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Retaining Highly Skilled Immigrants Gaining Policy Traction

On January 31, 2012, USCIS announced several DHS reforms to attract the best and the brightest in furtherance of President Obama’s commitment “to make the U.S. more attractive to highly skilled foreign students and workers, thereby improving the competitiveness of U.S. companies int he world market and stimulating job creations.”

  1. Expand eligibility for 17-month extension of optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students to include students with prior degree in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This means that the STEM degree does not have to be the most recent degree the student has received. So a student with an MBA and with a prior degree in Civil Engineering, for example, would qualify.
  2. Allow spouses of F-1 students to enroll in academic studies part-time.
  3. Provide work authorization for spouses of H-1B workers currently in H-4 status, whose H-1B spouses have begun the process of seeking lawful permanent residence through employment.
  4. Allow outstanding professors and researchers to present a broader scope of evidence of academic achievement. Presently, applicants for the employment-based immigrant visa category of “outstanding professors and researchers” are limited to specific types of evidence listed by regulation. This would allow “comparable evidence” beyond the specifically articulated regulatory list.
  5. Allow E-3 holders from Australia and H-1B1 visa holders from Singapore and Chile to continue working with their current employer for up to 240 days while their petitions for extension of status are pending. This would bring the E-3 and H-1B1 categories in line with other L-1 and H-1B visa holders
  6. Launch Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative. On February 22, 2012, USCIS will launch its Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative with an Information Summit in Silicon Valley, CA, that will bring together high-level representatives from the entrepreneurial community, academia, and federal government agencies to discuss how to maximize current immigration laws’ potential to attract foreign entrepreneurial talent. The Summit will include a special recognition of outstanding contributions made by immigrant entrepreneurs to our nation’s economic growth and prosperity. The input gathered at the summit will inform the work of the Entrepreneurs in Residence tactical team, which will bring business experts in-house to work alongside USCIS staff for a period of approximately 90 days. Following the summit, the tactical team will convene in Washington, DC to begin its work.
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