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New Immigration Actions to Attract STEM Professionals

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On January 21, 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration announced actions to attract global talent in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) with the aim of strengthening the U.S. economy through innovation and job creation and increasing U.S. technological competitiveness. STEM fields generally include various sub-fields in Engineering, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics, and Physical Sciences.

I. USCIS Updates F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) Program to Attract STEM Professionals

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) allows foreign Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate students enrolled in STEM programs an additional 24-month extension of the standard 12-month Optional Practical Training (OPT) Program allowing STEM graduates to remain in the United States for a total of 36 months following graduation to work in their field of study. The STEM Designated Degree Program List includes over 100 degree programs in the fields of Engineering, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics, and Physical Sciences.

On January 21, 2022 DHS announced the addition of 22 new/hybrid fields of study to the OPT program allowing these F-1 students earning Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorates in such STEM fields to remain in the United States for up to 36 months after earning their degrees to work in their field of study.

The updated list includes the following additional 22 fields of study:

  • Bioenergy
  • Forestry, General
  • Forest Resources Production and Management
  • Human-Centered Technology Design
  • Cloud Computing
  • Anthrozoology
  • Climate Science
  • Earth Systems Science
  • Economics and Computer Science
  • Environmental Geosciences
  • Geobiology
  • Geography and Environmental Studies
  • Mathematical Economics
  • Mathematics and Atmospheric/Oceanic Science
  • Data Science, General
  • Data Analytics, General
  • Business Analytics
  • Data Visualization
  • Financial Analytics
  • Data Analytics, Other
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Social Sciences, Research Methodology and Quantitative Methods

Importantly, this update allows F-1 students in the added STEM fields additional opportunities to benefit from the H-1B program! To learn more about the H-1B visa please click here.

DHS will continue to accept for consideration suggested additions or deletions to the STEM list going forward.

II. USCIS Updates J-1 Exchange Students Program to Attract STEM Professionals

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) announced an “Early Career STEM Research Initiative” to facilitate an exchange program for non-immigrant undergraduate and graduate students focusing on STEM research, training, and education with host organizations, including businesses, for up to 36 months.  

If your business wishes to host J-1 Exchange Students focusing on STEM research, training, and education, please contact Drummond Advisors for case-specific inquiries.

III. USCIS Updates O-1A Visa Policy to Attract STEM Professionals

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) revised its policies regarding O-1A Visas (Temporary Visas) to prioritize employment authorization for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, or business in STEM fields who seek to work in the U.S. USCIS policy was revised to specify that the following documentation may satisfy visa criteria:

  • Certain doctoral dissertation awards and Ph.D. scholarships
  • Fellowships with certain organizations or institutions
  • Transcripts of professional or major audio or video coverage of the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s work
  • Reviewer of abstracts or papers submitted for presentation at scholarly conferences in the respective field
  • Peer reviewer for scholarly publications
  • Member of doctoral dissertation committees
  • Peer reviewer for government research funding programs
  • Documentation that the beneficiary’s original work was cited at a level indicative of major significance in the field
  • Patents or licenses deriving from the beneficiary’s work or evidence of commercial use of the beneficiary’s work
  • Published conference presentations at nationally or internationally recognized conferences
  • Senior faculty or senior research position for a distinguished academic department or program
  • Senior research position for a distinguished non-academic institution or company
  • Principal or named investigator for a department, institution, or business that received a merit-based government award
  • Member of a key committee within a distinguished organization
  • Founder or co-founder of, or contributor of intellectual property to, a startup business that has a distinguished reputation

If you believe you fit the description above and seek to immigrate to the United States to continue working in your field, please contact Drummond Advisors for case-specific inquiries. To learn more about the O-1 visa please click here.

USCIS Updates National Interest Waiver Policy to Attract STEM Professionals

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) revised its policies regarding National Interest Waivers to prioritize permanent residence for those with advanced degrees in STEM fields who seek to further “critical and emerging technology” in the U.S. Specific examples of “critical and emerging technology” fields are identified as, but not limited to, the following:

  • Advanced Computing
  • Advanced Conventional Weapons Technologies
  • Advanced Engineering Materials
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Advanced Sensing
  • Aero-Engine Technologies
  • Agricultural Technologies
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Autonomous Systems
  • Biotechnologies
  • Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN)
  • Mitigation Technologies
  • Communication and Networking Technologies
  • Data Science and Storage
  • Distributed Ledger Technologies
  • Energy Technologies
  • Human-Machine Interfaces
  • Medical and Public Health Technologies
  • Quantum Information Science
  • Semiconductors and Microelectronics
  • Space Technologies

USCIS will also consider additional fields proven important to national competitiveness, security, or technology leadership. Additionally, USCIS considers an advanced degree, particularly a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), in a STEM field tied to the proposed endeavor and related to work furthering a critical and emerging technology, an especially positive factor.

If you believe you fit the description above and seek to immigrate to the United States to continue working in your field, please contact Drummond Advisors for case-specific inquiries. To learn more about the EB-2 NIW visa please click here.

Written by Chris Costa (Senior Immigration Attorney) & Heitor Vítor (Immigration Intern).