The Biden administration on Friday announced policy changes to attract international students majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
According to a notice in the Federal Register, the State Department will allow eligible visiting students in these fields, known as STEM, to complete up to 36 months of academic preparation. There will also be an initiative to connect these students with American businesses.
The Department of Homeland Security will add 22 new fields of study, including cloud computing, data visualization, and data science, to the program, which allows international U.S. university graduates to spend up to three additional years of study with local employers. In fiscal year 2020, the program received approximately 58,000 applications.
The government’s National Council on Science reported this week that foreign students on temporary visas make up more than half of US doctoral degrees in economics, computer science, engineering, mathematics and statistics. But in the sciences and engineering, China is rapidly narrowing the PhD gap, churning out almost as many graduates as the US in 2018.
Business groups and immigration advocates hailed Friday’s announcement, while critics said it would hurt job prospects for Native American citizens.
“These targeted actions will help US companies meet their urgent workforce needs going forward and are one of a number of key actions needed to address the labor shortage crisis,” said John Baselis, US Chambers of Commerce Vice President for Immigration Policy.
US Tech Workers, an advocacy group that has criticized graduate visas, said the changes would encourage companies to discriminate against local job applicants.
“This is exactly the kind of policy that is ruining the career prospects of young American graduates,” the group wrote on Twitter.