In general, Optional Practical Training(OPT) is available for 12 months for F1 students. But, someone with a degree in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is eligible to get additional 24 months of OPT. This was not the case in the past and STEM OPT was 17 months. The below page is a summary of the case, timeline and events tied to changing of STEM OPT from 17 months to 24 months.
Background for 24 month STEM OPT
A collective bargaining organization, Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, sued US Department of Homeland Security ( DHS) in March 2014 that the 17 month STEM OPT extension rule that was passed by DHS in April 2008 did not follow standard rule making process like notice and comment period and it is invalid.
The court finally gave a judgment on August 12th, 2015 stating that the STEM OPT extension rule will be vacated (canceled) from February 12, 2016, if DHS does not follow the formal process of notice and comment period and re-issue the rule. After the judgment, DHS Followed proper process and re-issued the STEM OPT rule and made it 24 months. Below is the timeline of events.
Latest News Updates on STEM OPT Extension Rule
- July 2021 : As of July 2021, STEM OPT Extension continues to be available and there are no issues around the same.
- May 10, 2016 : The 24 Month OPT rule is effective from May 10, 2016.You can check the full description of the rule at Federal Registry 24 Month Rule .
- March 11th, 2016 : The 24 Month STEM OPT Rule is officially published now as said previously. You can check the full description of the rule at Federal Registry 24 Month Rule .
- March 9th, 2016 : The STEM OPT Rule is officially ready to be published on March 11th, 2016. It is available as PDF for viewing as pre-publication. Check out the rule details and PDF link on Federal Register Official Site
- The PDF Version of STEM OPT Extension Rule can be downloaded
- The rule is effective from May 10th, 2016. There are some tricky clauses in it for current OPT students on 17 month OPT extension. We will publish an article after full review. Stay tuned.
- March 2, 2016 : The much awaited OMB review of final rule is complete. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs ( OIRA), which is part of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs completed the review of the propose 2016 OPT STEM Extension rule. See screenshot below. It is expected to be published in federal register the next few days, around March 10th. You can check the actual status update on RegInfo.gov Page
- Feb 5, 2016 : The STEM OPT Extension rule moved from draft to final rule and now submitted for OMB to review. We should very likely have the rule implemented as per the new deadline of May 10th. This must be a big relief for many F1 students and their employers. See below screenshot. You can go to RegInfo.Gov and select DHS in the graph to see below.
- In terms of the progress of the rule making process, we stand at the step 8, the last one before publication of the rule. You can see the status highlighted below that says “OMB Review Under Executive Order 12866” See screenshot below. For full steps on rule making check RegInfo.gov Rule making Steps
- Jan 23rd, 2016 : Judge formally issued notice that STEM OPT Deadline is extended till May 10th, 2016 ! This is in response to the original extension filed on Dec 23rd, 2015. Below is the official confirmation. Many may wonder is this official news, below are the official sources and links.
- Jan 21st, 2016 : The actual day of the hearing in the court regarding the extension. No decision was made during the session. Judge heard the case from the parties and said that the order will be issued after the review.
- Dec 23rd, 2015 : DHS filed a motion ( nothing but a request for court order/judgement ) requesting a delay for the STEM OPT termination deadline, which is originally Feb 12th, 2016. DHS indicated that they received unprecedented amount of comments, about 50,510 and they need to review all of them to formulate the new rule. Also, they indicate that DHS officicals need to be trained on the new process. They are requesting for total 90 days delay, of which 30 days are for rulemaking and 60 days are for training the personnel. See below. You may read the official motion document here
- Dec 15th, 2015 : Unfortunately, the previous update on Dec 9th from USCIS does not remain valid anymore. USCIS representative has called AILA and clarified that ” no decision has yet been made that if the STEM OPT EADs will be valid after February 12, 2016. It is still under review. It was updated by attorney Murthy
- December 9th :
STEM OPT Approvals Valid After Feb 12th( Not Valid as USCIS clarified on Dec 15th that they are still reviewing )
- As USCIS is still reviewing the comments and the final new OPT rule making is in process, USCIS Nebraska center gave clarification to AILA saying that, if you have STEM OPT approved beyond Feb 12th, your EAD will be valid and you can continue to work. There was confusion around this before, now it is clear
- Also, they confirmed that the students eligible for the 17 month OPT extension should continue to apply for the OPT and they will benefit and not be impacted with the Feb 12th deadline. This is a big relief for many students with approved OPTs. You may check the article of attorney murthy with this update.
