On March 11, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published amended regulations on OPT for International Students with STEM Degrees. The amended regulations will allow F-1 STEM students to be able to extend their OPT for an additional 24 months beyond the initial 12 months. Individuals who are already working on a STEM extension can apply for an additional 7 months under certain circumstances and must apply within a particular time-frame. Additionally, F-1 STEM students may receive up to two periods of STEM extension provided that they graduated from multiple degree programs. They can also use a previous STEM degree to qualify. These amended regulations will go into affect May 10, 2016. In order to assist school officials, students and employers understand the new regulations, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has launched a STEM OPT Hub (https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub), which includes resources such as a Transition Plan, Training Plan and a series of frequently asked questions.
As part of the amended regulations, employers must develop a formal training plan that clearly identifies the STEM OPT student’s learning objectives and the employer’s commitments to helping the student achieve these goals.