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  • Matthew Kolodziej

How the Biden-Harris Administration Positively Impacted STEM Fields

In order to create opportunity and encourage innovation in the United States, the Biden-Harris Administration has implemented new initiatives in order to make it easier for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates and professionals to qualify for O-1 visas and National Interest Waivers (NIWs). As the complexities of the immigration system could elicit confusion, these policy changes have undoubtedly provided relief, clarity, and predictability.

O-1 Non-immigrant Visas for STEM Graduates and Professionals with Extraordinary Ability

The O-1 is a work visa for those with “extraordinary ability” in science, art, education, business, or athletics. To qualify for an O-1, a petitioner must demonstrate that the applicant has been recognized on a national or international level for their high-level achievements, which must be proven through documents such as published articles, awards, or other achievements.

In July 2022, the Biden-Harris administration has amended the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) Policy Manual, a guide used by adjudicators to assess applications for immigration benefits, by broadening the sort of evidence that can be provided by STEM applicants. USCIS has gone even further to provide concrete examples of evidence that might satisfy the evidentiary criteria. For instance, USCIS has indicated that whether the applicant “is named as an investigator, scientist, or researcher on a peer-reviewed and competitively funded U.S. government grant or stipend for STEM research” could be a positive factor in evaluating whether an applicant possesses “extraordinary ability” with sustained national or international acclaim.

National Interest Waivers for Advanced Degree Professionals or Persons of Exceptional Ability

The EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) category is an immigrant visa for advanced degree professionals or persons of exceptional ability that does not require employer sponsorship of the green card application. This means that the United States government will waive the requirement of a job offer if an applicant’s work is in the national interest of the country. To qualify for a NIW, an applicant must show that their potential endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance, and that they are well positioned to advance the national endeavor. In addition, they must demonstrate that the applicant’s skills and work are beneficial to the United States at the national level.

USCIS has clarified how the NIW can be utilized by STEM graduates and professionals by explaining how immigration officers should pay closer attention to evidence presented by NIW applicants in STEM fields. This includes evidence that advancement in these fields is significant to United States interests, competitiveness, and national security. Moreover, USCIS has listed pieces of evidence that may be shown by entrepreneur NIW applications, which includes guidance on when such evidence should be accepted and how it should be applied to varying evidentiary criteria. An example of a successful NIW case is a researcher with a graduate degree in Engineering whose work resulted in a better understanding of a fatal disease. USCIS recognizes the importance of evolvement and success in STEM fields and the critical roles of those with advanced STEM degrees in the progress of highly impactful projects. Simply put, merely being a STEM graduate is now a favorable factor in the adjudication process of NIW petitions.

Overall, the Biden-Harris Administration has provided greater insight into USCIS’s adjudicative process to allow for greater benefits to STEM graduates and professionals, arguably resulting in technological competitiveness and economic growth. If you have any questions about your immigration applications, please feel free to click here and reach out to us.




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