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

Release Date: 01/21/2022

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today issued policy guidance clarifying how it evaluates evidence to determine eligibility for O-1A nonimmigrants of extraordinary ability, with a focus on petitions filed for individuals in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields, as well as how USCIS determines whether an O-1 beneficiary’s prospective work is within their area of extraordinary ability or achievement.

Individuals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics may be eligible for O-1A classification. The new update provides examples of evidence that may satisfy the O-1A evidentiary criteria and discusses considerations that are relevant to evaluating such evidence, with a focus on the highly technical nature of STEM fields and the complexity of the evidence often submitted.

The update also emphasizes that, if a petitioner demonstrates that a particular criterion does not readily apply to their occupation, they may submit evidence that is of comparable significance to that criterion to establish sustained acclaim and recognition, and it provides examples of possible comparable evidence that may be submitted in support of petitions for beneficiaries working in STEM fields.

In addition, the update explains that when evaluating whether an individual of extraordinary ability is coming to work in their “area of extraordinary ability,” officers will focus on whether the prospective work involves skillsets, knowledge, or expertise shared with the occupation(s) in which the individual garnered acclaim.

Visit the Policy Manual for Comment page to comment on this update. For more information, see the policy manual update (PDF, 363.79 KB).

Last Reviewed/Updated: 01/21/2022