22 New STEM Fields Amended to the “STEM List.”

The Secretary of Homeland Security is making updates to the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List (“STEM List”) by adding 22 qualifying fields of study with a corresponding CIP code for each. DHS is taking this action after receiving public suggestions for 97 new fields of study to be considered after their 2016 STEM List publication. The DHS STEM List is used to determine if an F-1 nonimmigrant student's degree qualifies as a STEM degree, as required for the F-1 nonimmigrant student to be eligible to apply for a STEM OPT extension. The addition of these new 22 STEM fields impacts qualifying F-1 nonimmigrant students who seek a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT. The following fields of study are being added to the STEM List:
  • Anthrozoology (30.3401)
  • Bioenergy (03.0210)
  • Business Analytics (30.7102)
  • Climate Science (30.3501)
  • Cloud Computing (11.0902)
  • Data Analytics, General (30.7101)
  • Data Analytics, Other (30.7199)
  • Data Science, General (30.7001)
  • Data Visualization (30.7103)
  • Earth Systems Science (30.3801)
  • Economics and Computer Science (30.3901)
  • Environmental Geosciences (30.4101)
  • Financial Analytics (30.7104)

  • Forest Resources Production and Management (03.0510)
  • Forestry, General (03.0501)
  • Geobiology (30.4301)
  • Geography and Environmental Studies (30.4401)
  • Human-Centered Technology Design (11.0105)
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology (42.2804)
  • Mathematical Economics (30.4901)
  • Mathematics and Atmospheric/Oceanic Science (30.5001)
  • Social Sciences, Research Methodology and Quantitative Methods (45.0102)

EAD Expedite Guidance for Health Care Workers
Effective immediately, USCIS will be considering requests to expedite the processing of applications to renew Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for health care workers. With no exact timeframe for how quickly the expedited request will be processed, USCIS states that they will process the applications faster than their standard time. All expedited requests should be made by calling the USCIS Contact Center. All requestors should be prepared to provide sufficient evidence of their current employment or profession as qualifying healthcare workers.
Qualifying health care workers defined under the DHS advisory memorandum (“Healthcare / Public Health” section, pages 7-9) may request expedited issuance of their EAD if they have:
  • A pending EAD renewal application filed on Form I-765; and
  • An EAD that expires within 30 days or less or has already expired.
Department of State Announces Interview Waivers for Certain Nonimmigrant Visas
The Secretary of State and DHS have authorized consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement, through the end of 2022, for certain temporary employment nonimmigrant visa applicants who have a petition approved by USCIS. This new authorization applies to temporary workers, who meet certain conditions, applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas. Such conditions include applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.
Consular officers will now have the discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for:
Individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who:
  • Were previously issued any type of visa
  • Have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived
  • Have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility.
And First-time individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who:
  • Are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), provided they have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility
  • Have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
The Secretary also extended previously approved policies to waive the visa interview for certain F, M, and academic J visa applicants and certain H-2 (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers) applicants through the end of 2022. Applicants will be eligible for the waiver following the same rules and requirements for the Individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants and First-time Individual petition-based applicants.

FY 2023 H-1B Cap Registration Opens March 1
USCIS announced in January that the initial registration period for FY-2023 H-1B cap will open at 12 PM EST on March 1 and continue until 12 PM EST March 18, 2022. Petitioners and representatives can utilize their myUSCIS online accounts to register beneficiaries electronically for the selection process and pay the associated $10 H-1B registration fee for each registration submitted.
USCIS stated that it is their intent to select registrations and send selection notifications via users’ myUSCIS accounts and to notify account holders by March 31. After the registration process is completed, the H-1B FY-2023 cap petition filing period will open on April 1, 2022.
Update on Current State of Travel Restrictions
Air Travel
Regardless of nationality or vaccination status, air travelers aged 2 and older are required to show documentation of a negative viral test result taken within one 1 of the flight’s departure to the United States before boarding. Travelers must show their negative results to the airline before they board their flight. That includes all travelers – U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), and foreign nationals.
Land Travel
Department of Homeland Security requires that all non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals at the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination. Although vaccination proof is required, COVID-19 testing is not required for entry at these locations. These requirements do not apply to U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, or U.S. nationals.
Non-U.S. individuals traveling to the United States via land ports of entry or ferry terminals, whether for essential or non-essential reasons, must:
  • Verbally attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status;
  • Provide proof of a CDC-approved COVID-19 vaccination
  • Present a valid passport, Trusted Traveler Program card, or Enhanced Tribal Card; and,
  • Be prepared to present any other relevant documents requested by a U.S. CBP officer during a border inspection.
State Department Boosts Hiring to Address Visa Backlogs
According to the U.S. Department of State, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current labor shortage in America, there have been long delays in visa processing. The State Department says it plans on hiring more than 500 new foreign and civil service officers to reduce the backlog and speed up visa processing times. Despite their efforts, these positions will not be filled until the second half of the fiscal year 2022 and into 2023. The extra hiring is insufficient to immediately reduce the visas backlog, severely impacting foreigners as they continue to wait months to schedule required in-person consular interviews to obtain a visa. Boundless Immigration, a tech company that helps immigrants apply for green cards and U.S. citizenship, states that it will take at least 56 months for the State Department to bring its green card interview scheduling rates back to pre-pandemic levels. 

For more information please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 713-289-4546 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com

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