More International Students Eligible for US STEM Work Program

The United States will add eight new fields of study for international students looking to acquire practical work experience in the country, the Department of Homeland Security announced last week.

The eight new fields of study include: landscape architecture; institutional research; mechatronics, robotics and automation engineering technology/technician; composite materials technology/technician; linguistics and computer science; developmental and adolescent psychology; geospatial intelligence; and demography and population studies.

The new fields will all be added to the science, technology, engineering, mathematics Optional Practical Training, or STEM OPT, program. Announced in a July 12 Federal Register notice, the additions will provide international students with more opportunities to temporarily work in the United States.

This is the latest move intended to attract more foreign STEM students to the United States.

Early last year, the Biden administration added 22 fields of study to the STEM OPT program.

“STEM innovation allows us to solve the complex challenges we face today and make a difference in how we secure and protect our country,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in announcing the 2022 expansion. “Through STEM education and training opportunities, DHS is expanding the number and diversity of students who excel in STEM education and contribute to the U.S. economy.”

DHS received nominations for 120 fields, from which eight were selected and announced last week.

Through OPT, international students on an F-1 visa can gain experience in their area of study during or following the completion of their degree.

More than 200,000 international students used the program to gain work experience in the United States during the 2020-21 academic year.

The program usually lets students work for up to one year, but certain STEM students can extend that for an additional two years.

Boundless, a firm that helps people immigrate to the U.S., hailed the latest STEM expansion.

“As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, initiatives like STEM OPT play a crucial role in promoting innovation, economic growth and cultural exchange,” the Seattle-based company said in a recent statement. “By expanding access to practical training, the U.S. signals a commitment to fostering a diverse and globally connected workforce.”

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