- Last Friday, the Biden administration announced several new administrative policies aimed to attract and retain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”) workers in the United States. The announcement was followed by actions from various U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of State agencies. Notably, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement published an announcement in the Federal Register regarding the addition of 22 new qualifying fields of study in the Designated Degree Program List. The addition of qualifying STEM fields to the Designated Degree Program List will increase the number of foreign students who qualify for the 24-month STEM Optional Practical Training extension. Further, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) updated its policy guidance on specific evidentiary considerations for individuals in STEM fields applying for nonimmigrant O-1A status and updated its policy guidance on specific evidentiary considerations for individuals in STEM fields applying for immigrant National Interest Waivers. Finally, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs issued an Early Career STEM Research Initiative aimed at facilitating academic training and cultural exchange for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields for J-1 visa holders.
- Effective January 22, 2022, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it now requires foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States from Canada or Mexico by land or ferry for all purposes, including essential and non-essential travel, to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19. U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and U.S. nationals are not subject to the vaccination requirement. Exceptions from this requirement exist for children under 18 years of age and individuals with certain medical conditions, among others. The vaccine requirement is currently scheduled to expire on April 21, 2022, but it may be extended.
- Last week, USCIS announced that employment-based adjustment of status applicants must use the dates for filing chart in the February 2022 Visa Bulletin. As discussed last week, the dates for filing in February will remain mostly unchanged from January with the exception of EB-2 India, which will progress by approximately two months.
- USCIS issued policy guidance clarifying how it determines whether an O-1B beneficiary qualifies for an O-1B Arts or O-1B Motion Picture and Television Productions (“MPTV”) visa. The guidance confirms eligibility guidelines for each category and provides examples of media, including various types of online content, that fall within the O-1B MPTV subcategory. Notably, USCIS states that it considers streaming movies, web series, commercials and other programs with formats that correspond to more traditional MPTV products to qualify for the O-1B MPTV subcategory.
- The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (“CIS Ombudsman”) recently posted a video explaining the case assistance services that the CIS Ombudsman provides and shared tips on how to use these services most effectively. Examples of services that the CIS Ombudsman provides include assistance with cases outside USCIS posted processing times or with no posted processing times, typographic errors in immigration documents, lost file or file transfer issues, mailing issues, and more.
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