To this end, they’ve set up online resources available on their website, uscis.gov. We’ve checked out the options available to you and summarized them here to help you get started.
Why STEM Workers are In High Demand
The fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are complex and require significant education to master the concepts in each category. This fact means there aren’t as many workers in STEM fields as there are openings throughout the world, and the United States wants to fill these positions with highly qualified individuals.
Employers are required to search the US for native workers, but if they aren’t available, STEM positions can be filled with foreign nationals. Still, the path isn’t easy for these people to obtain an H-1B visa.
The online resources on USCIS’s website are designed to try to streamline the process as much as possible.
Highly Skilled STEM Workers Benefit
The top talent in STEM fields is attracted to competitive job offers and positions that will help them grow in their professions. A complicated and confusing process of entering the country will deter these individuals. USCIS understands this and seeks to make the H-1B visa entry requirements clear and, although rigorous, simple for STEM workers.
One way they’ve done this is by creating two visa classifications for those who demonstrate extraordinary ability in the STEM field. The O-1, nonimmigrant classification, and EB-1A immigrant visas eliminate the educational requirements of the H-1B visa. If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree or higher in your STEM field but can demonstrate extraordinary ability, you may be able to obtain an O-1 or EB-1A visa. Read more about these categories on USCIS’s STEM-focused web page.
Sponsoring Employers Connecting With Employees
If you haven’t found a candidate for your STEM position or a sponsoring employer, USCIS can help. Their site includes a section devoted to connecting employers and employees for valid job offers.
When you connect with an employer, pay attention to the requirements for the job. There are two types of entries: permanent and temporary avenues. Jobs specifying eventual permanent residence will require you to apply for a Green Card, which means you’ll need a specific type of visa, such as the H-1B dual-intent. If you apply for the wrong visa just to get into the country, you may not be allowed to seek permanent residency. If you’re not sure about this part of the application process, ask your legal expert at Visa2US.
Options for Entering the Country Through OPT
Are you considering becoming an international student but looking for ways to pay for your stay? F-1 international students aren’t usually allowed to work while they’re in the country. However, you can apply for OPT or Optional Practical Training. With OPT, you can work in a field related to your area of study for up to 12 months.
Students can begin working before finishing their studies (pre-completion OPT) or finish their degree and start a job (post-completion OPT). In general, the best way to do this is to wait until you have finished your studies to obtain a job, as you’ll likely have better job opportunities.
OPT eligibility is for F-1 students living in the US and looking for jobs related to their field of study. Provided your school is entered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information category (SEVIS), they can file on your behalf 30 days or more before your job search begins. You may qualify for a 24-month STEM OPT extension if you’ve received a STEM degree.
The H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa
USCIS includes a section explaining what’s involved in obtaining an H-1B visa for STEM workers. This section explains the specialty occupation's limitations, exceptions, and requirements. H-1Bs are temporary visas; the holder is only allowed three years on the original visa, plus a possible three-year extension. It is a dual-intent visa, so you can legally apply for avenues to stay in the country permanently.
This part of the online resources explains how the visa lottery works, what the limits are, and how to apply. It also discusses your specific country and whether there’s a special relationship between your country of origin and the US that may help you “skip ahead” in the waiting queue.
Transferring Your L-1 Intracompany Visa
Are you an executive working in an international institution under an L-1 visa? If so, your specialized knowledge could help you transfer to the United States for up to seven years. In this move, you’d be an “intracompany transferee.”
Eligible individuals have worked for their company abroad for at least one year immediately prior to the L-1 application submission date.
Nationals From Canada and Mexico
Entering the US from Canada and Mexico as a qualified national is performed under the North American Free Trade Agreement. This makes it easier for individuals from those two countries to enter the US to work and complete other business activities. More about how to qualify for the NAFTA regulations is available on the USCIS website.
The online resources provided by USCIS are beneficial, but they’ll still leave you with questions. For answers, schedule a consultation with our experts at Visa2US. Let us guide you through the application process and help you as you move forward with your STEM career.