The United States hosts more international students than anywhere else on the planet, but their numbers have seen a decline during the past years. These students contribute tens of billions of dollars to our economy every year, helping colleges and universities keep their tuitions lower for everyone. The past administration’s immigration policies put restrictions on international students hoping to study here, but there are signs that the Biden administration is paving the way for possible changes.
How Does Biden Propose to Help International Students?
Before President Biden was inaugurated, he made many different pledges designed to help immigrants and international students. One was to reform the temporary visa system by eliminating limits on employment-based visas by country and increasing the number of high skilled visas. Length-of-stay limitations for international students might also be revoked; the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) attempted to narrow parameters for extension requests and reduce visa durations last September.
Biden did repeal the travel ban that restricted some Muslim-majority country students and also reinstated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The latter provides for protection from deportation and work authorization for undocumented immigrant students who came to the United States when they were children. The administration has also pledged to remove roadblocks that have slowed down the naturalization procedure, which should make it easier for qualified green card holders.
How Else Will International Students be Helped?
The current administration is also focusing on preserving preferences for cultural diversity. This way, immigrants will have stronger chances for becoming legal U.S. citizens. Plans also call for increasing the number of visas that are offered for work-based, permanent immigration. Biden added that he wants to exempt recent PhD program graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields from any visa caps. This could mean increased opportunities for PhD graduates and U.S. doctoral programs.
Biden also wants to expand eligibility criteria for H-1B visas for skilled workers. These visas are designed for immigrants who want to work in specialty occupations, with a Department of Defense development or research project, or areas of exceptional merit, ability, or distinguished merit in specified fields. The previous administration had instituted a ban on new H-1B visas. With expanded eligibility criteria, more American companies may be able to recruit foreign-born students, researchers, professors, and employees.
The Biden administration also claims that it will allow approved applicants to obtain temporary, non-immigrant visas until permanent ones can be processed. The administration also supports legislation that classifies and treats spouses and children of green card holders as immediate relatives. This will allow parents to bring minor children with them when they immigrate, exempts them from caps, and supports family-based immigration. This kind of family unification can make it easier for international students to apply and get accepted to educational institutions.
Why are Foreign Students Important to Our Economy?
The former administration and the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic both contributed to declining foreign student enrollment and cost the United States close to $10 billion in revenue. Fewer students hurts American colleges and universities, but also damages the economy. When talented students choose to study and work in other countries, this is also a blow for U.S. competitiveness on a global scale.
One out of every five entrepreneurs who founded their own start-ups in the United States is an immigrant, and 75 percent of them arrived here as students. As the immigration policies start to change, some universities are seeing more international student applications. A recent survey of 800 international students who were considering applying in the United States revealed that 67 percent were more likely to now apply here, and 76 percent had better perceptions of this country overall.
What Else can the Biden Administration Do to Help Foreign Students?
Advocates believe that Biden can do even more to help our universities and employers attract and hold onto talented foreign students and workers. To start, the administration can direct the designated agencies to formally remove the previous administration’s proposed rules and could have Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) update its guidance pertaining to how new international students may study in the United States online. An increase in hybrid and online programs could also be beneficial, since they lessen the time foreign students would have to be in the United States.
In addition, Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 proposed that F-1 students be given dual intent, which would allow them to apply for their green cards right after graduating. This would eliminate having to rely on an H-1B visa. International students could also be given priority for visa appointments. Establishing a system to track processing times and waiving the in-person visa interview requirement would also help.
The DHS could also reestablish their Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC), which was originally created to help international students communicate with the DHS. The HSAAC was comprised of higher education representatives. Another idea is to raise the current H-1B cap of 85,000 visas, which is much lower than the hundreds of thousands of registrations that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives every month.
Again, U.S. colleges and universities are in need of a boost that can help them become more competitive, and more lenient immigration policies can attract more foreign students. Countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia have made it easier for international students and graduates to immigrate and remain in their countries, and they are also proactive when it comes to recruiting. If the Biden administration stays true to its proposals, this country may be able to get back on track.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at MC Law Group, LLC Recognize the Importance of Foreign Student Enrollment in the United States
The new changes in immigration policies may be beneficial for foreign students and their families, but there is still much work to be done. If you or someone you care for needs any kind of legal guidance with immigration issues, reach out to the caring, experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyers at MC Law Group, LLC. We understand your concerns, and our representatives are ready to speak with you. Call us at 215-496-0690 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.