Six Implications of Biden’s Policies for International Students
With the US presidential election over and decided, President-elect Joe Biden is creating his new administration and setting the agenda for his time in office.
Outlets around the world are hypothesizing what a Biden presidency will mean for international students looking at the United States as a potential study destination. A pre-election poll conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) suggests that international candidates would be more likely to study in the United States with Biden as president.
In addition to direct implications for the United States, alternative destinations competing to attract global talent are also likely to experience the impact of this shift in preferences. A recent article in the Economic Times quotes several education consultants who said they expect a 20-30 percent increase in the number of Indian students applying to the schools in the United States, with “enquiries from engineering and MBA aspirants already rising.”
As we look toward the January 20, 2021 inauguration of the new President, let’s look at six things Biden’s pledged to do in the beginning of his term, and how his agenda impacts prospective international students in particular.
1. Reform the temporary visa system
Biden has said that he will support expanding the number of high-skilled visas and eliminating the limits on employment-based visas by country, which create unacceptably long backlogs. Biden has not spoken extensively about his plans for international education and high-skilled immigration, but experts are predicting a return to Obama-era-type policies, which were far more lenient and welcoming for international students than those under the Trump administration.
What it means: Under Biden’s leadership, it will be easier for international students to be approved for student visas.
2. Restore and defend the naturalization process for green card holders
The incoming Biden administration has pledged to streamline and improve the naturalization process to make it more accessible to qualified green card holders.
The Trump Administration made life difficult for qualifying green card holders to obtain citizenship. Biden has said he will restore faith in the citizenship process by removing roadblocks to naturalization and obtaining the right to vote, addressing the application backlog and ensuring applications are processed quickly, and rejecting the imposition of unreasonable fees.
What it means: In the coming years, the road to U.S. citizenship will become quicker, more seamless and less expensive.
3. Increase the number of visas offered for permanent, work-based immigration
As president, Biden has said he will work with Congress to increase the number of visas awarded for permanent, employment-based immigration. Biden also says he will exempt recent graduates of PhD programs in STEM fields in the United States from any cap as these graduates are poised to make some of the most important contributions to the world economy.
Read more: What’s a STEM MBA and why is it so popular?
Biden also believes that foreign graduates of a US doctoral program should be given a green card with their degree, noting that “losing these highly trained workers to foreign economies is a disservice to America’s economic competitiveness.”
What it means: Opportunities for permanent, work-based immigration visas will increase overall, and exemptions will be applied for PhD graduates in STEM fields or US doctoral programs.
4. Reject the false choice between employment-based and family-based immigration
The Biden Administration has said it will support family-based immigration by preserving family unification by allowing any approved applicant to receive a temporary non-immigrant visa until the permanent visa is processed; and by supporting legislation that treats the spouse and children of green card holders as the immediate relatives they are, exempting them from caps, and allowing parents to bring their minor children with them at the time they immigrate.
What it means: Families will not be separated as they immigrate to the United States legally.
5. Preserve preferences for diversity in the current system
As president, Biden says he will preserve the critical role of diversity preferences to ensure immigrants everywhere have the chance to legally become US citizens. “These preferences are essential to preserving a robust and vibrant immigration system.”
What it means: Encouraging racial and ideological diversity in the United States will once again be a priority.
6. Repeal the Trump travel ban and reinstate DACA
In his first 100 days, Biden is expected to issue executive orders repealing the Trump travel ban that restricts travel from a number of mostly Muslim-majority countries. He is also expected to prioritize the reinstatement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides work authorization and protection against deportation to undocumented immigrant students who were brought to the U.S. as children.
What it means: Under President Biden, current restrictions against students from some Muslim-majority countries will end.
Biden and international students: Make America welcoming of talent again
There is still much unknown when looking toward the future, particularly amid a global pandemic still very much prevalent around the world. One thing we do know is that it’s a new day in the United States when it comes to their government’s approach on immigration and attracting the world’s best students to its classrooms. And while reputations can’t be mended overnight, it seems clear the work toward doing so will begin on day one of the Biden administration.
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