American study abroad aspirants are dealing with chaos right now. The regressive Trump administration immigration changes and the after-effects of the pandemic have made things daunting for them. Now that the Biden Administration is in office, international students have their hopes pinned on the upcoming changes that may favour them. The new government can live up to these expectations, but they will have to implement some strong measures to improve the student and employment-based immigration system in the country. Here are the steps they can implement without requiring congressional action.


The Trump administration came up with hurdles to decrease legal immigration by making case processing more difficult. These led to undue stress on immigrants aspiring to live and work in the country and decreased employment-based immigration to a significant extent. The new administration can take tangible steps to remove unnecessary impediments for streamlining immigration petitions and enabling employers to use existing visa categories to sponsor workers. These could include the following:

  • Student work authorisation by streamlining the Optional Practical Training (OPT) process with an online application process
  • Reducing travel restrictions that prevent students from getting to school and workers from getting to work
  • Ensuring consistency of the requests for evidence (RFEs) and denials with the appropriate standard of proof
  • Simplifying, digitising, and expediting the process for green card applications
  • Allowing visa re-issuance in the U.S.
  • Clarifying and expanding dual intent for international students 
  • Rescinding fixed-period of status regulation and restoring duration of status 

The ever-evolving rules for employment-based visas and other programs during the Trump administration were the biggest challenge for international students. The decision to study in the U.S. depends on their ability to stay here during the course and potentially work in the country after graduation. If they are not sure about the status, they will probably reconsider it as a choice for their study abroad destination, which will have a negative impact on the colleges and universities. The Biden administration needs to bring predictability in the immigration process for regaining the confidence of the aspiring immigrants. They can do it by reversing the regressive rules and realigning the employment-based visa programs to bring certainty for international students who want to work in the U.S. after graduation.


While discretion was initially a part of immigration processing, the Trump administration curbed its usage to a significant extent. The Biden administration can set this right by allowing discretion once again to the extent permitted by statute and regulation, depending on the situation. It is vital to consider that immigration law is complex, and mistakes do happen as international advisers inadvertently check the wrong boxes, submit a wrong version of a form, or miss deadlines. The administration can issue guidance to formalise the use of discretion for applications involving simple clerical errors. They should also instruct USCIS to waive interviews and biometrics where appropriate and allow the use of technology such as video interviews and electronic signatures as a part of the immigration process.


Another measure that the new administration can implement is ensuring better communication and customer service for potential immigrants. It is easy to assume that international students and workers may not need assistance as they are highly educated. But immigration law is extremely complex, so agencies like USCIS need to go the extra mile with customer service.  It is all the more valuable for lower-wage workers, who greatly rely on recruiters and do not even understand their rights. The USCIS can take effective measures in this direction, such as improving regulatory research and policy-making, providing high-end support through its customer service number, sending immigration notices and approvals via email, speeding up adjudications, and more.

While implementing steps may require a lot of time and money, the Biden administration needs to do it at the earliest. The measures can take the country in the right direction to secure the best and the brightest looking forward to pursuing the American dream.

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