By February 12, 2016 international students studying a STEM field will finally know just how long they can extend their OPT to work in the United States.
What is OPT?
OPT stands for Optional Practical Training and it allows international students on a F-1 visa to gain experience by working in the United States after graduation. OPT is good for 12 months, however, as of 2008 students who studied a STEM (science, technology, engineering, medicine) field could apply for a 17 month extension. This means STEM students had a total of 29 months on OPT.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wanted to replace the 17-month extension option with a 24-month extension option. This means STEM students could have up to a total of 36 months of OPT.
So, what are we waiting for?
On August 2, 2015 the U.S. District Court for D.C. said DHS didn’t follow “required procedures” when they extended the OPT period back in 2008. So what procedure are they referring to?
DHS never opened the proposal of the 17-month extension to the public for comments and feedback. Therefore, the court removed the 17-month extension.
Don’t panic. There wasn’t an immediate impact on anyone currently on an OPT STEM extension because the judge gave DHS until February 12, 2016 to follow the appropriate procedures for the new 24-month STEM OPT extension proposal.
People had up until November 18, 2015 to share comments and feedback regarding the new 24-month STEM OPT extension proposal. DHS received more than 43,000 comments, which you can read them all by clicking here.
We took a quick look through the comments…
First, just a few who do not agree with the 24-month extension proposal…(click to enlarge)
Now a few who agree with the 24-month extension proposal…(click to enlarge)
Now DHS must read through every single comment and respond so each individual knows that his/her comment was taken into consideration regarding the proposal. These comments could help bring changes/updates to the proposal if many people bring up something that wasn’t considered in the original proposal.
The Pros of the STEM OPT Extension
- The proposal provides “Cap-Gap” relief–meaning it would give F-1 students who filed a H-1B petition more time to see if they receive the H-1B and complete the change of status (you can only submit H-1B petitions in April and the employment authorization can’t happen until October 1)
What else is included in this proposal?
This proposal also addresses concerns regarding monitoring employers and universities. Concerns were brought up that students on OPT were not being paid fairly and also universities were approving OPT when it wasn’t related to the student’s field of study. The new proposal provides more oversight of employers and the Designated School Official (DSO) at a university will have a larger role in regard to OPT.
In addition, in the proposal OPT is referred to as a mentoring and training program, instead of being strictly work-related. This will provide a more quality experience for the students and more accountability to the employer.
So, We Wait…
By February 12 we should know if the proposal for 24-month STEM OPT extension passes. According to DHS, there are more than 140,000 students on OPT and of that more than 34,000 on the current 17-month STEM OPT extension.
Here at ISV Magazine we’ve read many articles making it sound like those on the now obsolete 17-month STEM OPT extension are just waiting for the impending doom of what is to come in February.
What do we think? –Just our opinion:
It would be absolute and utter chaos for both the students and the employers if the 24,000 students on the current STEM OPT extension would be forced to leave their current jobs in February. Either the current proposal will go through or the February deadline would be extended until the new proposal is revised. So just hang in there.
You can count on International Student Voice Magazine to bring you the latest updates regarding the STEM OPT extension proposal.