The final 24-month STEM OPT rule was published in the Federal Register on Friday, March 11, 2016. 81 FR 13039. Under this rule, a qualifying F-1 student with a STEM degree who has been granted 12 months of practical training pursuant to the general OPT program may apply to DHS for a 24-month extension of his or her period of practical training (STEM OPT extension).
- The new 24-month STEM OPT rule is effective Tuesday, May 10, 2016
- The current 17-month STEM OPT rule remains in effect through May 9, 2016
UoNA's Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) and Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) programs are both STEM-designated and qualify for the 24-month extension.
The core purpose of the STEM OPT extension is to allow participating students to supplement their academic knowledge with valuable practical STEM experience. Accordingly, as is the case with practical training generally, a student's practical training pursuant to the STEM OPT extension must be directly related to the student's major area of study. The student's STEM degree must be awarded by an accredited U.S. college or university and be in a field recognized as a STEM field by DHS.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is amending its F-1 nonimmigrant student visa regulations on optional practical training (OPT) for certain students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) from U.S. institutions of higher education.
Specifically, the final rule allows such F-1 STEM students who have elected to pursue 12 months of OPT in the United States to extend the OPT period by 24 months (STEM OPT extension). This 24-month extension effectively replaces the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to certain STEM students. The rule also improves and increases oversight over STEM OPT extensions by, among other things, requiring the implementation of formal training plans by employers, adding wage and other protections for STEM OPT students and U.S. workers, and allowing extensions only to students with degrees from accredited schools.
As with the prior 17-month STEM OPT extension, the rule authorizes STEM OPT extensions only for students employed by employers who participate in E-Verify. The rule also includes the “Cap-Gap” relief first introduced in a 2008 DHS regulation for any F-1 student with a timely filed H-1B petition and request for change of status.
The rule also includes a number of requirements intended to help DHS track STEM OPT students and further enhance the integrity of the STEM OPT extension. Most prominent among these are reporting requirements, which the rule imposes primarily upon students and designated school officials (DSOs).
The rule includes four main reporting requirements, as follows. First, the rule imposes a six-month validation requirement, under which a STEM OPT student and his or her school must work together to confirm the validity of certain biographical, residential, and employment information concerning the student, including the student's legal name, the student's address, the employer's name and address, and current employment status. Second, the rule imposes an annual self-evaluation requirement, under which the student must report to the DSO on his or her progress with the practical training. The student's employer must sign the self-evaluation prior to its submission to the DSO. Third, the rule requires that the student and employer report changes in employment status, including the student's termination or departure from the employer. Fourth, both the student and the employer are obligated to report to the DSO material changes to, or material deviations from, the student's formal training plan.
To view the final regulations published by the US Government on March 11, 2016, click here.