You might have heard about changes to the program surrounding the Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM extension. We wanted to provide you with information to help clear up any questions you might have.
What are the changes about?
In March 2014, there was a court case, Washington Alliance of Technology Workers v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which challenged U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) 2008 ruling and authority to allow students to apply for the STEM extension. In August 2015, a U.S. federal judge decided that the OPT STEM extension was inappropriately implemented and ruled the program null and void. However, the judge also granted DHS time to appropriately implement the OPT extension. DHS has until February 12, 2016 to fix the inefficiencies.
What does this mean?
Right now, the OPT STEM extension program continues to be in effect.
What is DHS doing to fix the inefficiencies?
On October 19, 2015, DHS proposed changes to the STEM extension and posted it in the Federal Register. They allowed for 30 days of public comment which ended on November 18, 2015 and will still have to respond to all comments that were submitted.
What are some of these proposed changes?
– The 17-month extension would extend to a 24-month extension.
– The STEM extension could be based on a STEM degree from a previous level/degree program as long as it was received from another accredited U.S. institution.
– Students could apply for a second STEM extension based on completion of a second STEM degree.
– The employer would be required to set up and document a formal mentor and training plan during the STEM extension period.
More information about DHS’s proposed STEM extension changes can also be found online through the Federal Register.
Once an official decision has been made, our office will notify students of any changes. Since the OPT STEM extension is still in effect, current and new applications are valid and will be processed until February 12, 2016 or if a final ruling is made before then.
To review our current process for a STEM extension, please go to the OPT STEM extension page on the ISSS website.