DHS Reforms to Attract and Retain Highly Skilled Immigrants
Please note: On May 10, 2016, DHS replaced the 17-month STEM OPT extension with a new 24-month STEM OPT extension. All existing 17-month STEM OPT EADs will remain valid until the EAD expires, is terminated or revoked. For more information about the new STEM OPT rule, please visit the STEM OPT Hub.
This week the Department of Homeland Security announced a series of administrative reforms that will be implemented to reflect the Obama Administration's “commitment to attracting and retaining highly-skilled immigrants” that “are critical to continuing our economic recovery and encouraging job creation.”
In a statement, the Department said the moves were in support of the President’s efforts to meet 21st century national security and economic needs. This would include “creating a ‘Startup Visa,’ strengthening the H-1B program, and ‘stapling’ green cards to the diplomas of certain foreign-born graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.”
DHS also “plans to expand eligibility for 17-month extension of optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 international students to include students with a prior degree in” STEM fields. Other plans include expanding “the number of Designated School Officials (DSOs) at schools certified by DHS to enroll international students.” The statement also stated the plans would “allow for additional part-time study for spouses of F-1 students.”
The launch of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative was also announced. This initiative will “bring together high-level representatives from the entrepreneurial community, academia, and federal government agencies to discuss how to maximize current immigration laws’ potential to attract foreign entrepreneurial talent.”
These announcements echo President Obama’s recent State of the Union address, which emphasized the important role that immigrants play in American job creation.