- November 19th : The public comment period official closed at Nov 18, 2015 11:59 PM ET. There were about 50,000 comments submitted as part of the public comment open period. It is quite significant ! You may check out the details and comments at the STEM OPT Docket on Regulations. Gov Website
- October 19th : The New proposed 24 Month OPT Extension rule was published successfully to the federal register on Oct 19th and it is currently in 30 day comment period.
- October 16th : The New STEM OPT Extension rule will be published on October 19th to federal register. The pre-publication of the rule is available for everyone. Key highlights include 24 month OPT Extension for STEM Degree Students and 30 days comment period. Read full details Summary of the Proposed rule ( includes official references and links )
- October 2nd : DHS/ USCIS gave official update to SEVIS stakeholders that they are aware of the WashTech court ruling and working on the rule to have it re-issued before the deadline of Feb 12, 2016. Also, the official rule related information is published on RegInfo.Gov Website. Check all details here
- September 11th : White House Petition regarding the STEM OPT Extension reached 100,000 petitions and all the signees were notified regarding the same. We have no official news from Whitehouse yet on this.
- September 4th : (Unofficial Update) Couple of attorney’s websites are updated that Council for Global Immigration ( CGI) has updated them that the STEM OPT Extension rule is in its re-issue process by USCIS and will be published for 30 day or 60 day comment period late September or Early October. We just have to wait and see, so far nothing from official sources of DHS.( Source : http://www.natlawreview.com/article/dhs-expected-to-issue-stem-opt-rule-early-fall )
- August 30th : No official update from DHS / USCIS as of August 30th, 2015. All are in waiting mode. There are few bloggers and attorneys giving their own perspectives that the court ruling can be ignored as well. We will have to wait and see for DHS, cannot assume anything.
- August 18th, 2015 : DHS has released in a memo to its stake holders in the program stating that “currently reviewing the ruling and will issue additional guidance in the coming weeks on how this ruling impacts our stakeholders.” An article on Computer World says the same that DHS responded. Nothing official is posted on DHS or USCIS website yet for the public yet.
- August 17th, 2015 : No update yet from USCIS/ DHS on the court ruling. Everyone are waiting…
- August 12th, 2015 : Federal judge gave the judgment that OPT STEM Extension rule be vacated from Feb 12, 2016
Quick Summary of the STEM OPT Extension Cancellation Judgement :
A collective bargaining organization, Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, sued US Department of Homeland Security ( DHS) in March 2014 that the 17 month STEM OPT extension rule that was passed by DHS in April 2008 did not follow standard rule making process like notice and comment period and it is invalid. The court finally gave a judgement on August 12th, 2015 stating that the STEM OPT extension rule will be vacated ( cancelled) from February 12, 2016 , if DHS does not follow the formal process of notice and comment period and re-issue the rule. Read the below articles for full information and questions around the same.
What are the various Options that DHS / USCIS has for this court ruling ?
- Re-issue the rule by proper process of notice and comment period (As per October 2nd Update )
Appeal the judgement given by court at higher court Re-issue the rule and in parallel appeal the court ruling at higher court Ignore the court judgement of rule altogether as said by an Attorney ( pure speculation)
Latest Articles on the 17 Month STEM OPT Extension Rule :
- Complete Details on STEM OPT Extension Cancellation Judgement, Impact
- FAQs : Applying STEM OPT Extension, Validity to Work on OPT, Odds of Rule, etc.
Over 100,000 petitions were signed on this news to get White House Attention and official response. You can sign the OPT STEM Extension Petition
Some are claiming that this is fake news as it does not have signature and not covered by mainstream news. Unfortunately, they are wrong ! Below is the exact case judgement published on Court Website. You may look for Date 8/12/2015
Official News Sources/ References :
- Proposed Rule Official: RegInfo : OPT STEM Extension Rule
- Official Court Website : WATW vs US Dept of Homeland Security
- Official Court Opinions Page : 2015 Court Opinions – Look for 8/12/2015
- LexisNexis Legal News : STEM OPT Extension needs notice, comment
- Courthouse News : DHS to get public take on Tech Student Visas
- IRLI News : Federal Court Strikes down DHS Rule
- Computer World : OPT STEM rule gets Signatures
Actual Court Ruling Document