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Summary of Proposed Rule regarding STEM OPT Extensions

On August 12, 2015, the U.S. District Court issued a decision in Washington Alliance of Technology Workers v. USDHS, seeking to terminate the STEM OPT extension rule unless the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) properly implements a new STEM OPT extension rule by February 12, 2016.  Following the decision in Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, DHS advised that a new STEM OPT extension rule was in the works.

On October 19, 2015, DHS published the proposed new rule entitled “Improving and Expanding Training Opportunities for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students with STEM Degrees and Cap-Gap Relief for All Eligible F-1 Students.”  Below is a summary of the provisions of the new rule:

  • Extends OPT for F-1 STEM students from 17 to 24 months
  • Improves oversight of STEM OPT extensions
  • Includes “Cap-Gap” relief: F-1 students with a timely filed H-1B petition may automatically extend the duration of F-1 status and current employment authorization until October 1 of the fiscal year for which such H-1B visa is being requested
  • Will enhance the academic benefit provided by STEM OPT while preventing adverse effects to U.S. workers
  • Will better position students to begin careers in their field of study via on-the-job experience with employers committed to developing their knowledge and skills
  • Will help ensure that the nation’s colleges and universities remain globally competitive in attracting international STEM students

DHS must now allow a 30-day mandatory period for public comments, followed by up to a 30-day period for the agency to finalize the rule.  Only then can DHS publish the final rule.  Following the publication of the final rule, DHS must wait 60 days until the rule can become effective and be implemented.  Stay tuned!

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