February 24, 2022

White House Updates Stem Visa Policies

White House Updates Stem Visa Policies 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The Biden Administration has recently announced a plan to retain international students who specialize in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) using cultural-exchange visas. This will allow for up to three years of training and is part of an effort to counter China. 

“Today, the Departments of State and Homeland Security are announcing new actions to advance predictability and clarity for pathways for international STEM scholars, students, researchers, and experts to contribute to innovation and job creation efforts across America,” The White House said in a press release. “These actions will allow international STEM talent to continue to make meaningful contributions to America’s scholarly, research and development, and innovation communities.” 

The new policy changes, which do not need congressional approval, come at a time when China surpasses the U.S. in the number of undergraduate and doctoral students in fields critical to economic growth, such as STEM. 

“STEM innovation allows us to solve the complex challenges we face today and make a difference in how we secure and protect our country,” said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.  “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.”

Twenty-two new fields of study are also being added to the list of approved degrees, such as anthrozoology, bioenergy, general forestry, geobiology, and research methodology. Certain noncitizens with an advanced degree or exceptional ability can self-petition for employment-based immigrant visa classification, without testing the labor market and obtaining certification from the Department of Labor, if U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services determines the waiver of the labor market test to be in the national interest. This is to help STEM graduates obtain lawful residents while advancing America’s interests. 

The announcement and policy changes are supported by organizations such as the Association of International Educators (NAFSA). “At a time when U.S. international student enrollment has been trending downward and other countries are making gains in attracting the world’s best and brightest, this announcement is welcome progress in the right direction,” a NAFSA press release stated. “NAFSA also urges Congress to be a productive partner in this endeavor by providing key legislative solutions such as expanding dual intent and creating a path to a green card for international students so that they may have expanded opportunities to stay in this country after graduation to open businesses, join our workforce, and contribute to civil society.”

These actions are part of President Biden’s plan to remove barriers to legal immigration and promote educational exchange.