Biden administration announces policy changes to attract international STEM students

The Biden administration announced new efforts on Friday to attract international science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students and researchers to the U.S. as part of its mission to increase recruitment of talent abroad.

Friday’s announcement said the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) will implement new guidance, allowing up to 36 months of academic training for STEM students on a J-1 visa, or a non-immigrant visa for those participating in an exchange visitor program.

The Department of Homeland security will also add 22 new fields of study in the STEM Optional Practical Training program through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program.

“These actions will allow international STEM talent to continue to make meaningful contributions to America’s scholarly, research and development, and innovation communities,” the administration said in the release.

According to the National Science Board, the U.S. leads in attracting international STEM students. But “the coronavirus pandemic contributed to the decline of international higher education enrollment,” with international science and engineering students enrolled at U.S. institutions dropping 20 percent from 2019 to 2020.

In an op-ed published in The Hill last year, James Gates, president of the American Physical Society, and Gerald Blazey, vice president for Research and Innovation Partnerships at Northern Illinois University, argued the U.S. was slowly falling behind in research and development.

Gates and Blazey said more needed to be done for STEM recruitment. They also offered support for the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the Future Act in Congress, which would build up a partnership between major research institutions and emerging research institutions.

“The pilot partnership model put forward in the NSF for the Future Act would be a strong start — increasing research capacity and providing meaningful research experiences to a broader set of students. To build a strong future, we need to provide a broader onramp to the STEM workforce,” Gates and Blazey wrote.

Biden’s administration on Friday also updated other existing federal policies that make it easier for international students to come to the U.S. Officials said they are committed to attracting STEM students and talent from across the world.

“Our commitment as a nation to welcoming new talent has long provided America with a global competitive advantage, and we must continue to lead in this effort,” the administration said in Friday’s release.

Tags Biden administration D.C. immigration Science education Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics STEM visas Washington White House

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