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DHS Announces Final Rule on STEM OPT Employment Authorization

The final rule adds employer obligations to the STEM OPT program.

The US Department of Homeland Security has released an advance version of its long-anticipated final rule that expands employment authorization for foreign students with science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degrees. The rule, which will be published in the Federal Register on March 11 and take effect on May 10, 2016, will allow such students to extend their period of optional practical training (OPT) by an extra 24 months, for a total of 36 months of OPT employment authorization. Previously, students in STEM fields were allowed a total of 29 months of OPT. Foreign students with degrees in non-STEM fields will continue to be limited to 12 months of OPT.

The rule also improves and increases oversight over STEM OPT extensions by, among other things, requiring that employers implement formal training plans, adding wage and other protections for STEM OPT students and US workers, and allowing extensions only to students with degrees from accredited schools. The rule also allows US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to conduct site visits to employers of STEM OPT holders to ensure that the rule’s requirements are being complied with.

Previous 17-month STEM OPT employment authorizations issued before May 10 will remain valid until their expirations. Starting May 10, STEM students will have a chance to apply for an additional seven months of OPT.

Copyright © 2022 by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume VI, Number 70
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About this Author

Eleanor Pelta, Morgan Lewis, Immigration Lawyer
Partner

A recognized leader in immigration and nationality law, Eleanor Pelta counsels clients on legal and strategic issues arising from the international movement of key personnel, from the individual transfer of high-ranking executives to high-volume transfers of expert staff. Her experience includes the use of blanket visa programs and the qualification of companies as “treaty investor” or “treaty trader” entities. Additionally, Eleanor counsels businesses on the immigration implications of corporate changes, such as mergers, acquisitions, downsizings, reductions in force,...

202-739-5050
Eric Bord, Immigration Attorney, Morgan Lewis
Partner

Eric S. Bord counsels clients on corporate immigration issues involving the recruitment, hiring, transfer, and retention of personnel worldwide. He also advises businesses on compliance and risk management in connection with their global immigration programs. This includes counseling on compliance with I-9 and E-Verify rules, advising clients during immigration investigations, and conducting immigration due diligence for corporate transactions. Eric heads Morgan Lewis’s immigration compliance and risk management practice.

202-739-6040
A James Vazquez-Azpiri, Morgan Lewis, employment attorney
Partner

A. James Vázquez-Azpiri counsels corporate clients on hiring and retaining foreign employees in his business immigration law practice. He advises businesses on labor certifications, specialty occupation petitions, and intracompany transfers. Clients rely on James for guidance through immigration law compliance during mergers, acquisitions, and corporate restructurings. He helps clients think and work proactively by providing them with traditional compliance policy reviews and audits, case management and litigation technology, and international executive travel and...

415-442-1343
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