United States: STEM OPT regulation to take effect May 10
The new STEM OPT regulation will take effect May 10. The regulation allows F-1 students with degrees in approved STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields to extend their Optional Practical Training for an additional 24 months (instead of the current 17-month extension) beyond the initial one-year OPT period. Students may be eligible for one additional STEM extension if they obtain a second U.S. STEM degree at a higher level. The regulation also imposes several new reporting requirements and other obligations on students, designated school officers and employers, including a formal training plan signed by the employer and student.
Additional key points:
- F-1 employees currently on the 17-month STEM OPT extension are eligible to apply for the additional seven months (for a total of 24 months) if they have at least 150 days remaining on their STEM extension at the time of filing. These applications can only be submitted between May 10 and Aug. 8, 2016.
- After May 10, USCIS will consider and grant only 24-month STEM extensions. Students who applied for a 17-month STEM extension before May 10 where USCIS does not make a determination by that date will receive a request for evidence to convert to a 24-month STEM extension. The rule does not apply to individuals with a 17-month STEM OPT expiring prior to Oct. 8.
- Students currently on OPT related to a non-STEM degree may apply for their STEM extension based on a previously earned U.S. STEM degree from a qualifying U.S. institution in the last 10 years as long as the training is directly related to the prior STEM degree.
- Employers must sign the training plan and certify the conditions of employment and non-displacement of U.S. workers. Termination of the F-1 employee’s employment must be reported to the designated school officer within five business days.
- Students must submit a self-evaluation signed by their employer every 12 months and reconfirm their participation with their designated school officer every six months. Failure to do so could result in a student having their record terminated by the Department of Homeland Security.
- DHS has authority to conduct site visits at the place of employment.
- The updated Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) will be released May 13, and DHS has developed workarounds for the SEVIS issue to ensure students are able to file on time.
An FAQ released by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement is available here.
BAL Analysis: Employers who need assistance and guidance with STEM Employment Authorization Document extensions may contact their BAL professional for specific advice. Given the short deadline for filing the seven-month extensions, special note should be given to these cases. Once on the new STEM Employment Authorization Document, employers will want to set up processes to notify BAL if an F-1/OPT employee’s job conditions change or if DHS contacts the employer to perform a site visit.
This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact BerryApplemanLeiden@balglobal.com.
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Source:Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP