Person writing on visa application.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently updated its policy guidance related to O-1A nonimmigrants of extraordinary ability in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Notably, the guidance states that evidence establishing that a beneficiary is named on a competitive government grant or stipend for STEM research may be “a positive factor indicating [the] beneficiary is among the small percentage at the top of the beneficiary’s field.” The guidance also provides additional evidentiary examples for employers seeking to petition for O-1A extraordinary ability nonimmigrant employees working in STEM-related professions.

O-1 Nonimmigrants of Extraordinary Ability

The O-1 nonimmigrant category is available to individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, business, education, and athletics, as well as those with records of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industries. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, in order to qualify for an O-1 visa, “a beneficiary must have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement” and “the beneficiary’s achievements must have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation.”

USCIS Policy Guidance

The policy guidance includes the following examples of evidence that may be submitted with a beneficiary’s O-1A petition to demonstrate that the beneficiary is among the small percentage at the top of his or her field—one of the primary requirements for the O-1A category:

  • Copies of the beneficiary’s articles that have been published in highly regarded journals in his or her field
  • Evidence that the beneficiary’s published works are frequently cited, especially as compared to others in the field
  • Proof of the beneficiary’s employment history or research experience with leading institutions within the field
  • Documentation of invitations received by the beneficiary to speak or present his or her research at well-known national or international conferences in the field
  • Information confirming that the beneficiary has been named as an investigator, scientist, or researcher on a peer-reviewed and competitively funded U.S. government grant or stipend for STEM research

Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor developments with respect to these and other policy changes and will post updates on the Immigration blog as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.


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