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White House Acts to Expand and Strengthen Pathways for Internationals in STEM Fields

On Jan. 21, 2022, the White House announced new actions to expand and strengthen pathways to the U.S. for international students, scholars, researchers, and experts in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This announcement builds on previous statements, including E.O. 14012, Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans, and the Joint Statement of Principles in Support of International Education.

  • New fields of study eligible for F-1 STEM OPT – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added 22 new fields of study to the list of those eligible for the STEM extension of F-1 Optional Practical Training. Most of the new fields represent multidisciplinary and emerging programs of study critical to U.S. economic growth and technology. The list of new STEM-eligible programs can be found in the announcement posted on the U.S. Federal Register along with a newly-defined process for nominating programs for future inclusion. The full list of STEM-eligible programs and their CIP codes is available at Study in the States.
  • Expanded research and training opportunities for J-1 Exchange Visitors in STEM fields – The U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced two initiatives to expand opportunities for international students and researchers in STEM fields under the J-1 Exchange Visitor program. The Early Career STEM Research Initiative will facilitate new opportunities for educational and cultural exchange and J-1 college and university students in STEM fields will become eligible, for a limited time, for an extension of Academic Training work authorization.
  • Clearer evidentiary criteria for STEM applicants for O-1A “extraordinary ability” nonimmigrant status – DHS will update its policy manual to clarify how it determines eligibility for immigrants of extraordinary ability, especially in the area of highly technical STEM fields. New examples of evidence will be provided, along with possible comparable evidence when a standard criterion does not apply.
  • Clarification on the use of National Interest Waivers for immigrant petitions – DHS will update its policy manual to promote more efficient and effective processing of requests for national interest waivers within the context of immigrant petitions for persons with advanced degrees in STEM fields and entrepreneurs.

At this time, no additional UIC programs will become eligible for the STEM extension of F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) based on the 22 new fields added to the STEM list. Questions about the remainder of this announcement, or anything related to the UIC international community, can always be directed to OIS at or (312) 996-3121.