Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP

DHS Submits New Proposed Rule on Expanding F-1 STEM OPT


On October 2, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a new proposed rule on expanding F-1 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) optional practical training (OPT). The rule awaits OMB approval before it can be published for public comment.

Among other developments, in November 2014, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson noted that his agency would like to:

expand the degree programs eligible for OPT and extend the time period and use of OPT for foreign STEM students and graduates, consistent with law. I am also directing ICE and USCIS to improve the OPT program by requiring stronger ties to degree-granting institutions, which would better ensure that a student’s practical training furthers the student’s full course of study in the United States. Finally, ICE and USCIS should take steps to ensure that OPT employment is consistent with U.S. labor market protections to safeguard the interests of U.S. workers in related fields.

A court order in August 2015 vacated for procedural reasons a 17-month STEM extension under the 2008 STEM OPT extension rule because DHS did not allow for public comment. The court, however, stayed the vacatur and allowed the rule to remain in place until February 12, 2016, “during which time DHS can submit the 2008 Rule for proper notice and comment.”

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