New Rule to Extend STEM Foreign Student Work Program

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a new rule in the Federal Register on Monday that would 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, part of President Obama's executive actions issued last November, 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.  

In addition, the proposed regulations aim to improve and increase oversight over STEM OPT extensions by, among other things, requiring the implementation of formal mentoring and training plans by employers, adding wage and other protections for STEM OPT students and U.S. workers, and allowing extensions only to students with degrees from accredited schools.

The rule offers myriad benefits, Institute of International Education President Allan E. Goodman told Politico Morning Education. Campuses say being able to offer the possibility of staying in the U.S. for training is critical to recruiting high-caliber students.

The comment period on the proposed new rule is open through November 18.


Related Links

Federal Register

Politico Morning Education