U.S. Broadens Job Prospects for Foreign Grads in Science Fields

Foreign students studying at U.S. universities have traditionally had a year after graduation in which to find a job, allowing them to live and work in the United States. Three years ago, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) changed immigration rules to stretch this window of time from 12 to 29 months for students graduating in certain areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Yesterday, DHS announced that it was expanding the list of disciplines eligible for the extension. The revised list adds fields such as neuroscience, marine science, environmental science, pharmaceutics and drug design, and education research. It also greatly expands its listings within the agricultural sciences and psychology. The decision follows a yearlong review of requests from businesses and academia to add new fields, says Gillian Christensen, a spokesperson for DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The change is expected to allow a greater number of foreign students to seek opportunities at a time when jobs are hard to come by. It is also intended to help U.S. businesses. By expanding the list, “the Obama administration is helping to address shortages in certain high tech sectors of talented scientists and technology experts,” says a statement from DHS.

Opponents of expanding high-tech immigration see the development as yet another blow for U.S.-born students and workers. That’s because native-born job applicants in the newly added fields will now face increased competition for employment in an already tough economy, says Jack Martin of the Federation for American Immigration Reform in Washington, D.C. The extension will “exacerbate” the problems that American workers already face on account of the H-1B program, he predicts.