USCIS Issues Updated Guidance for STEM Related O1A Petitions

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently updated its policy manual to provide additional guidance on evidence that can be used in support of O1A petitions. The O1A nonimmigrant visa category is reserved for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. The updated guidance is specifically related to O1A petitions filed for nonimmigrants with extraordinary ability related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Background on Directive to Attract STEM Workers

In January 2022, the Biden Administration announced several actions being taken to attract and retain foreign national STEM workers. One such action was to update the USCIS policy manual with examples of evidence that may be submitted to satisfy the O1A evidentiary criteria for cases focusing on STEM fields. This latest update appears to be a continuation of the focus on STEM workers announced earlier this year.

Competitive Government Grant / Stipend is Positive Factor for O1A Filings

This latest update to the policy manual clarifies that being named on a competitive government grant or stipend for STEM research may help to show that a “beneficiary is among the small percentage at the top of the beneficiary’s field.” This evidence is added to the list of examples that may be used to demonstrate an individual’s extraordinary ability. A complete list can be found in the USCIS Policy Manual.


The global economy increasingly relies on skills in the various STEM disciplines. This additional guidance from the USCIS will help to attract international STEM talent to the United States and to retain existing talent.


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