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US Plans to “attract international STEM talent”

A new raft of policies has been announced by the US Departments of State and Homeland Security in a bid to attract international STEM scholars, students, researchers and experts. The Biden-Harris administration released the statement on January 21, citing that it believes one of the country’s “greatest strengths is our ability to attract global talent”. The agency announcements include the State Department’s new Early Career STEM Research Initiative, which is designed to attract non-immigrant BridgeUSA exchange visitors to engage in STEM research.

Homeland Security’s secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced that 22 new fields of study are now included in the STEM Optional Practical Training program through the SEVP, which permits F-1 students earning bachelors, masters and doctorates in “certain STEM fields” to remain in the US for up to three years. This 36-month period will give them the time to complete OPT after earning their degrees. The new fields of study have been labelled by the White House as primarily “new multidisciplinary or emerging fields” – “critical” in attracting talent with the aim of supporting economic growth.

“STEM innovation allows us to solve the complex challenges we face today and make a difference in how we secure and protect our country,” Mayorkas said. “Through STEM education and training opportunities, DHS is expanding the number and diversity of students who excel in STEM education and contribute to the US economy.” For entrepreneurs, the Immigration and Nationality Act now says that USCIS can waive a job offer requirement for those whose entrepreneurial work is in the “national interest”.

“This update will promote efficient and effective benefit processing as USCIS reviews requests for national interest waivers,” the announcement reads, adding the effort “is consistent with the Biden-Harris administration’s priorities to restore faith in the legal immigration system.”

As well as the new Early Career STEM Research Initiative, the State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs is also announcing guidance facilitating additional academic training for both undergraduate and postgraduate students in STEM fields on the J-1 visa – also for up to three years.

“NAFSA also urges Congress to be productive partner… 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 business, join our workforce and contribute to civil society,” Brimmer added.