The Employment-Based, second preference (EB-2) national interest waiver (NIW) visa category serves to broaden the scope of the United States’ professional fields, and to foster additional means for a greater economy and overall global competitiveness. More than ever before, the NIW category has more of a place for foreign Artificial Intelligence (AI) professionals. Thus, favorably impacting the U.S. In this post, we will discuss how to get an EB-2 NIW Visa For Artificial Intelligence Professionals.

In order to attract foreign nationals in the AI realm to the U.S., and to increase the nation’s competitiveness, President Biden signed an executive order to make it more obtainable. 

In October of 2023, the executive order was signed for the, “safe, secure, and trustworthy development and use of AI.” The purpose is to use AI to potentially help solve issues within governmental, academic, citizen, and other societal sectors, with responsibility and innovation. Therefore, increasing the need for worldwide assistance, by way of the NIW category.

This thereby directs the United States Department of State (DOS) to develop a Program to attract the best possible foreign AI researchers from around the world. The crux is that it must be safe and secure.

In this article, we discuss policy manual updates and proposals essential for lessening possible barriers for highly-skilled professionals.

Artificial Intelligence Defined

AI is, though not limited to, the theory and development of computer science(s) and computer system(s) related to human behaviors and intelligence, followed by the performance of the following tasks, etc.:

  • Language translation
  • Learning in general
  • Making decisions
  • Reasoning
  • Solving problems
  • Speech recognition
  • Understanding language
  • Visual perception

EB-2 NIW for Artificial Intelligence Professionals

As a quick abstract on the NIW, the following are the factors the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers consider for granting foreign applicants an EB-2 NIW:

  • The petitioner’s proposed endeavor must have substantial merit and national importance
  • The petitioner must be well positioned to advance his or her proposed endeavor
  • Waiving the job offer and labor certification requirements would be beneficial to the United States in general

Professional fields eligible for an NIW in general are the following:

  • Athletics
  • Art
  • Business
  • Culture
  • Education
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Health
  • Science
  • Technology 

To delve deeper specifically within AI, the following AI categories may qualify for an EB-2 NIW:

  • Advanced and Networked Sensing and Signature Management
  • Advanced Computing
  • Advanced Engineering Materials
  • Advanced Gas Turbine Engine Technologies
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Advanced Nuclear Energy Technologies
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Automated Planning and Scheduling
  • Automation
  • Autonomous Systems and Robotics
  • Biotechnologies
  • Cognitive Computing
  • Communication and Networking Technologies
  • Computer Programming
  • Computer Science
  • Computer Vision
  • Computing
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data Science
  • Decision-Making
  • Deep Learning
  • Directed Energy
  • Financial Technologies
  • Fuzzy Logic
  • Human-Machine Interfaces
  • Hypersonics
  • Intelligence
  • Machine Learning
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Networked Sensors and Sensing
  • Neural Network
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Problem Solving
  • Quantum Information Technologies
  • Reinforcement Learning
  • Renewable Energy Generation and Storage
  • Robotics
  • Semiconductors and Microelectronics
  • Software Engineering
  • Space Technologies and Systems
  • Speech Recognition

AI fields are as wide-ranging as they are diverse, so the list above is not entirely exclusive. For that reason, it is important for all interested AI professionals to take a look at the EB-2 NIW option.

It is easy to see how seeking highly-skilled AI professionals is pragmatic, as they have the potential to impact the U.S. in a positive manner. Both on the various economic sectors inside the country, as well as worldwide competitiveness.

Check out our post about how hard it is to get an EB-2 NIW for more information.

EB-2 NIW Policy Manual Updates (For AI Workers)

In light of the executive order, top-tier AI experts and startup founders in crucial technological fields will see increased availability of employment-based visas. Additionally, the update to the NIW criteria requirements improves the pathway so that more outstanding foreign AI professionals not only qualify for an NIW but have the ability self-petition.

It is important that you are prepared for the EB-2 NIW interview. Read our EB-2 NIW interview guide to learn more.

Updates for O-1A, EB-1, EB-2, and International Entrepreneur Rule For Artificial Intelligence Professionals

As it stands, the extraordinary ability subcategory has had limitations on researchers, in that obtaining employment-based visas require the receipt of highly significant international awards and/or recognition(s). Especially when an O-1A visa holder seeks to shift from O-1A to EB-1 more smoothly. 

The USCIS Policy Manual offers additional clarifications on how USCIS officers determine eligibility for nonimmigrants of extraordinary ability in the science, technology,

engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Improving the paths for O-1A, EB-1 and EB-2 visa categories imply a more universal invitation extended to professionals in rising technology fields such as AI, biotechnology and quantum computing, to name a few.

Regarding the International Entrepreneur Rule (EIR), the USCIS Policy Manual updates also mentions making the path for technology startup founders an improved one.

Updates to “Schedule A” Due To Labor Shortages

“Schedule A” refers to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) occupations suffering from labor shortages in the U.S. As the U.S. job market is ever changing, the executive order will also serve as a catalyst for making updates — by including or eliminating the industries where no willing, able and available U.S. workers exist.

Including occupations would benefit both foreign professionals as well as U.S.-based sponsoring employers. The inclusion signifies a more expedient immigration process, hence permitting U.S. employers to fill open jobs more quickly, and allowing qualified foreign workers  gainful employment in the U.S. 

