stemChanges to the OPT program for foreign university students

Within the series of executive actions taken by President Obama on November 20, 2014, one in particular affects foreign university students.

Currently, foreign students in the United States on student visas may request twelve additional months of F-1 visa status for “optional practical training” (OPT), which allows them to extend their time in the United States for temporary employment in their field of study. Under the OPT program, approved by the university they are enrolled at, foreign students are able to gain practical experience in their fields by working with employers in the United States.

Foreign students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are eligible for an additional 17 months of OPT, for a total of 29 months. “This extension has the added benefit of helping America keep many of its most talented STEM graduates from departing the country and taking their skills overseas.”

Within the executive orders of November 20, 2014, USCIS and other related agencies have been directed to improve the OPT process by expanding the degree programs eligible for OPT and extending the time period and use of OPT for foreign STEM students.

As new regulations and guidance are issued, we will keep you posted!