Visa changes in the US aim to attract and keep foreign students. The Biden administration is making visa changes to retain STEM international students. The movements are designed to support innovation in the United States while engaging in competition such as China.
President Biden’s administration has promised to find ways to improve the legal immigration system due to the actions of Congress.
What are the Changes?
The Biden administration has made a number of policy changes to make it easier for international students and professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to stay in the United States.
The new policy, long called for by Silicon Valley and other companies, is designed to keep foreign students educated in the US in STEM to encourage innovation while keeping pace with competitors such as China, senior government officials said.
DHS has added 22 major fields to its list of fields of study that entitle international students to stay in the United States for as long as 3 years after their time of graduation.
The changes expand how many fields foreign students can study to be eligible to work in the United States on student visas. The announcement comes after years of declining international registration.
What are the Expert Feedback and Views?
Experts say the changes put the US on an equal footing with other countries. The Biden administration’s latest policies aim to make the United States more attractive to international students seeking science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees.
In particular, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) included May 22 in the list of qualified fields of study for the Optional Practice Training (OPT) program. This program allows graduates to stay in the US and work up to 36 months after graduation.
J-1 exchange visa students studying STEM can also stay for up to three years due to a separate rule change. Previously, students with a J-1 visa, popular among graduates, could only work in the United States for 18 months.
In addition, the U.S. Civil and Immigration Services (USCIS) has introduced new educational rules that make it easier for those who have a STEM Ph.D. to qualify for an Einstein visa.
USCIS also announced that it will streamline the process for potential STEM immigrants to qualify for the National Interest Exemption and obtain green cards. Recent steps by the administration to make the United States a more attractive destination for international students were praised by Sarah Spreitzer, assistant vice president of the American Board of Education.
He said the changes would raise US awareness of other countries competing to attract this group of students, including the United Kingdom and Canada, with similar or stronger programs such as OPT. According to a statement submitted to the Federal Register, the majors are:
- Bio Energy
- Cloud computing
- Forest resources production and management
- Forestry, general
- Human-centered technology design
- Climate science
- Mathematics and atmospheric/oceanic science
- Data science, general
- Environmental geosciences
- Geography and environmental studies
- Industrial and Organizational Psychology
- Social sciences, research methodology, and quantitative methods
- Mathematical economics
- Earth systems sciences
- Economics and computer science
- Data analytics, general
- Financial analytics
- Data analytics, other
- Business Analytics
- Data visualization
Nearly 525 major disciplines are now on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List. DHS rarely updates the OPT list, which makes this change huge. The ministry has promised to update this list annually to keep pace with the changing trends in higher education.
These additions are important to potential international students because many want to know if they can know after graduation before enrolling and if they can work in the United States afterward. It only makes it easier for students to identify their fields and clarifies expectations.
The White House statement emphasized that the changes could lead to more innovation and STEM jobs in the United States. History is full of instances of the capacity of the US to attract talent from across the world and inspire innovative change. This innovation has created new opportunities, industries, and employment for people in the United States.
These changes come shortly after the Biden administration simplified aspects of the student visa application process, another step that could increase enrollment. Immigration officials no longer have to analyze a student’s chances of immigrating to the United States after graduation before deciding whether to issue a student visa.
COVID-19 and its Aftermath
Previously, applicants had to prove the intention of non-immigrants when applying. The pandemic affected the enrollment of foreign students, but enrollment numbers continued to decline before the start of COVID-19.
In US schools, the number of enrollment of international students fell by 15% in the academic year 2020-2021, according to the State Department’s Office of Education and Cultural Affairs Open Department 2021 report. The number of applicants has decreased in the last five years.
A report from the Institute of International Education of November 2021 suggests that international enrollment could improve. The report found that the number of enrollment of international students in US institutions increased by 8% between Autumn 2020 and Autumn 2021.
Students have now decided to move to the US due to some of these active changes that have taken place. The biggest change is the addition of 22 new fields to the STEM OPT program. Under OPT, foreign students graduating from US universities can stay and work in the US for up to a year after graduation, and in such cases, they must file a work visa application.
Although some have country-specific visas, many graduates find themselves in the fight for the required place in the annual lottery for only 85,000 H-1B specials.
However, those who complete a designated degree program in science, mathematics, technology, or engineering can extend their work permit for another 24 months in the US and get many opportunities to obtain an H-1B lottery visa.
Innovation in STEM can help address the complex challenges we face today and contribute to the security and protection of the nation.