Monday, October 26, 2015

Update: Added Benefits Proposed for STEM OPT Extension


By Jordan Friedman
World Education Services

We've recently been blogging about a judge's decision to vacate the rule that grants international STEM students in the U.S. an additional 17 months in the country after working for a year in their field. Well, now have more updates for you.

Let's start from the beginning: Back in August, a judge ruled in the case Washington Alliance of Technology Workers v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security that the extension period would be revoked starting Feb. 12, 2016, because it fails to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act.

Still, a legal expert told us that he expects that the program to continue as legal proceedings progress. We also blogged earlier this month that the Department of Homeland Security had sent its proposed regulation to the Office of Management and Budget for review. 


While the contents hadn't officially been released until earlier this month, legal experts said that the proposed regulation was expected to allow the STEM extension to not only remain but also add benefits such as a longer extension period.

In the latest update, The National Law Review reports, that's exactly what it does.

According to The Review, there are a few changes that could take place, but it's important to note that the amendments still need to be reviewed, analyzed, and approved. Among the proposed changes:
  • The length of time for OPT extension: A student would be able to request a 24-month extension, rather than a 17-month one if he or she holds a STEM degree.
  • An expanded definition of STEM: The STEM field will be defined as a "field included in the Department of Education's CIP taxonomy, which will include more fields and greater clarity," according to The Review. 
  • A new mentoring and training plan: Employers must institute a "formal training program for the benefit of the student." (There was no current provision on this subject.)
  • Previously obtained STEM degrees: Students who graduated from a U.S. school in the past decade prior to applying for the extension (and haven't done so in the past) can request it if their degree is directly related to the occupation and is from an accredited institution (there was no current provision on this subject).
  • Safeguards to workers: Employers will be required to affirm that they have the resources they would need for mentorship and training and that they won't terminate or lay off a U.S. worker in favor of the STEM OPT student. Also, the employer will affirm that they are compensating the OPT student as they would with "similarly situated U.S. workers" (there was no current provision on this subject).

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