Biden Administration Actions to Attract and Retain STEM Workers

The Biden Administration has announced several immigration actions being taken to attract and retain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talent in the United States. The goal of these actions is to make the United States a more attractive option for students studying STEM and for STEM professionals.

Early Career STEM Research Initiative and J-1 Extensions in STEM Fields

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) is launching the Early Career STEM Research Initiative to help bring foreign nationals to the U.S. via the J-1 exchange visitor program to engage in STEM research. The DOS is also allowing J-1 exchange visitors enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate STEM program to get up to 36 additional months of academic training.

Additional Fields of Study to Qualify for STEM OPT

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) maintains the STEM Designated Degree Program List, which is the complete list of fields of study that are considered STEM degrees for purposes of qualifying for a STEM optional practical training (OPT) extension. The DHS has now added twenty-two new fields of study to the list, in hopes of attracting more foreign national students seeking STEM degrees. The fields of study added to the list range from cloud computing and data analytics to geobiology and climate science.

Updated Eligibility for O-1 Visas

The O-1 nonimmigrant visa category is reserved for persons of extraordinary ability in the fields of science, business, education, or athletics, or for persons with a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television (MPTV) industry. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated guidance on eligibility for O-1 nonimmigrant status, especially for persons in the STEM fields. The updated policy adds a chart in an appendix providing examples of evidence that may satisfy the O1A evidentiary criteria and discusses considerations that are relevant to evaluating such evidence, with a focus on the STEM fields. The new policy also provides examples of qualifying comparable evidence that petitioners could provide in support of a petition for a beneficiary in a STEM field.

National Interest Waiver for STEM Students and Entrepreneurs

The USCIS also has updated guidance related to the use of the national interest waiver (NIW) program by entrepreneurs and by persons with advanced degrees in STEM fields. The updated guidance provides specific evidentiary considerations for USCIS officers evaluating NIW cases filed by such individuals. The guidance also has been updated to detail how the USCIS should evaluate letters from interested government agencies or quasi-governmental entities (e.g., federally funded research and development centers) that are submitted in support of NIW cases.


The series of administrative actions should help attract global STEM talent to boost the U.S. economic development and enhance the country’s scientific and technological competitive advantage. These actions will help international STEM talent continue to make meaningful contributions to this nation, which has long benefited from the diverse groups of immigrants who come to the United States.


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