The previously announced three year extension to the Optional Practical Training (OPT) period for graduate students who are on an F1-Visa and enrolled in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses at US educational institutions comes with various restrictions that could likely keep some from benefiting from it. The Department of Homeland Security initially announced the amended regulations to the STEM OPT program on March 11, 2016.
The key restrictions to the 36-month extension, affective May 10, 2016, will be as follows:
- OPT grants must have at least 150 days remaining before an extension can be sought after under the new rule whereas before, the maximum OPT period for STEM students was 29 months. This means that students that currently have STEM OPT grants that expire before October 7, 2016 will not be eligible for an extension under the new rule.
- While F1-Visa students can continue to benefit from their current STEM OPT grants, Those who’s STEM OPT periods end before May 10, 2016, will also be restricted from seeking an extension.
- Employers of STEM OPT grant holders will be required to create and maintain a detailed individualized training program on a new Form I-983.
The Department of Homeland Security initially announced the revision to the number of months that STEM students may work in order too assist companies who may wish to continue the employment of students through an H-1B application. However, it is clear that while it may benefit some, its restrictions will also shunt many from participating.
For additional information on the amended regulations to the STEM OPT program, the changes can be seen on the Federal Register.