International students with Science, Technical, Engineering and Math (STEM) degrees may become eligible to work in the U.S. for up to 3 years under new proposed rules. On October 19, 2015 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued proposed changes to its regulations, which offer both additional benefits and employer requirements for students and businesses using post-completion STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT). The proposed rules are in a comment period and are not final.
Overview of the proposed rules
The proposed STEM extension rules will replace the 2008 STEM extension rule currently available to certain STEM students. The proposed regulations are in response to a federal district court’s decision invalidating USCIS’s 2008 STEM extension rule and also a part of President Obama’s executive action to strengthen and extend on-the-job training for STEM graduates of U.S. universities. After completing a post-secondary degree program (e.g., undergraduate, graduate or post-graduate) in the U.S., an F-1 visa student can apply for the post-completion OPT program to get work authorization for 1 year. However, those in qualifying STEM fields can apply for an additional work permit beyond the 1-year under the STEM OPT program.
The 2008 STEM OPT program gave STEM students work authorization for an additional 17 months after the 12-month period available to any F-1 student (29 months in total). The proposed rule would extend the current STEM OPT period from 17 months to 24 months, for a total of 36 months. [Read more…]