The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has announced a new rule that will allow certain foreign students with science and technology degrees to extend their optional practical training period by 24 months.
The official version of the new regulation was published in the Federal Register on Friday, March 11, 2016 and is predicted to affect nearly 50,000 students in its first year and an estimated 92,000 people within the ensuing decade.
Under the new rule, certain foreign students in F-1 status with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math from U.S. schools will be able to extend their initial 12-month OPT period, by an extra 24 months, for a total of 36 months.
Currently, certain STEM students are only able to extend their OPT period, which allows F-1 students and graduates to temporarily work in the U.S., by 17 months. The new rule will boost the available work period for some foreign graduates by seven months.
If a 17-month STEM OPT work permit was issued before May 10, it will remain valid until it expires, but beginning May 10, students will have a chance to apply for the additional seven months of OPT.
The new extension rule will also require formal training plans by employers and added wage protections for STEM students and U.S. workers.
“The new rule for STEM OPT will allow international students with qualifying degrees to extend the time they participate in practical training, while at the same time strengthening oversight and adding new features to the program,” said Lou Farrell, the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s student exchange unit.
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