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DHS Final Rule for STEM Students and Cap-Gap Relief


DHS Final Rule for STEM Students and Cap-Gap Relief

Following much anticipation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is issuing a final rule that will allow certain foreign students with science, technology, math, or engineering (STEM) degrees to extend their optional practical training or “OPT” period by two years. The rule will take effect May 10, 2016.

As previously reported on our blog, agency regulations from 2008 were the subject of litigation because DHS failed to follow established procedures for their implementation. Per an order from a district court judge overseeing the case, DHS had to implement regulations, following the proper procedure, by a certain date, or STEM OPT would expire. This, of course, left many students panicking about their futures.

Fortunately, DHS properly implemented a new rule by the court-imposed deadline. The final rule will give STEM graduates a total of three years of OPT – an increase from the 29 months they are afforded under current regulations. The rule also imposes strict new requirements on students and employers to ensure integrity and compliance. These include, among other things, a requirement for individualized training plans developed by the employer and student; requiring the student to regularly report to the university’s designated school official; and allowing extensions only to students with degrees from accredited schools.

We are relieved to know that talented and motivated students have the option to stay in the United States in STEM OPT status for up to three years after graduation.

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