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Biden has won the Presidency: How will this impact international students at American HEIs?

Votes in the United States of America are still being counted after 3 November’s elections, but it is clear now that Joseph R. Biden has won and is preparing to take office on 20 January, 2021.

During the election campaign it became very clear that Biden and President Donald J. Trump had very different visions for higher education policy, including as it relates to internationalism.

Biden has clearly stated that he will put in place legal protections to young migrants who arrived in the USA as children, returning to the same policy as the Obama administration. This will have an impact on students who are now enrolled at higher education institutions in the USA, allowing them to remain there to study. Biden has also pledged to create a pathway to permanent citizenship for these young people.

Biden has also stated that his administration will make it easier for skilled, quaified workers to access US visas. Additionally, his team has indicated that they will waive caps for PhD graduates in sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics fields from certain countries.

He has gone even further to say that foreign citizens should be given legal leave to remain in the US (ie. A “Green Card”) when they complete doctoral degrees at American universities.

However, the Trump administration, which remains in power until 20 January, is proceeding with attempts to place clear time limits on foreign students holding student visas. If Trump can finalise this regulatory rule before his term ends, it will take the Biden administration significant time to unravel the requirements, potentially deterring international students from choosing to study at American universities, at least in the short term of the next 12-18 months.

In any case, both international students, and international professionals working at higher education institutions express relief that national education policy in the USA will be more accommodating to foreign students for the next four years. Concerning China, a calmer and more rational relationship is also expected but the issues of intellectual property theft and academic freedom remain a challenge for the Biden administration. More cooperation between the US and its European and Canadian partners on such common challenges is also foreseen.

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