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Degree list expanded, foreign students can stay longer

Posted on May 23, 2011
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The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency May 12 announced it has expanded its list of science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees that would allow foreign students to stay on for up to 17 months post-graduation.

Fifty new degree programs now qualify for an Optional Practical Training extension to a student visa, including several disciplines in animal science; digital communication, computer animation and multimedia; forestry and environmental sciences; educational statistics and research methods; neuroscience, biological and physical sciences; mathematics; and several disciplines in psychology.

The expanded list is available on the ice.gov Web site.

The ICE announcement came two days after President Barack Obama gave a speech in El Paso, Texas, calling for comprehensive immigration reform. In his speech, Obama asserted that foreign students trained in U.S. universities should be encouraged to remain in the U.S. after graduation.

“Today, we provide students from around the world with visas to get engineering and computer science degrees at our top universities,” said Obama, to applause from his audience.

“But then our laws discourage them from using those skills to start a new business or a new industry here in the United States,” he said, adding, “Instead of training entrepreneurs to stay here, we train them to create jobs for our competition.”

Later in the week, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra took up Obama’s theme at the Big Omaha Conference in Omaha, Neb.

“Given the high-tech focus of many of the entrepreneurs in the room, the message I heard was clear,” wrote Chopra on the White House blog. “If we are to effectively compete in the global economy, we need access to the very best talent our communities can attract, especially in regions that lack the kind of talent concentration one finds in areas like the Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas.”

Chopra praised the expanded STEM program, and then called for clearer and simpler rules to navigate the legal immigration system and placing priority on immigrant entrepreneurs when meting out visas.

But the Wall Street Journal reported last week that a weak economy and better opportunities back home have led to a decline in the number of H-1B visa applicants.

Only 8,000 petitions have been received thus far for the 65,000 available slots, compared to 16,500 petitions in April 2010 and 45,000 in April 2009, the Journal reported.

In 2008, all 65,000 visas were snapped up on April 1, the first day of allotment.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., reintroduced his family reunification bill this month (see separate story) and suggested that unused visas in some categories should be used to clear up the logjams in family-based visa categories.

In related news, the State Department announced May 6 that it was temporarily scrapping its annual worldwide lottery for 50,000 immigrant visas, due to a computer glitch.

More than 14 million people globally had applied for one of the coveted visas through the Diversity Visa Lottery, which doesn’t require a family or employer sponsorship.

The State Department said it would hold a new lottery with existing applicants and announce the winners by July 15

For more news and updates, assistance with your visa needs or for a Free Assessment of your profile for Immigration or Work Visa’s just visit www.y-axis.com

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