USCIS Updates Guidance for O-1 Visa Petitions Related to STEM Fields

O-1 Visa Petitions

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated its policy guidance concerning O-1A non-immigrants with extraordinary abilities in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This new guidance clarifies “that being named on a competitive government grant for STEM research can be a positive factor toward demonstrating that a beneficiary is at the top of their field. This evidence is added to the listed examples of evidence that may be submitted to show that an applicant has extraordinary ability in the STEM fields.”

The USCIS has also updated its policy manual to give additional guidance on what evidence employers can use to support a petition for O-1A non-immigrants of extraordinary ability with a focus on STEM fields.

The USCIS POLICY Manual has a complete list of what evidence can be used to prove an applicant’s ability.

O-1 Non-Immigrant Category

The O-1 non-immigrant category is available to individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, business, education, and athletics fields, including those with records of exceptional achievement in the motion picture or television industries. According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, “a beneficiary must have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement,” and “[in] all cases, an O-1 beneficiary’s achievements must have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation…” to qualify for an O-1 visa.

USCIS Policy Guidance

The new policy guidance gives several examples of evidence to submit with the beneficiary’s O-1A petition to show the beneficiary has extraordinary ability in the STEM fields. Here are some of the examples of evidence the USCIS provided.

  • Awards from well-known national institutions and well-known professional associations
  • Documentation that the beneficiary’s original work held significance in the field
  • Publications in professionally-relevant journals
  • Professional or major print publications (newspaper articles, popular and academic journal articles, books, textbooks, and so on) regarding the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s work
  • Critical or essential supporting role for a distinguished organization or a distinguished division of an institution or company, as explained in detail by the director or a principal investigator of the relevant organization or division.

Final Thoughts

An O-1A visa is a good option for non-immigrant employees who meet the requirements. Employers must complete Form I-9 for all employees, which can be more complicated for foreign national employees due to ever-changing regulations. The best way to ensure accurate and completed Form I-9s is to use an electronic I-9 management system. An electronic I-9 management system will guide hiring personnel through every step of the process, thus ensuring the form is correctly completed and safely and securely stored for easy retrieval.

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