US – Education: Policy Changes Benefit STEM Fields

In January, the Biden administration announced new policies aimed at attracting to the U.S. international graduates and professionals who specialize in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). These changes are part of Biden’s efforts “to strengthen [the U.S.] economy and technological competitiveness.” New initiatives include but are not limited to:

  • Expansion of the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program to include 22 new fields of study. The program permits F-1 students earning Bachelor’s, Master’s, 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. The newly added fields include:
  • Bioenergy; Forestry, General; Forest Resources Production and Management; Human Centered Technology Design; Cloud Computing; Anthrozoology; Climate Science; Earth Systems Science; Economics and Computer Science; Environmental Geosciences; Geobiology; Geography and Environmental Studies; Mathematical Economics; Mathematics and Atmospheric/Oceanic Science; Data Science, General; Data Analytics, General; Business Analytics; Data Visualization; Financial Analytics; Data Analytics, Other; Industrial and Organizational Psychology; Social Sciences, Research Methodology and Quantitative Methods.

On February 7th, The U.S. House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act, intended to boost U.S. global competitiveness. The Act contains two major immigration reforms: (1) a new W visa category for startups would be available to foreign entrepreneurs and, (2) a direct path to permanent residence for immigrants who earn a Ph.D. in a STEM field in the U.S. 

Please note this is proposed, not final, legislation. While these reforms are compelling, the Bill still needs to pass in the Senate, which is expected to be challenging

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