The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule in response to an August court decision that invalidated the 17-month extension of the F-1 Optical Practical Training (OPT) program for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students.
The proposed rule includes two major changes to the OPT STEM program:
- STEM OPT extension increased to 24 months
The original OPT extension gave STEM students an additional 17 months of employment authorization after their initial 12-month work period elapsed. However, if approved, the new regulation would allow students to work an additional 24 months. The proposed amendment grants foreign students additional time to secure work visas and provides a lengthy work permit extension during the Cap-Gap period, which describes the timeframe when foreign students’ F-1 visa status expires and their H-1B work visa becomes valid.
- Requires mentoring and training plan
The proposed rule requires employers to establish that an experienced mentor is available to teach and counsel students. Additionally, the student must prepare a formalized mentoring and training plan with the employer and submit the plan to the designated school official before he or she could recommend an OPT STEM extension in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System record. These training plans require specific training goals as well as a description of how those goals will be achieved.
Read the proposed rule titled, “Improving and Expanding Training Opportunities for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students With STEM Degrees and Cap-Gap Relief for All Eligible F-1 Students” here.
DHS is accepting comments from the public on the proposed amendments until Nov. 18. Submit your feedback here.