STEM OPT students eligible for 2 years of additional work authorization

HIGHLIGHTS
  • 17-month extensions discontinued
  • 24-month extensions created
  • Extension pertains to STEM students only

STEM OPT Update:

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Optional Practical Training (OPT) work program extension began May 10. Companies across the country may now employ international students, skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, for 24 additional months. This program helps recruiters and HR managers overcome skills gap setbacks by hiring burgeoning talent from U.S. universities and colleges. Learn more about the new OPT extension in the blog post below, which was first published in early March.

The wait is over.

DHS just announced the OPT work program extension for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students will not only continue, but increase to 24 months, beginning May 10.

“This is very exciting news and something our clients have been waiting for ever since these changes were announced in 2015,” says Earl Reyes, former Envoy-affiliated attorney. “Although companies will still need to register with E-Verify and have a detailed training program in writing, the opportunities for foreign nationals are tremendous.”

Last August, a U.S. District Court invalided the 17-month STEM OPT citing improper enactment procedures by officials. However, the program was allowed to continue while the DHS revised its parameters.

Additional details about the program are available in the Federal Register. Here are some top highlights:

  • The Cap-Gap is reinstituted.
  • F-1 students who subsequently enroll in a new degree program, and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level, are now eligible for one additional 24-month STEM OPT extension.
  • Employers are required to implement formal training programs for STEM OPT students.
    • Employers must promise that terms and conditions of STEM OPT employees will be “commensurate” to similarly situated U.S. workers. Additionally, they must attest that the students won’t replace U.S. workers.
    • As part of the training plan, the employer and the student must complete mid-point and final evaluations.
  • Select students who’ve obtained STEM degrees, from accredited schools, in the past may apply for STEM OPT even if they are currently pursuing a non-STEM degree.
  • STEM OPT students are allowed to be unemployed for a max of 60 days (in addition to 90 days during first 12-month period of OPT).

Interested in hiring an international student under the new STEM OPT rules? Please contact an immigration representative for more information.