Biden Administration Expands STEM Fields Relating to Optional Practical Training for International Students

Tarter Krinsky & Drogin LLP
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Effective January 21, 2022, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security updated and expanded the list of STEM fields of study falling within the regulatory definition of “STEM field.” The list, known as the “DHS Stem Designated Degree Program List” (STEM List), allows foreign students to extend their optional practical training post-completion of studies at U.S. universities for up to 36 months. This applies to both F-1 student and J-1 exchange visitor nonimmigrant visa holders. In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s announcement, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) also announced new guidance that will facilitate additional academic training for exchange visitors coming to the United States to engage in STEM research through training or educational exchange visitor programs with host organizations, including businesses.

The Department of Homeland Security also announced that 22 new fields of study will be added to the STEM optional training program through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The program allows F-1 students earning Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorates in certain STEM fields to remain in the United States for up to 36 months after earning their degrees. Information concerning the fields has been communicated to universities and students in the January 21 Federal Register notice. The STEM fields added include the following:

  • Bioenergy
  • Forestry, General
  • Forest Resources Production and management
  • Human Centered Technology Design Cloud Computing Anthrozoology
  • Climate Science
  • Earth Systems Science
  • Economics and Computer Science
  • Environmental Geosciences
  • Geobiology
  • Geography and Environmental Studies
  • Mathematical Economics
  • Mathematics and Atmospheric/Oceanic Science
  • Data Science, General Data Analytics
  • Business Analytics
  • Data Visualization
  • Financial Analytics
  • Business Analytics
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Social Sciences, Research Methodology, and Quantitative Method

The current Department of Homeland STEM List can be found here.

The issuance of broader post-graduate employment options and training for STEM-educated foreign nationals in the United States, as well as other recent clarifications concerning pathways for permanent residence for individuals with STEM backgrounds, is part of the current administration’s desire to encourage greater predictability in the adjudication of STEM-related applications for immigration benefits and to encourage U.S. educated foreign students in the most valuable STEM fields to remain and contribute to our country’s competitive edge in the global economy. We will continue to monitor developments in this area.

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