On September 16, 2011, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton announced an initiative to streamline the international student visa process for foreign students seeking to study in the U.S. The “Study in the States” initiative is “a key component of a government-wide effort to encourage the best and brightest foreign students to study and remain in the U.S.,” a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) media release said.

“Attracting the best and brightest international talent to our colleges and universities is an important part of our nation’s economic, scientific and technological innovation and competitiveness,” Secretary Napolitano said. “Foreign students and exchange visitors bring invaluable contributions to our nation, and the Study in the States initiative is an important step in empowering the next generation of international entrepreneurs, right here in America.” DHS noted that more than 1.1 million active nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors and their dependents study in U.S. universities, exchange programs, and training opportunities. Study in the States will examine regulatory changes, expand public engagement between the government and academia, and provide a central online information hub for DHS and its agency partners to provide current and prospective students with updated and relevant visa requirements in a user-friendly format.

“Study in the States encourages international students who seek the wealth of educational opportunities available in the U.S. to remain here following their studies and apply their new skills here in our country,” said ICE Director Morton. “We aim to strike a balance—providing an open and welcoming experience for international students and visitors seeking information, while maintaining the integrity and security of our visa process. This site is an important step toward reaching that goal.”

DHS said that the Study in the States website is intended to be an innovative, interagency portal that will include:

  • Interactive and accessible information, allowing prospective and current students to visually navigate steps of the student visa process on their own “Road Map to Success.”
  • Links to social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, disseminating relevant visa requirements and information to international students, exchange visitors, and the academic community.
  • A blog with posted videos, public service announcements, relevant news, requirements, helpful tips, and success stories.

DHS said that Study in the States builds on other new policies intended to encourage talented students from other countries to study and work in the U.S. For example, earlier this year, DHS announced an extension to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees for international student studies, allowing graduates of a STEM degree to remain in the U.S. through Optional Practical Training (OPT) for up to 29 months after graduation.

For more information on the initiative, see http://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/. The announcement is available at http://www.dhs.gov/ynews/releases/20110916-study-in-the-states.shtm. A fact sheet is available at http://www.dhs.gov/ynews/releases/20110916-fact-sheet-study-in-the-states.shtm.