STEM OPT Extension Through May 10 Granted by Federal Court

Summary

DHS has been granted 90 day extension by a federal court to finalize STEM extension legislation by May 10, 2016. Current F-1 students on STEM extensions are not affected and USCIS will continue to take in STEM OPT applications.

January 19, 2016


The Department of Homeland Security has been granted three extra months (until May 10, 2016) to finalize legislation on STEM, a specific extension to optical practical training (OPT). OPT allows for foreigners to stay up to 12 months for job training after graduation. Students of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) can apply for a 17 month extension shortly before the first granted year ends, and DHS’s proposal could lengthen the extension to 24 months.

In 2008, when OPT was first legally authorized, DHS did not notify the public regarding STEM extensions, what the U.S. District Court for D.C. called “a serious procedural deficiency,” and an infraction that could have caused the STEM extension to be rescinded. The court pushed this decision to February 12, 2016.

However, in 2008, when OPT was first legally authorized, the DHS did not notify the public regarding STEM extensions, what the U.S. District Court for D.C. called “a serious procedural deficiency,” and an infraction that could now cause the STEM extension portion of the program to be rescinded. The court pushed this decision to February 12, 2016.

On October 19, 2015, DHS published a proposal to extend the STEM extension from 17 months to 24 months, this time allowing for public comments. After allowing 30 days for public comment, DHS could put together a final proposal for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to approve, where it would then be published in the Federal Register.

Unexpectedly though, DHS did not send a final proposal to OMB. In late December 2015, DHS requested to extend the court’s upcoming February 12, 2016 decision to May 10, 2016.

DHS was countered on January 11, 2016 by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, a labor union, who had sued DHS by challenging STEM’s legitimacy, requested the court to deny DHS’ proposal. Three days later, DHS sent another request to the court to extend its decision, and that should DHS’ extension be turned down, that the court ensures that students currently holding STEM OPT work permits would not be affected by any upcoming change to OPT extension rules.

This newest decision allows current students holding an F-1 visa and participating in OPT to work past February 12, 2016, and allows STEM participants to continue unchanged until DHS implements new legislation. USCIS will continue to accept STEM extension applications. If STEM is extended to 24 months, current students on STEM extensions will be granted seven extra months of work, while employers would take on new responsibilities and face closer monitoring by USCIS.

Source: Lexology - Shin-I Lowe