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On January 21, 2022, USCIS amended its National Interest Waiver Policy and formally made individuals with advanced degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, which are recognized under the acronym STEM, of particular interest to the United States.  This represents a clear signal from the Biden Administration that professionals in these or related fields should have a more favorable path to a Green Card.

USCIS considers three key factors in determining whether a NIW (National Interest Waiver) petitioner qualifies for permanent residence:

  • The petitioner’s proposed endeavor must have both substantial merit and national significance
  • The individual must be well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor
  • It must benefit the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and, therefore, labor certification.

USCIS provides specific elements of a STEM-based effort that fits these three requirements.

First, USCIS now cites certain STEM areas, such as critical and emerging technologies, and other STEM areas important to U.S. competitiveness and national security, including actual lists of Office of Management and Budget and National Security Council initiatives. These may include artificial intelligence, aero-engineer technologies, medical and public health technologies, advanced communications technologies, microelectronics, high-performance computing, biotechnology, robotics, and space technologies, among others.

On the other hand, we also have specific guidance on the fields that may be considered more favorable in a national interest waiver request, which increases the chances of approvals. Regarding the case elements mentioned above, USCIS now has specific guidance tailored to STEM efforts, which is certainly good news for professionals in these fields interested in obtaining permanent residency in the United States.

About the first factor that USCIS will consider, is national importance and substantial merit, this refers to an endeavor that will help the United States stay ahead of current and potential strategic competitors or adversaries, or advance STEM technologies and research, in academic or industrial settings.

Concerning the second factor, being well positioned to advance the project, USCIS considers a Ph.D. particularly beneficial to an applicant, especially when it is linked to the endeavor. Of course, a Ph.D. is not a requirement for filing or approval, but it will be beneficial to the applicant. A letter from an interested government agency or entity, for example, would also be a beneficial document.

Finally, as to the third factor, USCIS confirms what we had long suspected: USCIS considers a combination of elements of the previous two factors, including education, plans to engage in work related to national significance, and, in addition, being well-positioned. This new guidance helps confirm what we had been incorporating in the cases of petitioners for STEM fields and many others. Now, USCIS has given us language to follow and confidence that national interest waiver cases related to STEM fields could be viewed especially favorably.

In General, the news for professionals interested in obtaining green cards in science, engineering, and technology-related fields is extremely positive and we look forward to using the new guidance.

Carlos Colombo

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