US Expands Work Program to Retain More Overseas STEM Students

The Biden administration has expanded the types of degrees that international students can qualify for 3 years work permit after graduation (STEM Students) to increase American competitiveness in the math and science fields.

What is a STEM student?

The Department of Homeland Security has added 22 new degree programs to its list of fields that allow graduates to study in the U.S. as part of an optional practical training program. qualified to work for three years. Additional degrees added on Friday include forestry, climate science, data science, financial analysis, and some social sciences.

Under OPT, foreign students graduating from U.S. universities can stay in the U.S. for one year after graduation. can live and work in the U.S., at which point they will need to apply for a work visa. While some may have country-specific visas available, many graduates find themselves vying for a coveted slot in the annual lottery for only 85,000 H-1B specialty business visas.

Science, Math, Engineering or Technology Degree

However, those who complete a degree in a specified science, math, engineering, or technology degree can extend those work permits for an additional two years, allowing them to stay in the U.S.

STEM Education and Contribute

“STEM innovation allows us to address the complex challenges we face today and makes a difference in how we keep our country safe,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Meyerkas said in a statement. “Through STEM education and training opportunities, DHS is expanding the number and diversity of students who excel in STEM education and contribute to the U.S. economy.”

Linda Moore, CEO and president of TechNet, an association that counts Apple, Google, and Zoom as its members, said the policy change “will increase STEM talent, strengthen our economy and enhance America’s global competitiveness.”

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The change also signals a shift in attitude from the former administration to high-skilled work visas.

Trump administration

Trump administration officials issued policies that intensified scrutiny of visa requests and renewals and attempted to revamp the H-1B lottery to prioritize those offered the highest pay – a move critics have criticized. Said recent graduates would be laid off.

Chad Wolf, the former head of Homeland Security, also indicated that the OPT STEM program may be on the chopping block, though the administration never canceled the program.

While immigration policy is generally divisive on Capitol Hill, the work permit program is an issue that generally enjoys bipartisan support.

In June 2020, amid rumors the event might be canceled, 21 House Republicans wrote to the Trump administration, urging officials to protect OPT STEM.

He called on the then leaders of DHS and the State Department to “adopt appropriately streamlined procedures” to ensure that foreign students remain in the U.S. despite pandemic-era border closures. be able to enter. He also called for preserving the STEM opt, saying it “allows our country to compete globally for a market share of international students.”

“As countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, China, and Australia maintain immigration policies to attract and keep international students, the last item our country should do in this area is to weaken itself by weakening OPT. Making it less competitive,” the lawmakers wrote.

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However, some immigration restrictionists oppose measures to bring more foreign nationals into the workforce. RJ Hauman, director of government relations at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which pushes for lower-level immigration, said in a statement Friday that the change is “another loss for young American workers saddled with student loan debt.”

Source: Rollcall

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