On August 20, 2015, GLF had discussed the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia decision in Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech) v. DHS that vacated the 17-month Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension rule for Science, technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates and provided DHS until February 12, 2016 to go through a formal notice/comment rule making.
On October 19, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security issued a Proposed STEM OPT Extension Rule in the Federal Register that is now open for 30-day public comment, until November 18, 2015. We are not obviously certain that the Final Rule will retain all of the elements of the Proposed Rule, but here are some important provisions in the Proposed Rule:1. Change STEM OPT extension period from the current 17 months to 24 months
2. STEM OPT Extension period of 24 months will apply at each higher degree level (so, if you received 24 months STEM OPT extension after completing a Bachelor’s degree and you later complete a Master’s degree in the STEM field, you are eligible for the 24 month STEM OPT extension again at the Master’s level)
3. STEM extensions may be available for non-STEM degrees if the student had earned an earlier STEM degree and the new position is in the same STEM field (for example, if the student earned a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering and is working for a Civil/Design Engineering firm and later earns an MBA in Construction Management and the new position is in the Civil/ Design field, then he/she is entitled to STEM extension after MBA, even though the MBA is not a STEM field)
4. Employers hiring STEM OPT graduates must implement formal mentoring and training plans as well as have procedures for evaluating the STEM OPT employee
5. US worker protections are built into this rule including attestation regarding non termination of US workers as a result of the hiring of the STEM OPT employee
6. Only Accredited Schools are allowed to request STEM OPT extensions
7. DHS will extend site visits to cover STEM OPT employees as well
We anticipate that DHS will implement the Final Rule by February 13, 2016, in accordance with the vacatur in the WashTech decision. GLF will continue to monitor the progress of this proposed rule and issue an update when the Final Rule is published by the DHS. Please do not hesitate to contact GLF if you have any questions or need additional information regarding this announcement.