New Rules Proposed for Optional Practical Training

February 26, 2016 | Corporate

An F-1 Visa allows foreign nationals to enter the United States to study full time at an academic institution.  Qualifying academic institutions include an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, or elementary school.

Students on an F-1 Visa can participate in an Optional Practical Training (OPT) while they are still attending school (pre-completion OPT) or after they graduate (post-completion OPT), or both. A student on a F-1 Visa is authorized to obtain up to twelve (12) months of full-time training at each educational level, including undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate levels. Students who graduate with a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) degree qualify to apply for an additional 17-months of post-completion OPT (STEM extension).  Students with a STEM degree are therefore eligible for a total of 29 months of OPT.

On October 19, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking in an attempt to improve and increase opportunities for students on an F-1 Nonimmigrant Visa. This proposal would allow F-1 STEM students who elected to participate in a twelve (12) month-STEM OPT in the United States to extend the OPT period for an additional twenty-four (24) months. This regulation would essentially replace the seventeen (17) month STEM extension with a twenty-four (24) month STEM extension.

The proposal also includes additional regulations that benefit STEM eligible students. These regulations include requiring employers to implement mentoring and training programs to enhance students’ “academic learning through practical experience.” Additionally, an employer must attest that the employer has “sufficient resources and trained personnel available to provide appropriate mentoring and training in connection with the specified opportunity.” Further, the employers will be required to attest that they will not “terminate, lay off, or furlough any full- or part time, temporary or permanent U.S. workers as a result of providing the STEM OPT to the student.”

DHS has until May 10, 2016 to promulgate a final STEM OPT rule.

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