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New visa rules may benefit STEM workers hoping to immigrate

Those hoping to legally move to the United States typically need a visa to do so. Securing a job in the country has become one of the most effective means of obtaining a visa. Employment-based immigration is often an option because companies cannot find the right talent domestically. They must expand their search into another country because they require very skilled or experienced employees. Issues with a lack of qualified and available professionals can affect any industry.

Shortages of appropriate candidates are common in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) professions in particular. In 2022, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) made changes to certain immigration policies that have improved the chances of STEM workers lawfully remaining in the country and becoming citizens.

What did the USCIS change?

The USCIS updated two visa programs. There are many different types of workplace visas, and the USCIS frequently updates how it processes and awards different types of visas. The changes that may benefit STEM workers involve two specific employment visa categories.

The first is the O-A1 visa. This is a visa available to immigrants who have extraordinary abilities. Those who secure such visas can eventually qualify for green cards. They can also potentially renew the visa indefinitely. There is also no current limit on the number of O-A1 visas the USCIS can award every year.

The second visa that the USCIS changed qualifications for is a type of EB-2 visa for those with advanced STEM degrees. Employers seeking a STEM EB-2 visa for workers no longer have to prove that they attempted to find qualified domestic workers if applicants truly do exceptional work that could have national importance.

The number of O- A1 visas awarded increased by 30% in the first year, while STEM EB-2 visas saw a 55% surge. Strict limits on the number of visas awarded and ratios applied based on someone’s country of origin have hindered immigration opportunities for people from many countries, but these changes could help with that.

Many skilled and motivated professionals could potentially enter the country because of these policy changes. This is just one example of why tracking updates to immigration programs may benefit those hoping to lawfully enter and live in the country.