F-1 visa STEM students will be given OPT for 3 years

New rules sent for review and publication in the Federal Register.

By Sujeet Rajan


NEW YORK: A revised rule to allow students on F-1 visa visas – in certain STEM-related academic programs – more time to work in the United States through extension of the Optional Practical Training (OPT), is likely to become reality soon as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has submitted it for review and subsequent official publication in the Federal Register.

The DHS has sent a copy of the revised rules to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. Upon review and approval, the new rules and regulations would appear in the Federal Register.

The exact timeline of the publication in the Federal Register, a prerequisite for the law to come into effect – if it does so indeed and doesn’t face any further legal hurdles – is not yet clear.

The likely outcome, however, is that it would benefit some F-1 visa students by getting them an additional 24 months of OPT apart from the already approved 12 months of OPT. Thus, in all, those students who benefit from it would be able to work for full three years without any restriction upon graduating from an accredited US educational institution. This would give those students ample time to entrench themselves in the workforce and a shot at getting a nod for an H-1B visa through the company they work for.

Also, one has to wait and see which all STEM students would be covered under the additional time frames for OPT.

The timing of the publication in the Federal Register and when the law comes into effect is critical for some students who graduate this summer. If the rule is delayed, then it’s likely that those students would be able to apply for only the old set rules of 12 months of OPT followed by an additional 17 months of OPT, if they show that they qualify for a particular program which comes under STEM related disciplines.

However, this rule could change too, and it remains to be seen what actually comes up in the Federal Register. If the rules cover all students from the time it was approved, which was August of last year, then all students who graduate this year would be able to avail of it.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle had last month given the DHS time till April 22 to put the revised regulation in place and send it for review and publication in the Federal Register. However, the DHS seems to have done its work faster and not used the additional time they had asked for in processing the new rules. More than 50,500 comments had poured in during the period of time when DHS asked for comments from the public on the new proposed rules.

There is also a possibility that the new rules may face legal hurdles: the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers union have argued unsuccessfully in court till now that the new rules would create a “rogue guest worker program”. However, they are expected to mount a fresh challenge to the rules to extend OPT to F-1 visa students.

One Comment

  1. how does this law apply for people who already work under OPT STEM? Do we get extension also?
    For example, my STEM ends this November, but since they’re giving extra months for STEM, do I also get those extra months?

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