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DHS proposes to reform H-1B and F-1 visa rules

The Department of Homeland Security has recently proposed changes in employment immigration rules under the H-1B specialty occupation visa and F-1 academic student visa programs to make the programs more attractive to highly-skilled foreign students and workers.

The proposed new immigration reforms would expand the scope of evidence that would be allowed for professors and researchers to show their achievements. Spouses of some H-1B visa holders reportedly would also be allowed to obtain work authorization under the proposal.

Immigration officials plan to open an initiative on Feb. 22 with an informational summit on the West Coast to open up discussion on creating better rules for employment immigration issues. DHS is proposing expansions of the H-1B program as discussed above and also expanding the F-1 visa program.

Currently, international students studying in a program classified as science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM programs, can work after graduation for up to 29 months in an optional practical training program. DHS seeks to expand the extended OPT program to students who have prior degrees that are classified as STEM degrees. Additionally, DHS seeks to allow a program for additional part-time study for spouses of F-1 visa holders.

Among the ideas that are being proposed to strengthen employment immigration are a renewed call for creating a "Startup Visa Act," a bill previously discussed on this blog, providing a pathway to permanent residency for STEM graduates and strengthening the H-1B visa program.

DHS said in a written statement calling for new rules to reform employment immigration last week, "Together these actions would help attract new businesses and new investment to the US and ensure that the US has the most skilled workforce in the world."

Source: The New Indian Express via IBN Live, "US changing visa rules to attract highly skilled," Feb. 4, 2012

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