Biden Administration Announces New Measures to Attract STEM Talent

On January 21, 2022, White House announced a series of measures to benefit STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) degree students, in a stated effort to attract international talent in STEM fields.

  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it is adding 22 new fields of study to the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. The additions mean that more F-1 students will be eligible for a 24-month STEM OPT extension after completion of their first year of OPT.
  • DHS updated its policy manual regarding what evidence may satisfy the O-1A evidentiary criteria for immigrants of extraordinary ability, such as those who hold a Ph.D. in a STEM field. The update:
    • Expands the circumstances in which petitioners may submit “comparable evidence” as an O-1A criterion and allows adjudicating officers to consider any potentially relevant evidence in making the final adjudication. Examples may include: journal impact factors, total rate of citations relative to others in the field, research experience with leading institutions, and unsolicited invitations for the beneficiary to present at nationally or internationally recognized conferences.
    • Provides for a broader interpretation of the field of expertise and area of extraordinary ability, allowing adjudicating officers to consider accomplishments in related occupations involving shared knowledge and skillsets.
  •  DHS also updated its policy manual for adjudication of National Interest Waiver I-140 petitions for immigrants with exceptional ability in their field of work. The update:
    • Discusses evidentiary standards for STEM fields. For example, the update clarifies that USCIS will consider an advanced degree in a related STEM field (such as a Ph.D.), as an “especially positive factor.”
      • Directs officers to recognize the importance of critical and emerging technology fields, including those published by the National Science and Technology Council or the National Security Council.
      • Provides that DHS officers should weight letters from interested U.S. government agencies or federally-funded research centers when evaluating the prospective benefit to the national interest.

• The State Department announced an “Early Career STEM Research Initiative” to facilitate J-1 exchange visitor programs in the U.S. for STEM research, training or educational exchange visitor programs with host organizations, including businesses.

• The State Department also published new guidance that will facilitate additional academic training for J-1 undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields for periods of up to 36 months.