STEM Shortage in the US

Increased Opportunities for STEM Professionals to Immigrate to the US Under the EB2 National Interest Waiver Program

Professionals working in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), including researchers, mathematicians, technologists, and other innovators, are becoming increasingly important to the world economy. However, the United States is struggling to hire enough STEM professionals to meet the demands of many U.S. industries. According to an estimate by the Semiconductor Industry Association, there will be a STEM shortage of approximately 1.4 million technicians, computer scientists and engineers in the U.S. by 2030. Source

The EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) program offers a viable pathway for many science and STEM workers, including innovators who hold an advanced degree or can demonstrate their exceptional ability to immigrate to the U.S. without the need for a job offer.

STEM Shortage in the US: Increased Opportunities for STEM Professionals to Immigrate to the US Under the EB2 National Interest Waiver Program EB-2 NIW program Immigrate to the US scientists engineers technologists mathematicians innovators researchers EB-2 NIW petition

Upon approval of the EB-2 visa, STEM professionals and their qualifying dependents including spouses and children under 21 would receive a 10-year unconditional green card thereby allowing them to live, work, and study in the US. Furthermore, successful applicants and their qualifying dependents, including mathematicians who qualify, would then be eligible to apply for US citizenship after 5 years if they meet the residency requirements for US citizenship.

Key points

  • STEM shortage in the US: The US faces a significant shortage of qualified STEM professionals, hindering its ability to compete in the global technology race.
  • EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) program: This program offers a streamlined immigration pathway for highly skilled STEM workers to come to the US without a job offer.
  • Benefits of EB-2 NIW: STEM professionals can immigrate without a job offer, potentially pursue entrepreneurial ventures, and receive a green card upon approval.
  • Requirements of EB-2 NIW: Applicants must hold an advanced degree or demonstrate exceptional ability in their STEM field, and their work should have national importance.
  • Growing popularity of EB-2 NIW: Applications and approvals for the EB-2 NIW program are rising, reflecting a potential solution to the US STEM worker shortage.

Understanding the STEM Shortage Crisis

In an ever-evolving world, the U.S. faces significant pressure to hire workers in science and STEM fields to keep its position as a world leader in STEM industries. Major world events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have all but accelerated the race amongst countries to advance and develop new technologies, a race in which the U.S. may be falling behind as other countries continue to nurture homegrown talent and expand their own STEM industries.

Many STEM industries in the U.S. are already feeling the pinch from the lack of technologists and other STEM workers. The National Defense Magazine reported in 2023 that “82 percent of companies in the defense industrial base report that it is difficult to find qualified STEM workers”. The lack of funding for STEM subjects in local community colleges, the many students who take up STEM subjects in university but do not move on to working in STEM fields, alongside the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have all contributed to a crisis that the U.S. urgently needs to hire more STEM workers to alleviate. There is no quick and easy solution to these problems in sight.

To keep up with the increasing demand for STEM jobs, the U.S. urgently needs to hire and attract more technologists, researchers, and foreign talent in STEM fields. In fact, the U.S. already heavily relies on foreign born workers in STEM industries. Research from the Brookings Institution has found that 45% of STEM employees in the U.S. with a PhD are foreign-born.

Foreign-born workers in STEM fields can use their unique backgrounds to make significant contributions to STEM industries in the U.S., and the U.S. needs to attract foreign talent in their STEM fields to stay at the top of the game. However, the lack of visa options available to foreign workers in STEM fields, as well as the lengthy labor certification process that foreign workers would have to undergo means that many U.S. companies struggle to attract the foreign talent they need.

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    The Significance of EB-2 NIW for Skilled Immigrants

    Nonetheless, the EB2 NIW program offers a pathway for select STEM professionals, including mathematicians, who either hold an advanced degree or can demonstrate their exceptional ability to immigrate to the U.S. without a job offer and having to undergo the lengthy labor certification process.

     Requirements of the EB2-NIW (Stem Visa)

    Firstly, STEM workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics must demonstrate exceptional ability or hold an Advanced Degree and have five years of post-degree work experience in their field, with researchers often having an advantage due to their specialized skills. Secondly, STEM workers would need to demonstrate that their proposed endeavor has substantial merit and national importance, they are well positioned to advance their proposed endeavor and that on balance it would benefit the U.S. to waive the requirement of a job offer.

    To demonstrate exceptional ability, STEM professionals can pull on a wide range of achievements to demonstrate their outstanding expertise and exceptional skills in their respective STEM fields. Although not a requirement of the EB2 NIW program, STEM workers could also include in the application any previous teaching experience or academic publications as it may benefit the application. Another advantage of the EB2 NIW is that it also provides STEM professionals with the flexibility to pursue any entrepreneurial endeavors in their STEM field in the U.S., which may in turn strengthen their EB2 NIW application.

    Rising Popularity of the EB-2 NIW Pathway Amongst STEM Workers

    USCIS has recently reported an increase in applications for the EB2 NIW from 26% of all petitions in the fiscal year 2022 to 43% of all petitions in the fiscal year 2023. USCIS has also reported an increase in approvals for EB2 NIW applications for STEM job types from 13,840 in the fiscal year 2022 to 21,240 approvals in the fiscal year 2023.

    This follows as USCIS has recently updated its policy guidelines to mention that the following would be a strong positive factor in the determination of an EB-2 application: the person possesses an advanced STEM degree (particularly a Ph.D.); the person will be engaged in work further a critical and emerging technology or other STEM area important to U.S. competitiveness; and the person is well positioned to advance the proposed STEM endeavor of national importance.

    This is a welcome update from USCIS as many STEM professionals seek ways to immigrate to the U.S. and the U.S. urgently needs to find ways to combat the STEM shortage in U.S. industries.

    As an approval for an EB-2 NIW petition is discretionary, the success of which rests on the immigration officer reviewing the file, it is important to submit a carefully drafted initial petition and be fully prepared to demonstrate how the STEM professionals meet the EB-2 visa requirements and qualify for the EB-2 NIW. We encourage STEM workers interested in the EB-2 NIW to speak with one of our lawyers to evaluate and discuss their options available.

    Contact Us Now

    If you are interested in learning more, please contact your local HLG office here for more details. Founded in 1992, Harvey Law Group (HLG) is a leading multinational law firm headquartered in Hong Kong. Our lawyers are based across Asia, North and South America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East to cater to your specific needs for STEM immigration and beyond.

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