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ICE expands graduate education programs for student visa holders

Graduate student visa holders in the U.S. can choose from a wider variety of technical degrees under an expansion of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) list of eligible training programs.

ICE said on May 12, two days after President Obama called for more flexible regulation of student visa and immigration, that it had expanded its list of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degree programs under its Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. The expansion qualifies eligible graduates to extend their post-graduate training in the U.S., said ICE. The expansion includes neuroscience, medical Informatics, pharmaceutics and drug design, mathematics and computer science, according to ICE.

Under the OPT program, foreign students who graduate from U.S. colleges and universities are able to remain in the U.S. and receive training through work experience for up to 12 months, according to ICE. Students who graduate with one of the newly-expanded STEM degrees can remain for an additional 17 months on an OPT STEM extension, it said.

ICE published the expanded list of STEM degree programs on May 12, calling it “an important step forward in the Obama administration's continued commitment to fixing our broken immigration system and expanding access to the nation's pool of talented high skilled graduates in the science and technology fields.”

In his El Paso speech on May 10, Obama called for broad immigration reform, including allowing talented, motivated foreign students to more easily remain in the U.S. to continue their studies or settle into business, rather than forcing them to return to their home countries once their student visas expired. He said allowing such students to continue on in the U.S. working in science and technology jobs and fueling innovation in their chosen fields here in the United States, was a part of his vision of larger comprehensive immigration reform.

“By expanding the list of STEM degrees to include such fields as neuroscience, medical informatics, pharmaceutics and drug design, mathematics and computer science, the Obama administration is helping to address shortages in certain high tech sectors of talented scientists and technology experts-permitting highly skilled foreign graduates who wish to work in their field of study upon graduation and extend their post-graduate training in the United States,” said an ICE statement on May 12.


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