacht and Ferrari, and so begs for a visa to realize their dream.
The entrepreneur secures the patent. They rented a home, an office and manufacturing space. They then eventually hired workers for creation, distribution, marketing, sales, accounts, IT, PR and even took on a few interns to make the coffee and look pretty.
The device was enough of a success that the entrepreneur considered exporting the gadget worldwide, and therefore expanded their company, bought a new, expensive suit and offered more jobs to tempt the American population.
However, if the postgraduates or entrepreneur did not have the option of gaining permanent residency, the gadget may never have been developed, and the business may have never come into being -- or the events all took place in a different country.
One small idea can have incredible impact on an economy. Facebook, as an example, came out of a student's mind and is now a service used by nearly one billion people worldwide. This is not to say every accepted visa applicant will be the next Bill Gates, but if the potential to boost the economy does not exist, then financial stability and growth will bear the consequences -- therefore remaining sluggish or potentially declining instead.
Image credit: Stephen Saucier
- Are college students dependent on technology?
- Is there an employment gap between employers and students?
- Tech health care and the problem with targeting Gen-Y
- Should CEOs embrace Gen-Y to keep them?
- Is STEM education declining in the U.S.?