Eliminating occupations from the list proves a more slowly-processed and even heightened difficulty for foreign professionals seeking to petition for permanent residency status. The elimination indicates certain professional fields where U.S. workers are willing, able and available to fill the open roles. For this reason, U.S. sponsoring employers would be required to first test the job market for such U.S. workers, and then obtain a DOL labor certification through Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) when none are found. A one-year process.

The new protocol would require the DOL to implore and obtain details regarding the following aspects within U.S. private sectors:

  • Professions and areas where there is a U.S. labor shortage in AI and STEM
  • Professions and areas in greatest need of foreign AI professionals 

This keeps the DOL acutely informed and enables the Department to make crucial and timely updates to Schedule A.

Updates to J-1 and F-1 Visas

The executive order also entails a revision of the J-1 Exchange Visitor program regulations. In essence, the order addresses two matters. First, by making updates to the J-1 skills list. Second, to modernize J-1 programs by allowing highly-skilled exchange visitors to bypass the 2-year requirement (of returning to their home country upon program completion) and thus the ability to apply for another visa category straight away when their program ends. I said five minutes

In general, J-1 visas have recently been held by researchers and professionals in academia. This update therefore provides an increased opportunity for researchers and professionals in AI.

Likewise, F-1 Student visa holders will also see an enhanced structure to their visa requirements.

Historically, J-1 research scholars and F-1 STEM visa holders have been required to renew their visa outside of the country. Oftentimes, this resulted in a several-week wait time while their visa application was being processed. So as to reduce visa processing times, the new simplified process will allow such individuals to renew their visas while inside the country. As an added benefit to the visa holder themselves, this reduces travel-related costs for students or scholars, and their families.

If you are applying for an EB-2 NIW visa, make sure to read our guide for more information.

Global AI Talent Attraction Program

The executive order contains an improved approach to the immigration process for foreign AI professionals, thereby increasing immigration efficiency for those seeking to temporarily study or work in critical and emerging technological AI industries. Namely, the Global AI Talent Attraction Program. The program is a global campaign where several agencies worldwide are to promote the U.S. as a country of significance for studying or applying AI in science and/or technology.

To reiterate, the official order regarding the program will become the new legal standard for categories such as O-1, EB-1, EB-2, and International Entrepreneur visas. Though three fifths of the world’s greatest AI research professionals perform their research in the U.S., this talent attraction program addresses the undersatisfied demands within the nation’s STEM fields. Additionally thereby drawing in an increased number of AI professionals so as to support the U.S.’ intentionalities for extreme advancement in innovation and technology, especially as a world competitor.

The goal is not only to attract top AI professional workers from around the world, but to also retain such talent, particularly in science and technology. The new provision has been established to foster the country’s growth and greatly improve its leadership capacity.

If you are a foreign national with top-tier AI experience and wish to contribute to the United States through STEM, be assured that the criteria requirements are evolving in real-time. You may be able to qualify more easily than ever before, and likewise have the ability to petition for the waiver on your own.

If you are applying for an EB-2 NIW soon, make sure to read up on getting an expert opinion letter for your case

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the EB-2 NIW visa category and how does it apply to AI professionals?

The EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) is an employment-based visa category that allows highly skilled professionals to self-petition for permanent residency without a job offer or labor certification. For AI professionals, this category has become more accessible due to recent policy updates, recognizing the national importance of artificial intelligence in various fields such as computer science, machine learning, and data analytics.

How has the recent executive order affected immigration options for AI experts?

The executive order signed in October 2023 aims to make it easier for foreign AI professionals to work in the US. It directs the Department of State to develop a program to attract top AI researchers globally, updates visa policies for O-1A, EB-1, and EB-2 categories, and introduces the Global AI Talent Attraction Program to promote the US as a destination for AI study and work.

What are some of the AI fields that may qualify for an EB-2 NIW?

Some AI fields that may qualify for an EB-2 NIW include machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, computer vision, robotics, autonomous systems, data science, neural networks, and cognitive computing. However, this list is not exhaustive, and other AI-related fields may also be eligible.

How do the policy updates affect J-1 and F-1 visa holders in AI-related fields?

The policy updates aim to modernize J-1 and F-1 visa programs for individuals in AI and STEM fields. J-1 visa holders may see changes to the skills list and potential waivers of the 2-year home country return requirement. F-1 STEM students will benefit from an enhanced visa structure. Both J-1 and F-1 visa holders in these fields may be able to renew their visas while in the US, reducing processing times and travel-related costs.

Wrapping Up EB-2 NIW Visas For AI Professionals

The recent executive order and policy updates have significantly enhanced opportunities for AI professionals seeking to work in the United States. With streamlined pathways for EB-2 NIW, O-1A, EB-1, and other visa categories, along with initiatives like the Global AI Talent Attraction Program, the US is positioning itself as a prime destination for top AI talent.

These changes not only benefit foreign AI experts but also strengthen America's competitive edge in artificial intelligence and related STEM fields. As the landscape of immigration policy evolves to meet the demands of the AI era, qualified professionals now have more accessible routes to contribute their expertise to the US economy and technological advancement.

For AI specialists considering a move to the United States, these developments represent an unprecedented opportunity to pursue their careers in a supportive and innovation-driven environment.