White House Executive Order on AI Will Have Positive Higher Ed-Immigration Impacts

The White House released an ambitious Executive Order on AI on October 30th outlining principles, policies and actions to take, including the goal of recruiting talented workers who bring special skills in AI and other critical and emerging technologies.  It has several significant higher ed and immigration initiatives, including those aimed to attract immigrant and international students, researchers, and experts “to study, stay, and work in the United States by modernizing and streamlining visa criteria, interviews, and reviews.” Relevant initiatives to be pursued under the new EO include:

  • Establish new criteria for the J-1 Exchange Visitor skills list, and would allow J-1 visa holders to apply for other visa categories without needing to meet the 2-year foreign residence requirement, which would impact thousands.
  • Improve visa processing and visa appointment availability, which is a top priority for campuses.
  • Expand a domestic visa renewal program for J-1 and F-1 Visas
  • Modernize H-1B visa rules.  DHS has recently released a proposed H-1B modernization rule. The EO expands on proposed modifications
  • Update the Dept of Labor’s “Schedule A” list of occupations (which has not been updated since 1991). For this, the EO calls for the Secretary of Labor  to publish within 45 days of the EO, a request (RFI)  “to solicit public input . . . identifying AI and other STEM-related occupations, as well as additional occupations across the economy, for which there is an insufficient number of ready, willing, able, and qualified U.S. workers.”
    Note: This is a great opportunity for the higher education sector to submit responses regarding new fields and occupations. An updated Schedule A list could also greatly increase employment-based options open to the international students. 
  • Update and clarify O-1A, EB-1, EB-2, and International Entrepreneur Rule. These changes could make the O1, EB-1, and EB2 visas more inclusive and applicable for international student alumni and researchers in AI related fields.
  • Attract AI talent from around the world!  As noted in the analysis by the Federal of American Scientists, “while 59% of the top-tier AI researchers work in the U.S., only 20% of them received their undergraduate degree in the U.S.” 

See the full analysis of the EO by the Federation of American Scientists here.  You can also check out the government’s AI website highlighting the nonimmigrant and immigrant pathways