On Friday, January 21st, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shared a series of exciting announcements/policy updates relating to immigration for foreign nationals in STEM fields. Immigration leaders, our international student community, and activists celebrate the news as it will broaden opportunities for international talent and academics, and ultimately benefit the U.S. immensely. 

This blog post is the first in our series on these exciting and very welcome changes. Here we will discuss DHS’ announcement that it will be adding 22 additional fields of study to the STEM Designated Degree Program List. Let’s break down what the list is, why it’s important, who will be affected, and what fields were added. 

 

First things first… what is the ‘STEM Designated Degree Program List’?

The STEM Designated Degree Program list is a list of fields of study that the Department of Homeland Security considers to be within the parameters of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, (also known as STEM). If a field of study is on the STEM list, an international student (F-1 visa holder) enrolled in that program can potentially apply for an additional 24 months of work authorization/STEM optional practical training (OPT) following the initial 12 month OPT period post-graduation. 

 

Why is this change important?

The new DHS announcement expands the number of students eligible for the 24 month OPT STEM extension. For current international students, an additional 24 months of OPT means having more of a ‘bridge’ between their studies and a longer term visa, should they wish to remain in the U.S. Because of the change, more international students in STEM fields will be able to study, work, and develop their careers in the United States. 

 

“In the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – fields that are critical to the prosperity, security, and health of our Nation – our history is filled with examples of how America’s ability to attract global talent has spurred path-breaking innovation. This innovation has led to the creation of new jobs, new industries, and new opportunities for Americans across the United States.”

Quote from the Biden-Harris administration fact sheet on attracting STEM talent and strengthening our economy.

 

Who will be affected by this change?

This change will primarily affect international students with F-1 visas. The F-1 student visa allows certain individuals to enter the United States as full-time students at an accredited university. As a direct result of the DHS change, more students will be eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT. 

While this is a huge win for international students, the rule also affects the U.S. population at large. STEM students are hugely important to the advancement of our country; their research and innovation will only benefit and strengthen our communities. 

 

What fields did DHS add to the STEM list? 

The following fields were added to the STEM list:

  • 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, General
  • Business Analytics
  • Data Visualization
  • Financial Analytics
  • Data Analytics, Other
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Social Sciences, Research Methodology and Quantitative Methods. 

 

To see more details on each field as well as their corresponding CIP code, head here

DHS also confirmed that it will continue to accept suggested additions or deletions to the STEM list going forward. Members of the public may nominate a field of study to be included on or removed from the list by emailing the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) at SEVP@ice.dhs.gov, subject line “Attention: STEM CIP Code nomination.” SVEP will evaluate all suggestions. 

Much like other immigration lawyers, leaders, and activists, we are thrilled at this news, seeing it as a positive change in the right direction. Given the Administration’s other recent actions relating to immigration for foreign nationals in STEM fields, we are very excited for what’s to come. 

Stay tuned for our next blog on this topic—exciting changes and more expansive guidance on the O-1A extraordinary availability visa! 

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