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New STEM OPT Extension Ruling

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On March 9, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unveiled a final rule that will enable foreign students with certain STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) degrees to extend their STEM OPT (optional practical training) period for 24 months—7 months longer than what was previously allowed. This ruling now entitles qualifying international students on an F-1 visa to stay in the U.S. for on-the-job training for a total of 36 months.

A boon for universities, tech companies, international students, and the economy, everyone will benefit from the STEM OPT extension. U.S. colleges and universities are now more attractive to international students, as their employment prospects after graduation are brighter. Furthermore, it allows U.S. colleges and universities to be more competitive in recruiting international students—a field that has only gotten more intense in recent years. The ruling also allows tech companies to retain some of the world’s best and brightest minds, and fill in-demand jobs. Additionally, it is good for international students as it allows them to work uninterrupted for three years in the U.S., while also giving them an extra opportunity to win the H-1B lottery. Lastly, it’s great for the economy as the country retains some of the most intelligent and innovative people after they graduate U.S. institutions of higher education.

The DHS ruling is expected to be entered into the federal register on March 11, and will take 60 days before it’s enacted into law. It will go into effect around May 10, the same time the 2008 rule runs out of protection; this timing should ensure a fairly smooth transition between the old rule and the new rule. The DHS is expecting this rule to affect nearly 50,000 students in its first year, with the number possibly climbing as high as 92,000 over the next decade.

This ruling is an exciting moment for everyone involved with immigration law, and presents international students in the U.S. with even greater prospects in the land of opportunity. As with most immigration laws, there are plenty of qualifiers that must be met, and due dates for paperwork. By working with an experienced immigration lawyer, you can find out if you qualify for the new STEM OPT extension, and ensure that your paperwork is up to date, keeping you free from visa problems, and making certain you don’t miss any opportunities to extend your stay in the U.S. whether through STEM OPT or H-1B.

Since 1982, GoffWilson has been helping international students study and work in the U.S. We value the contributions immigrants have made and continue to make towards the betterment of this country. We also understand that every person and situation is different, and our personalized service is a reflection of that belief. If you have any questions about the new STEM OPT extension or wonder if you qualify, contact us here.

GoffWilson has been following the STEM OPT extension story all along. To learn more about the story of the STEM OPT extension, read through some of our previous posts on the subject:

Update on Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM Extensions - 1/26/16
New Rule Proposed for OPT STEM Extensions - 10/20/15
Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM Extension Ending - 8/20/15
Filed under:FAQ's, H-1B Visa