DHS Seeks Extension on Foreign Student Work Rule

Last fall, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a new rule to extend the work authorization period known as the optional practical training program (OPT) for international students at U.S. universities with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Currently, international students in all fields of study get a 12-month work authorization period, while students in the STEM fields can get a 17-month extension. The proposed regulations would expand that OPT status for STEM students to 24 months. The rules would also allow international students who earn a second STEM degree at a higher level to be eligible for a second 24-month extension. 

The existing federal rule that enables international students in the STEM fields to qualify for an extra 17 months of post-graduation work authorization is due to be invalidated February 12. DHS filed a motion late last month with a federal judge requesting a 90 day extension of the deadline to May 10, 2016 to allow the new rule to be finalized and implemented. The extension, according to the motion, would "ensure an uninterrupted regulatory transition" and prevent hardship on the part of students.

DHS received a record-breaking 50,711 comments in response to the new OPT rule it proposed to replace the one that Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled invalid on procedural grounds.


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