November 18, 2015 | Letters, News, Press Releases

Supporting Training Opportunities For Foreign STEM Students

Beckerman: “As the home of Internet innovation and a leader in the global economy, the U.S. should do all it can to attract and maintain talented individuals, particularly those who hold degrees in STEM fields.”

 

Today, the Internet Association sent a letter to Katherine Westerlund Policy Chief of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to offer support and feedback for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) proposed changes to the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program.

Under new DHS rules for the OPT program, nonimmigrant (F-1) students with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees would be provided with opportunities for on-the-job training for up to 24 months, an increase from the current maximum duration of 17 months. Additionally, the new DHS rules would allow individuals to use a previously or subsequently earned STEM degree to become eligible for a STEM OPT extension.

“As the home of Internet innovation and a leader in the global economy, the U.S. should do all it can to attract and maintain talented individuals, particularly those who hold degrees in STEM fields,” said Internet Association President and CEO Michael Beckerman. “Improving and expanding the OPT program is an impactful step in the right direction, as OPT trainees have played a vital role in driving growth in the Internet economy. The extension of this critical program will allow these high skilled workers to remain in the U.S. longer, increasing the economic benefit that they can bring to our companies, the users they serve, and the American economy at large.”

Roughly 20 percent of today’s U.S. STEM workers with bachelor’s degrees are foreign-born individuals. That number jumps to 40 percent for STEM workers who hold advanced degrees. The contributions of these foreign-born workers can be felt throughout the economy, but especially in high tech firms; one quarter of U.S. high tech firms established since 1995 have had at least one foreign-born founder, and these new firms employ roughly 450,000 people, while generating $50 billion in sales.

While these nonimmigrant (F-1) students receive their education and training here in the U.S., an increasing number are contributing to economies abroad, instead of the U.S. This is due, in part, to the fact that current rules governing nonimmigrant (F-1) students dictate that many cannot stay in the U.S. long-term. However, an additional factor contributing to this loss of talent has grown in recent years. A recent report using LinkedIn data to examine the impact of immigration on different sectors of the U.S. economy suggests that skilled, foreign-born professionals increasingly see the U.S. as a less attractive country to work in for a number of reasons. These include increased competition in other countries for highly skilled migrants and inefficiencies created by U.S. immigration laws, among others.

To read the full letter, click here.

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