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DHS Releases New Guidance for National Interest Waivers, STEM OPT

by | Jan 21, 2022 | Employment Immigration, Student Visa, USCIS

DHS announced updated guidelines on adjudicating requests for “National Interest Waivers” involving job offers and labor certification requirements for certain advanced degree professionals and individuals of outstanding ability. This includes considerations for individuals with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professions and entrepreneurs.

These updates also include changes to STEM OTP categories and O-1A policies.


The STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program will be given 22 new fields of study. DHS uses this list to determine whether a degree obtained by an F-1 nonimmigrant student qualifies as a STEM degree and will inform schools and students about the changes through a Federal Register notice.


The O-1A update aims to further clarify how USCIS determines eligibility for O-1A nonimmigrants within a STEM field. Unprecedently, USCIS also intends to provide examples of evidence that could satisfy these criteria.


These updates are part of the U.S.’ efforts to make legal immigration easier under Biden’s Executive Order 14012, Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans. The administration hopes that these changes will help nonimmigrant students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to contribute to the U.S. economy and innovation growth.


Secretary Mayorkas stated, “STEM innovation allows us to overcome the difficult challenges we confront today and make a difference in how we secure and protect our country.” “Through STEM education and training opportunities, DHS is increasing the quantity and variety of students who thrive in STEM and contribute to the economy of the United States.”


For questions regarding F-1, O-1, or STEM OPT eligibility, book a consultation with us online at



USCIS – USCIS Updates Guidance on National Interest Waivers,

USCIS – USCIS Provides Clarifying Guidance for O-1 Petitions with a Focus on STEM Fields,

USCIS – O-1 Nonimmigrant Status for Persons of Extraordinary Ability or Achievement,

Federal Register – Update to the Department of Homeland Security STEM Designated Degree Program List,