Optimistic Educational Opportunities under Biden Administration

Today, we are going to look at what the new presidency might mean for the US international education market. Just as President Joe Biden set in motion, he started reforming a few US immigration laws that- if approved by Congress- would most definitely make it easier for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) students to study in the US.

Lifting of Travel Ban

Biden promptly uplifted the travel ban imposed by former President Donald Trump on citizens of the seven major Muslim countries- Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. This ban has affected all kinds of travelers from the mentioned countries, but most significantly students and researchers with some collaborative research projects that were interrupted severely.

New Opportunities for the US Tech Industry:

The tech industry of the USA had to suffer a lot and to overcome this situation, Biden said that he is proposing broad immigration-reform legislation to attract foreign students to study and work in the US.  It would also encourage the US technology companies to recruit experts from abroad, in an attempt to help grow the economy and compete globally. Although the White House didn’t release any information regarding this, Biden said “this bill will make it easier for graduates of US universities with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the United States.” Immediately after this announcement, Mike Howell, a senior advisor at the Heritage Foundation, said “It is very obvious to say that, the Biden administration plans to put Americans last by pushing for the most flexible immigration policy in US history. In fact, this administration can be considered as the first and only administration in US history to announce that its top priority is not for the US citizens, but for non-US citizens.”

Convenient Visa processing and Longer Validities:

The university association recommended Biden an entire section to introduce a modernized immigration system that would secure talented personnel and encourage foreign students to stay in the USA even after completing their graduation. As a result, Biden promised a total reformation of the immigration policy in his campaign. He stated that he supports expanding the number of high-skilled visas and ending limits on employment-based visas by country. For highly skilled non-immigrants this could possibly mean a much easier visa process, as well as a faster route to citizenship. Biden also supports increasing the number of visas awarded for permanent, employment-based immigration, and would exempt recent graduates of Ph.D. and STEM fields from any green card cap.

Albert Teich, a renowned professor at George Washington University, said that Trump and other administration people have tightened up and put a lot of limits on foreign national immigration towards the US. They put a time limit on student visas which never existed before. So, if the Biden administration can remove those obstacles it will obviously improve foreigners’ point of view towards the USA.

Richard Burke, CEO of Envoy Global, said that “One action that has been getting increasing support would be the ‘heartland visa’, a visa that incentivizes employers to put STEM jobs in non-coastal cities. A disproportionate number of H-1B visas are offered to California, the state of Washington DC, Virginia, and New York. Survey respondents and our customers favor the creation of a separate visa for employers willing to go to Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri.

State Department and Immigration:

According to the US state department, immigrant visa issuance decreased by more than 17% from 2016 to 2019. Another study found that there were 32,000 fewer new international students in 2019 to 2020 academic year, as compared to 2015 to 2016. Though it could slightly affect the university finances, the bigger issue has been the scarcity of talented and skilled workers in the massive US tech industry. Google, Tesla, Moderna, and hundreds of other US tech companies had foreign co-founders, and long-established multinationals like Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook have many immigrants as their senior and technical staff.

What’s Next?

To some, the details of immigration reform are less important than re-polishing the US image as a destination for smart people. Going forward, Teich said that Biden must make it clear the US is committed more strongly than ever to international cooperation. “President Biden must do more than undo the damage Trump has done,” he said, “The world has changed. If the magnetism of the US can be refreshed, the US can still be a magnet for students and scientists from all over the world.
Many hope that Biden will also rescind and revise immigration regulations enacted in the fall of 2020 that relate to the duration of status, visa qualifications, and issues around wages; eliminate the requirement that student visa applicants show evidence they intend to leave America after completing their studies and training; and create a new green card category for international students completing Ph.D., STEM, MD, and other advanced degrees. 

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