United States: DHS Increases Period Of STEM Optional Practical Training To 24 Months: Imposes Additional Requirements On Employers And F-1 Students

The U.S. government never gives without getting something in return, and the same is true with the new STEM 24-month, Optional Practical Training (OPT) Program. On March 11, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule permitting F-1 students who receive STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees, and who meet other requirements, to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-degree completion OPT.

The new 24-month STEM OPT program replaces the 17-month extension previously available to certain students, and imposes significant changes on employers, F-1 Students and Designated School Officials (DSOs). It does not affect existing OPT 12-month programs. Eligible students can begin to apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension on May 10.

New Program Benefits and Eligibility

To be eligible the new 24-month OPT program, the graduate must meet the following requirements:

  1. The graduate must have been granted OPT and currently be in a valid period of OPT (see limitations described below);
  2. The graduate must have earned a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree from a school that is accredited by the U.S. Department of Education's (DOE) recognized accrediting agency, and is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) when the application is submitted. The revised list of degrees, which will become effective on May 10, can be found at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website;
  3. The graduate must work for an employer who meets all of the requirements under the STEM OPT employer responsibilities section described below; and,
  4. The graduate must submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization up to 90 days before current OPT Employment Authorization expires, and within 60 days of the date the student's DSO enters the recommendation for OPT into the F-1 student's Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS) record.

An F-1 student participating in a 12-month period of post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree earned from a U.S. institution of higher education to apply for a STEM OPT extension. Both degrees must be received from an accredited and SEVP certified institution, and the practical training opportunity must be directly related to the STEM degree. For example:, an F-1 MBA graduate is not eligible for a STEM OPT extension, but if that MBA graduate had earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from a qualifying U.S. institution, then he or she may be eligible for STEM OPT based on completion of an earlier STEM bachelor's degree program.

The new program also permits participation in two lifetime STEM OPT programs instead of only one lifetime period of STEM OPT under the current STEM OPT program. For example, if the F-1 student enrolls in a new academic program in the future and earns another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level, the F-1 student may be eligible for one additional STEM OPT extension so long as the STEM degree was conferred within ten years of the STEM extension application date, and the STEM degree is on the revised list by the date the DSO endorses the F-1 student's I-20AB form for a 24-month OPT extension, and in addition, the student must be in a period of 12-month OPT based on his or her most recent degree.

Applying For Stem Opt Extension

To apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension, the F-1 student must wait to file her form I-765 with the application fee until on or after May 10. The student's Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status must be endorsed by the F-1 student's DSO on or after May 10, 2016, and a copy of the STEM degree must be provided.

If the F-1 student files a timely application for extension of STEM OPT, and his or her existing period of OPT expires, the USCIS will extend employment authorization for 180 days.

Student Obligations After Receiving A Stem Opt Extension

Once the STEM OPT is granted, the F-1 students, must:

  1. Report changes to her DSO within ten days of the change by including:

    • Student's name;
    • Student's residential or mailing address;
    • Student's email address;
    • Employer's name; and,
    • Employer's address.
  2. Report to the DSO every six months to confirm the information listed above regardless of whether the information has changed.

Unemployment During The Stem Opt Period

Under the new regulations, the period of permitted student unemployment has changed as follows:

Period of OPT Permitted period of unemployment
12 months 90 days
17-month STEM 120 days*
24-month STEM 150 days*

*If the F-1 student is granted an additional seven-month extension in addition to her 17-month STEM-OPT (for a total of 24 months), then she may be unemployed for total of 150 days.

New Employer Stem Opt Employer Responsibilities

  1. If an employer wants to provide an additional practical training opportunity to a STEM OPT graduate, during her extension, the employer must:
  2. Be enrolled in E-Verify and remain in good standing in the E-Verify program;
  3. Report material changes to the STEM OPT student's employment to the DSO within five business days;
  4. Implement a formal training program to augment the student's academic learning through practical experience;
  5. Provide an OPT opportunity commensurate with those of similarly situated U.S. workers in duties, hours and compensation;
  6. Compete a Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT students. In this form, the employer must attest that:

    • The employer has sufficient resources and trained personnel available to appropriately train the student;
    • The student will not replace a full-or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker; and,
    • Working for the employer will help the student attain her training objectives.

Also, the employer must also conduct regular evaluations of the F-1 student, and report the same to the DSO, as well as attest that the employer will not replace a U.S. worker with an F-1 STEM OPT employee.

New DHS Worksite Visit Initiative

ICE may now visit employer worksites to verify whether the employer is meeting new STEM OPT program requirements, including whether it is maintaining the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences for the STEM OPT student.

Special Rules For Students Who Have A 17-Month Stem Opt Extension (Or Have An Application Pending On May 10 For A 17-Month Extension)

The new rule authorizing the 24-month STEM OPT extension will go into effect on May 10. If the student has a 17-month STEM OPT extension, the student may apply to add seven months to her STEM OPT period on or after May 10 as long as the student has at least 150 days of valid employment authorization remaining on the date the student properly files the Form I-765. The Form I-765 must be filed, with fee, on or before August 8, 2016. Applications with less than 150 days of validity remaining and/or applications filed after August 8, 2016 will be denied.

Until May 9, the USCIS will continue to adjudicate STEM OPT applications under the 2008 interim final rule. Any STEM OPT extension application filed and approved before May 10 will be granted a 17-month extension. If the F-1 student has an application for a 17-month STEM OPT extension that remains pending on May 10, the USCIS will send a Request for Evidence (RFE) to permit the student to demonstrate eligibility for the 24-month STEM OPT period.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Kevin Weber
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.