US Announces New Immigration Perks For International Students

If you are a STEM student aspiring to pursue an education in the United States, you are going to be offered a lot of options to explore. The US government has announced several new initiatives to attract and cater to international talent specializing in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The first step in that direction is to open up immigration to international students and iron out ways to retain global talent in these fields.

By initiating “new actions to advance predictability and clarity for pathways for international STEM scholars, students, researchers, and experts”, the US intends to strengthen its economy, improve its technological competitiveness which in turn will lead to the creation of new jobs, new industries and new opportunities for Americans.

New Avenues For International Students

Expanded OPT Program

The Department of Homeland Security will now allow international students holding F1 visas and earning Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorates in certain STEM fields to remain in the United States for up to 36 months to complete Optional Practical Training after earning their degrees. 

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22 New Fields Of STEM Study

 The Department of Homeland Security is introducing 22 new fields of study within the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. This will be available through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). These fields of study are in new multidisciplinary or emerging fields including cloud computing and data analytics to geobiology and climate science. This will be communicated to schools and students in a forthcoming Federal Register notice. 

J1 Visa Holders To Engage In STEM Research

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) will launch the Early Career STEM Research Initiative for J1 visa holders. This will allow foreign nationals qualified for the J1 exchange visitor program to engage in STEM he DOS is also allowing J-1 exchange visitors enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate STEM program will also get up to 36 additional months of academic training.

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National Interest Waiver for STEM Students 

USCIS has updated its guidance regarding he national interest waiver (NIW) program. Now USCIS may waive a job offer requirement, allowing immigrants whose work is in the national interest to petition for themselves, without an employer.

Updated Eligibility for O1 Visas

The O1 nonimmigrant visa is meant for persons of extraordinary ability in the fields of science, business, education, or athletics, or for persons with a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television (MPTV) industry. USCIS will now allow O1 petitioners that do not fit the above criteria to submit evidence that is of comparable significance to that criterion to establish sustained acclaim and recognition. If the petitioner’s focus is in the highly technical nature of STEM fields, then they will qualify for a O1 visa.

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The new policy also provides examples of qualifying comparable evidence that petitioners could provide in support of a petition for a beneficiary in a STEM field.

Key Takeaways

The US Department of State and USCIS are taking a series of immigration actions to attract and retain global STEM talent. This is so that persons specializing in STEM programs may boost the U.S. economic development and enhance the country’s scientific and technological competitive advantage. From extended OPT programs to offering more avenues to access visas, international students can now explore more opportunities to come and work in the United States.