President Joe Biden’s election signals a new day for international education. This is evident based on a slew of Biden’s executive orders, many of which revoked immigration and travel restrictions imposed by the Trump administration. Additionally, Biden sent a bill to Congress aimed at reforming the nation’s immigration system.
As a university administrator who specializes in international education, I foresee five major ways the United States may once again become the top choice for students from around the world during the Biden administration.
That’s because the Biden administration has expressed a commitment to modernizing the nation’s immigration system in ways that respond to economic needs and prevent the U.S. from losing talent to other nations. This includes making it easier for international students who are working on advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – or STEM – to stay and work after graduation.
How much Biden can actually reform the immigration system remains to be seen. But international applications to U.S. colleges for this fall are already up 9% compared to a year ago. This suggests a renewed interest in the U.S. as a study destination. It also serves as a hopeful sign that international enrollment will soon rebound, presuming Biden’s handling of the pandemic instills more confidence abroad than that of his predecessor.
2. Elimination of discriminatory bans
On his first day in office, Biden revoked the Trump administration’s so-called Muslim ban and other discriminatory restrictions on travel and entry in favor of strengthening information-sharing relationships with foreign governments.
Undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children – often known as Dreamers – faced an uncertain future under Trump. The Trump administration refused to accept new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – which extends certain protections to Dreamers – that was established under the Obama administration. And this occurred even after the program was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In sharp contrast to his predecessor, Biden has proposed making it easier for international students with advanced degrees in STEM fields to receive work visas and apply for permanent residency. If successful, Biden would enable the U.S. to retain a greater number of STEM workers who are critical for continued economic growth. Just consider that nearly 25% of billion-dollar startup companies had a founder who first arrived to the U.S. as an international student.
STEM products and services are the focus of many of these companies, which create an average of 1,200 new jobs each.
5. Boost for global science
According to a recent survey, the top recommendation that researchers around the world have for the Biden administration is to expand scientific collaborations between the U.S. and other countries.