On January 21, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security announced updates to the STEM Optional Practical Training Program by adding 22 qualifying fields of study. The program allows foreign students in F-1 status, whose employers are enrolled in the E-Verify system, to apply for two additional years of practical training/work authorization. All other foreign students in nonqualifying fields are only granted one year of practical training upon completion of their degree program.

The 22 additional fields of study are:

  • Bioenergy
  • General forestry
  • Forest resources production and management
  • Human-centered technology design
  • Cloud computing
  • Anthrozoology
  • Climate science
  • Earth systems science
  • Economics and computer science
  • Environmental geosciences
  • Geobiology
  • Geography and environmental studies
  • Mathematical economics
  • Mathematics and atmospheric/oceanic science
  • General data science
  • General data analytics
  • Business analytics
  • Data visualization
  • Financial analytics
  • Other data analytics
  • Industrial and organizational psychology
  • Social sciences, research methodology and quantitative methods

The addition of fields such as data science, data analytics and business analytics is particularly important to highlight because there seems to be an increasing need for employees in these areas.

Update on Settlement Agreement Over Changes to L-2 Employment Authorization

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun implementing this policy for L-2 spouses in order to confirm that they are granted employment authorization incident to status. This means that L-2 spouses will no longer be required to seek an employment authorization document (EAD) and may commence employment with any employer upon arrival in the United States. However, other L-2 visa dependents (children) are not eligible for employment authorization.

Upon entry, the L-2 visa spouses will be issued electronic I-94 records to reflect an "S," which indicates work authorization incident to status (and their status will be listed as "L2S"). At certain ports, this change is now in effect for anyone admitted on or after January 31, 2022.

Note: This change is now also granted for E spouses as well.

Updated Policy Guidelines on Validity Periods for EADs in Certain Filing Categories

Initial and renewal EADs (work cards) may generally now be issued with a maximum validity period of up to two years for asylees, refugees, noncitizens with withholding of deportation or removal and Violence Against Women Act self-petitioners, or up to the end of the authorized deferred action or parole period for applicants in these filing categories. This policy update is effective immediately; however, EADs issued before February 7, 2022, are not affected.

H-1B Cap Registration Dates

On January 28, 2022, USCIS announced that the initial registration period for the fiscal year 2023 H-1B cap will open at noon Eastern time on March 1 and run through noon Eastern time on March 18, 2022.

For More Information

If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact any of the attorneys in our Immigration Law Group, any of the attorneys in our Employment, Labor, Benefits and Immigration Practice Group or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm's full disclaimer.