Final Rule Increasing OPT for STEM Students Released

In early March, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") unveiled a final rule that will allow certain foreign students with science and technology degrees extend their Optional Practical Training ("OPT") period by 24 months. The final regulation will go into effect in May. Under the new rule, certain foreign students in F-1 status with degrees in science, technology, engineering or math will be able to extend their initial 12 month OPT by an extra 24 months, for a total of 36 months. The OPT program allows F-1 students to temporarily work in the U.S., but STEM students are currently only able to extend their OPT period by 17 months. This regulation will therefore boost the available work authorization period for these foreign students by seven months. DHS said that a 17 month STEM OPT work permit issued before May 10 will remain valid until it expires, but that beginning on May 10, 2016, STEM students will have a chance to apply for an additional seven months of OPT.