USCIS FInal Rule on STEM OPT Extensions

USCIS has today published its Final Rule governing Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 students who have obtained a degree in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Highlights of the Final Rule are as follows:

A STEM extension may be granted for an additional 24 months AFTER an initial 12 month period of OPT.

The extension may be based on the student’s most recent degree, or on a STEM degree earlier in his/her academic career.

The employer must be enrolled in E-Verify.

The employer must work with the student to implement a formal training program to insure that the employment will augment and benefit the student’s education. This information will be provided on a new Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.

The employer must attest that (1) it has sufficient resources and personnel to provide appropriate training (2) the student will not replace a full or part-time US worker and (3) the opportunity will help the student achieve his or her training objective.

The student and their Designated School Official (DSO) must comply with several new reporting requirements to insure that progress is being made toward their training objective.

DHS may conduct site visits after providing 48 hours’ notice to the employer to insure compliance with the program. Unannounced site visits may take place in the event of a complaint or other evidence of noncompliance with the program.

Current rules governing STEM extensions remain in effect until May 9, 2016. The new rules are effective on May 10, 2016.

Applications for a STEM extension which are in process and still pending on May 10, 2016 will receive a Request for Evidence, allowing students’ time to amend their applications to comply with the new rules without having to refile.

Please contact our office if you have any questions.