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News Release

Silicon Valley Engineer Testifies before Congress on Need to Retain Talented High-Tech Students and Professionals

WASHINGTON (12 June 2008) Congress should make it easier for foreign graduate students and engineers to remain in the United States, Silicon Valley engineer and entrepreneur Lee Colby told a congressional subcommittee at a hearing on Capitol Hill today.

Speaking before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law, Colby testified in support of three permanent immigration reform bills introduced by subcommittee chair, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

Lofgren's proposals (H.R. 5882, 5921 and 6039), which enjoy bi-partisan support, would:

  1. Increase the annual number of visas granted to professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by exempting from the cap on employment-based (EB) permanent visas foreign students who earn graduate STEM degrees in the United States;
  2. Eliminate restrictive per-country limits on EB admissions; and
  3. Authorize the re-issuance of EB visas that went unused because of processing delays.

Exempting U.S.-educated STEM graduate students from permanent EB visa limits would help our nation retain talented individuals who are already here.

"Graduates from American schools are among the most sought-after employees in the world," Colby said in written testimony on behalf of IEEE-USA. "This is especially true of students who receive master's and Ph.D. degrees in STEM fields. America has already invested in these students' education. The students speak English, have lived here for several years and, to qualify for an employment-based visa, have a job. It is in America's interest and Americans' interest that we allow them to put their talents and education to work here.

"Remember, it is not a question of whether the talented graduates of our schools will get jobs, only of where these jobs will be located. If we force them to leave, the jobs they create will not be in this country, but rather in whatever nation had the foresight to accept them."

Lofgren's bills would give U.S. companies greater access to talented workers from around the world.

"We need to educate more of our own students in these fields, but the United States does not have a monopoly on talent," Colby wrote. "There are hard working, innovative and smart people all over this planet, many of whom would apply their skills here, if given a chance.

"Congress needs to give them that chance."

Colby, who lives in Sunnyvale, Calif., worked for 36 years as an electrical engineer for Hewlett-Packard. Lee Colby and Associates, which he started in 1997, consults on circuit designs for some of the world's leading technology companies. He served as chair of the IEEE's Santa Clara Valley Section in 2005.

"Balanced reforms in the nation's legal permanent and temporary admissions programs are particularly important if U.S. employers and U.S. workers are to compete and succeed in an increasingly knowledge-based, technology-driven global economy," Colby wrote.

Colby's testimony is available at

IEEE-USA advances the public good and promotes the careers and public policy interests of more than 215,000 engineers, scientists and allied professionals who are U.S. members of the IEEE. IEEE-USA is part of the IEEE, the world's largest technical professional society with 375,000 members in 160 countries. See

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