On October 19, the DHS proposed a new rule to give F-1 STEM students the option to extend their OPT employment authorization for 24 months. Typically, F-1 students gets optional practical training (OPT) to work in their field of study after graduation for 12 months. With this proposed rule, F-1 students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields can get an additional 24 months for a total of 36 months of employment authorization (EAD).
Key points of the rule for F-1 students and employers should know:
- Only STEM students from accredited schools are eligible for this extension. The DHS keeps a list of eligible STEM fields and updates the list periodically. The list is quite long so be sure to check it to find out whether your field is included.
- Only STEM students whose employers are enrolled in E-Verify program are eligible for this extension. E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.
- The proposed rule would require employers to set up formal mentoring and training plans and meet certain wage requirements for F-1 OPT students and U.S. workers.
- Any one can comment or suggest changes to the proposed rule but must do so by November 19. To give feedback officially, just go the federal register website and click “submit a formal comment.”
If the rule goes into effect, F-1 STEM students and their employers will have more time to consider longer term immigration options such as H-1B visas or immigrant visas, if both parties want continued employment of the F-1 student.