The Biden administration recently announced the expansion of STEM OPT to retain and benefit more STEM students. STEM students are F-1 visa students completing a degree in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. OPT stands for optional practical training employment authorization typically given to F-1 visa students for a period of 12 months after graduation from a degree program.
STEM OPT extends the employment authorization another 24 months. Only students who completed a course of study in an approved STEM field are eligible for STEM OPT. With this recent expansion of the approved STEM fields or degrees, more students can apply for STEM OPT and work 36 months, rather than 12 months.
The 22 new fields added to the list for STEM OPT are Bioenergy, Forestry, General, 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, Data Science, General, Data Analytics, General, Business Analytics, Data Visualization, Financial Analytics, Data Analytics, Other, Industrial and Organizational Psychology and Social Sciences, Research Methodology and Quantitative Methods.
To qualify for a 24-month STEM OPT extension, an F-1 student that has regular post-completion OPT must:
- Have a degree in an eligible STEM field from a Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school that is accredited when the student submits their STEM OPT extension application to USCIS.
- Pursue their STEM OPT extension through an employer that is enrolled in USCIS’s E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.
- Select a STEM OPT employer that provides the student with formal training and learning objectives.
- Work a minimum of 20 hours per week per employer.
STEM OPT students must do an annual self-evaluation and must report to their schools about the progress of the training experience. Both the student and employer are obligated to report to the student’s school any material changes to, or material deviations from, the student’s formal training plan.
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