Major Changes for Employers & F-1 Students on STEM OPT Go Into Effect May 10, 2016

On March 11, 2016 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its final rule 81 FR 13039, which will expand optional practical training (OPT) for students with U.S. degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) and create new obligations for F-1 students and F-1 employers starting May 10, 2016.

Extension period to increase from 17 to 24 months. 

  • Under the amended regulations, F-1 STEM students will be able to extend OPT for an additional 24 months beyond the initial 12-months, replacing the 2008 regulation that  allowed F-1 STEM students to receive a 17-month extension of OPT;

Reporting requirements for F-1 students and university officials. 

  • New reporting requirements include a six-month validation requirement, confirming the F-1 student applicant’s application for work authorization through the OPT program.
  • Second, F-1 students will be required to complete an annual self-evaluation for designated school officials to review.
  • Third, there is an affirmative requirement for both F-1 students to report any change in employment status or material departure from the adopted Training Plan. This is in addition to the previous requirement for F-1 employers to report similar changes to the designated school officials within five business days, which remains in effect for F-1 employers.

F-1 Employers Required to complete formal Training Plan with F-1 Student. 

  • Employers are needed to devise the training proposals for the seekers of the OPT at the application time and offer follow up evaluation reports during the applicant’s job.

DHS to conduct on-site visits. 

  • The new regulations state that DHS has discretion to conduct employer site visits to ensure F-1 employers meet the requirements of the OPT program. Generally, DHS will be required to provide notice 48 hours prior to the inspection, unless the visit is conducted in response to a complaint or evidence of noncompliance.

Cap-Gap Extension language clarified. 

  • DHS has revised the Cap-Gap extension regulation to clarifying, that the extension for F-1 students with pending H-1B petitions and requests for change of status, temporarily extends the OPT period until October 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

If you would like to get more information, please feel free to contact us at 206-838-8118.

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