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Immigration Rules Change Means More Foreign Students Will Be Able to Stay After Graduation

FARMINGTON, CT - AUGUST 27:  Senior postdoctoral fellow Xiaofang Wang pulls out frozen stem cells in a lab at the University of Connecticut`s (UConn) Stem Cell Institute at the UConn Health Center on August 27, 2010 in Farmington, Connecticut. UConn scientists and students have been recipients of federal grants for work using human embryonic stem cells and could be  significantly affected by a federal court ruling that would limit funding for embryonic stem cell research. On August 23, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction in Washington, D.C., halting all federal funding for basic research into embryonic stem cell technology. Stem cell research is believed to offer great hope in finding treatments to many diseases and illnesses including heart attacks, strokes and spinal cord injuries.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

FARMINGTON, CT - AUGUST 27: Senior postdoctoral fellow Xiaofang Wang pulls out frozen stem cells in a lab at the University of Connecticut`s (UConn) Stem Cell Institute at the UConn Health Center on August 27, 2010 in Farmington, Connecticut. UConn scientists and students have been recipients of federal grants for work using human embryonic stem cells and could be significantly affected by a federal court ruling that would limit funding for embryonic stem cell research. On August 23, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction in Washington, D.C., halting all federal funding for basic research into embryonic stem cell technology. Stem cell research is believed to offer great hope in finding treatments to many diseases and illnesses including heart attacks, strokes and spinal cord injuries. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)  (2010 Getty Images)

Touting it as "an important step forward in the Obama administration's continued commitment to fixing our broken immigration system," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a change Thursday that will make it possible for more foreign students studying in the U.S. on visas to stay and get practical training in their career fields.

The Obama administration, it said in a statement,  is expanding the list of science, technology, engineering and math degrees that allow foreign students who earn them to stay in the U.S. up to 17 months after graduating. Those months can be spent working. The time also could mean the student may not have to leave before getting an H-1B visa, a visa reserved for high-skilled workers that can last for up to six years.

What are those newly-added degree programs? There are about 50 of them out of an overall list of more than 300, and together they give a shadowy idea of the gaps in the American labor force.

There are, for example, the The-heartland-is-emptying degrees: Agricultural Animal Breeding, Horticultural Sciences, Poultry and Dairy Sciences.

Then there are the we're-falling-behind-in-math-and-science degrees: Neuroscience, Biopsychology, Psychopharmacology, "Systems Science and Theory" and such.

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And then the puzzlers: Animation and Special Effects? Nutritional Sciences? Forensic Science, really, after the whole country has spent the last decade watching various iterations of "CSI"?

Apparently.

The administration announced the change late Thursday, just days after President Barack Obama gave a speech on immigration in El Paso, Texas.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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