The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has unveiled a series of reforms aimed at making studying in the USA more attractive, in order to attract and retain more highly skilled foreigners.

In his State of the Union address, Barack Obama said that the US economy could be hindered by a lack shortage of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) students.

Under the new reforms, more STEM graduates will be eligible for the 17-month extension of the country's post-study work scheme, called optional practical training (OPT). The extension applies on top of the standard 12 months granted to all students on the scheme.

Only recent graduates of STEM degrees are currently given the extension, but the legislation allows the scheme to apply retroactively, to include those who have taken STEM degrees in the past.

Bill Colvin, vice president of international recruitment and enrolment management at The CollegeBound Network, praised the measures: "The numbers are clear in that enrollments within STEM fields have decreased for American students... We need changes like this to maintain the strongest economy in the world and to put more Americans back to work."