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More Opportunities for STEM Professionals - OPT and National Interest Waiver

Posted by Shahzad Khan | Jan 27, 2022 | 0 Comments

On January 21, 2022, DHS and USCIS made a series of announcements affecting STEM professionals. Specifically, USCIS is updating its field guidance in two areas: 

  • DHS has added 22 new fields of study that now qualify for STEM Optional Practical Training (STEM OPT). The DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List ("STEM list") is used to determine whether a degree obtained by an F-1 nonimmigrant student is eligible to apply for a STEM OPT extension. The STEM OPT extension grants a F-1 nonimmigrant student employment authorization for an additional 24 month period on top of the Post Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), as long as the student has earned a degree in a STEM field designated on the STEM List.
    • The new STEM fields include: Bioenergy, General Forestry, Forest Resources Production and Management, Human Centered Technology Design, Cloud Computing, Anthrozoology, Climate Science, Earth System Science, Economics and Computer Science, Environmental Geosciences, Geobiology, Geography and Environmental Studies, Mathematical Economics, Mathematics and Atmospheric/Oceanic Science, General Data Science, General Data Analytics, Business Analytics, Data Visualization, Financial Analytics, Other Data Analytics, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Research Methodology and Quantitative Methods Social Sciences. 
  • USCIS is also updating its policy guidance as it relates to STEM graduates and entrepreneurs as it relates to the National Interest Waiver. Certain nonimmigrants with an advanced degree or exceptional ability can self-petition for employment based immigration visa classification, without the need for a labor certification, if USCIS determines that the nonimmigrant's credentials are within the national interest. 
    • The Policy update provides the following:
      • an overview of the three-prong analysis used to adjudicate requests for national interest waiver of the job offer and the labor certification requirement. The policy guidance does not change the analysis used in prior adjudications, but expands on how officers should review evidence under each prong. 
      • specific evidentiary considerations for STEM fields. Of note, USCIS will consider an advanced degree in a related STEM field, particularly Ph.D. as an especially positive factor. 
      • officers are directed to recognize the importance of critical and emerging technological fields, including those published by the National Science and Technology Council or the National Security Council. 
      • officers should consider letters from interest US government agencies or federally funded research centers to be given due weight in determining whether the applicant's credentials fall within the national interest. 

To find out more, including whether you qualify for STEM OPT or the National Interest Waiver Exception, contact our office at 972.961.3095 to schedule a consultation. 

About the Author

Shahzad Khan

Shahzad R. Khan is an accomplished attorney/litigator. He has over ten-years of experience in the practice of law in Immigration, domestic relations, estate planning, and corporate matters. He is experienced in civil litigation and an author of several published articles on family law issues. Ove...


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