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Major Developments for STEM Degree Holders Seeking US Job Opportunities

By Jennifer Grady, Esq.

The Biden-Harris Administration is expanding its efforts to attract talented international science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals and students to the US by developing and strengthening pathways to contribute and study in multiple fields. There is a strong focus particularly on the academic fields of STEM because of its significant impact on the innovation and economic success of a Nation, and the development of new jobs and new industries.

The new developments listed below are in addition to the President's Executive Order 14012, Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans, and the Joint Statement of Principles in Support of International Education announced by Secretaries Blinken and Cardona earlier this year.

1) An Early Career STEM Research Initiative has been developed by BridgeUSA to foster a global network of leaders by expanding existing cultural exchange programs. The new program is focused on education, research, and professional development amongst students and professionals as “a bridge to experiencing the United States and connecting with the world.” (BridgeUSA) The J-1 Visa, which currently allows for 18 months academic training, will extend to 36 months of training in STEM fields, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

2) In an effort to widen the umbrella of STEM, Department of Homeland Security added 22 new fields of study in the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The program currently allows for participants to stay in the United States for up to 36 months for OPT, the standard by which the J-1 Visas have now been updated. A Federal Register will be released in the near future to clarify the new STEM fields of study, many of which “are critical in attracting talent to support U.S. economic growth and technological competitiveness.” (whitehouse.gov)

3) The policy manual for the O-1A nonimmigrant status, particularly in relation to the evidentiary criteria and eligibility, has been updated by the DHS. In cooperation with the STEM initiative, the new updates determine “eligibility for immigrants of extraordinary abilities, such as PhD holders, in the science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields.” (whitehouse.gov) Additionally, there are examples of potential and comparable evidence that may satisfy the criteria, and the policy manual also provides additional context on how the DHS evaluates evidence.

4) Foreigners with exceptional abilities in STEM fields can now circumvent the need for a job offer to initiate an immigrant petition by obtaining a national interest waiver. This allows immigrants to petition for themselves without an employer, and eliminates the years long planning and waiting for the right match. The new policy will make it easier for STEM professionals to enter the US and offer their skills to employers.

For additional information, please refer to the White House Fact Sheet announcement.

The Grady Firm works with dynamic employers and employees across the country to prepare successful employment-based visa and Green Card applications. In addition, we help individuals, families, employees, business owners, and investors obtain non-immigrant and immigrant visas (B-1/B2, H-1B, H-2B, L-1A, L-1B, O-1, TN, E-2, E-3), as well and Green Cards and citizenship based on family relationships, investment, or employment.

This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. This article does not make any guarantees as to the outcome of a particular matter, as each matter has its own set of circumstances and must be evaluated individually by a licensed attorney.


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