Recognizing the importance of Foreign STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates to the U.S. economy. The Biden Government has made three policy changes that extend eligibility.
The changes are as per the following:
- Adding 22 new degree fields to the STEM list so that more F-1 graduates can qualify for three years. Rather than one year, of optional practical training (OPT);
- Making STEM students in J-1 exchange visitor status moreover eligible for 36 months of OPT up from 18 months; and
- Broadening eligibility for National Interest Waiver Immigrant (NIW) visas for those in STEM fields.
The new degree programs added to the STEM list include academic fields. For example, bioenergy, human-centered technology design, climate science, mathematical economics, data visualization. Also, different analytics fields previously not considered to be STEM fields: business analytics, financial analytics, and data analytics.
Foreign STEM Graduates
Granting F-1 and J-1 students, a large number of whom graduate with Ph.D. degrees, more OPT provides them more time to make significant commitments to U.S. companies, colleges, and non-profit institutions. Moreover, realizing that this amount of training is available makes choosing U.S. colleges and universities more attractive. It also reduces the “brain drain” in the United States. Students who get advanced training in this nation and become more established in this nation will be less likely to want to leave and bring their earned expertise to different nations.
To keep them in the United States, however, these students need a way to H-1B visas or permanent residence (“green cards”). The three years of STEM training give a few students more chances to “win” the H-1B lottery. Explaining how the news can be used by STEM graduates to gain legal permanent residence, without having to do a labor test to prove their employment will not adversely affect U.S. workers, also breaks down barriers.
To get an NIW, a candidate should demonstrate three factors: 1) show that the proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance; 2) show that the candidate is well-positioned to advance the endeavor; and 3) show that it would be beneficial to the United States to waive a job offer and, thus, the labor market test.
To meet the third factor, the new policy “recognizes the importance of progress in STEM fields. And the essential role of people with advanced STEM degrees in fostering this progress. Particularly in focused critical and emerging technologies or other STEM areas important to U.S. competitiveness or national security”. Adding 22 new STEM fields potentially expands eligibility.