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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Final Rule for 24-Month STEM OPT Extension Released

The much anticipated final rule for the new, revised STEM OPT program is finally here.  It will be published on Friday, 03/11/2016, in the Federal Register.  However, an advance copy has been released by DHS, and the following is a summary of the key points:
  • A qualifying F-1 student with a STEM degree who has been granted 12 months of practical training pursuant to  the general OPT program may apply to DHS for a 24-month extension of his or her period of practical training . This new STEM OPT extension replaces the previous 17-month extension.
  • STEP OPT employment must be directly related to the student’s major area of study. 
  • Extension can be based on the student's most recent academic degree, or a degree earned previously in the United States (subject to certain requirements).
  • A qualifying student may apply for up to two, separate STEM OPT extensions upon completing two qualifying STEM degrees at different educational levels,
  • Each STEM OPT student and their employer must prepare and execute a formal training plan that identifies learning objectives and a plan for achieving those objectives.
  • DHS may conduct site visits of STEM OPT work locations.  Notice will generally be given unless there are specific complaints or other evidence of noncompliance with the regulations. 
  • There are four main reporting requirements imposed on students and designated school officials (DSOs).  First, the rule imposes a six-month validation requirement, under which a STEM OPT student and his or her school must work together to confirm the validity of certain biographical, residential, and employment information concerning the student, including the student’s legal name, the student’s address, the employer’s name and address, and current employment status. Second, the rule imposes an annual self-evaluation requirement, under which the student must report to the DSO on his or her progress with the practical training. The student’s employer must sign the self-evaluation prior to its submission to the DSO. Third, the rule requires that the student and employer report changes in employment status, including the student’s termination or departure from the employer. Fourth, both the student and the employer are obligated to report to the DSO material changes to, or material deviations from, the student’s formal training plan. 
  • Employers obligations are similar to before with some additional requirements:  The employer must be E-Verified; assist with the aforementioned reporting and training plan requirements; and attest that (1) it has sufficient resources and trained personnel available to provide appropriate training in connection with the specified opportunity; (2) the student on a STEM OPT extension will not replace a full- or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker; and (3) the opportunity helps the student attain his or her training objectives.

In spite of some additional requirements, the new rule's additional 24-month STEM OPT employment period will prove to be beneficial to both the foreign students (those with the educational background) and the U.S. employers. 

1 comment:

Prema said...

interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you

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