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UNITED STATES | Changes unveiled to attract foreign science, tech students

Published:Sunday | January 23, 2022 | 12:08 AM
United States President Joe Biden.
United States President Joe Biden.

The Biden administration on Friday announced policy changes to attract international students specializing in science, technology, engineering and math – part of the broader effort to make the United States economy more competitive.

The State Department will let eligible visiting students in those fields, known as STEM, complete up to 36 months of academic training, according to a notice in the Federal Register. There will also be an initiative to connect these students with US businesses.

Homeland Security will add 22 new fields of study – including cloud computing, data visualization and data science – to a programme that allows international graduates from US universities to spend up to three additional years training with domestic employers. The program generated about 58,000 applications in fiscal 2020.

The programs are designed to ensure that the US is a magnet for talent from around the world, attracting scientists and researchers whose breakthroughs will enable the economy to grow. Government data shows that international students are increasingly the lifeblood of academic research.

It is the latest example of the Biden administration using presidential powers, as Donald Trump did, to retool the immigration system in the face of decades of congressional inaction. The Migration Policy Institute tallied nearly 300 changes to the system during Biden’s first year in office, many of them to undo Trump’s actions to restrict immigration.

The government’s National Science Board reported last week that international students on temporary visas account for more than half of US doctoral degrees in economics, computer sciences, engineering and mathematics and statistics. But in the sciences and engineering, China is fast closing the gap in doctoral degrees by generating nearly as many graduates as the US did in 2018.

Business groups and immigration advocates welcomed Friday’s announcement, while critics said it would damage job prospects for native American citizens.