Overseas students and academics around the world are reacting to the Biden-Harris administration’s latest conference, which added 22 additional STEM categories to the existing list of STEM categories accepted for the Optional Practical Training programme.
The amended Department of Homeland Security regulation permits international students to stay in the United States for up to three years after completion of university studies. In addition, according to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorka, the proposed policy is extended to eligible entrepreneurial candidates or those with advanced STEM-based degrees who display “exceptional talent” and whose ideas are viewed as likely to enhance the national interest.
Pepperdine University in California has around 1,100 foreign students from over 45 countries on campus, accounting for 14 percent of the undergraduate population. Pepperdine University’s Executive Director of International Programs Beth Laux has previous experience of working with the Department of State and developing international education policies.
“International education has never been more vital. Our collective experience during the pandemic has highlighted the complex and interconnected nature of the global community,” she said, adding international education serves as “a platform for co-constructing sustainable, just, and impactful solutions to global issues”.
Programs such as the Biden administration’s Early Career STEM Research Initiative and the Joint Statement of Principles in Support of International Education are steps toward securing intercultural engagement for years to come, Laux added, referring to recent DHS regulations.
Similarly, Lee Chen, entrepreneur and founder of Boston Wise and Global Talent Link, says the project is good news for overseas students and researchers, particularly those who want to advance their careers in the United States.
The neuroscientist, who was born and raised in Shanghai before moving to Boston to study at Harvard in 2003, now engages with worldwide students and scholars through mentorship programmes.
Despite being encouraged by the newest DHS advancements, Chen stated that he would like to see similar rules adopted for non-STEM students, saying that cultural exchanges and foreign talents stimulate creativity and innovation in all parts of society.
An international student, Lava Cui, graduated from Emerson College in 2020 with a degree in Media Design, a major on the DHS list of STEM disciplines. While Cui was happy with the development, she also painted a realistic picture of the challenges that international scholars may face in finding work after graduation. She talked about her own recent job search. When seeking work, it is still necessary to ask whether you require sponsorship. This means that students looking for work on F1 visas are not always treated equally.
“For me, it is still not easy to find employers who can sponsor”, she said.
Nonetheless, regardless of some setbacks for international graduates, the announcement is another example of the “Biden Bump” phenomenon of legislation intended to increase world-class talent in the US and overturning the previous administration’s travel bans, executive orders, harmful regulatory actions, and xenophobic rhetoric, as referenced by NAFSA executive director Esther D. Brimmer.
According to NAFSA, anti-immigrant policies amounted to a $1.8 billion and 42,000 job loss in the 2019/20 school year, the first reduction since NAFSA began reporting on the economic ramifications of overseas students to the US economy over 20 years ago.