Great news for the students – Department of Homeland Security issued final rule on STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) optional practical training (OPT) effective from May 10th, 2016. This rule extends OPT period by 2 years in addition to 1 year already allowed for graduates in all fields. If a student submits Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization requesting a STEM OPT extension and such application is adjudicated before May 10th, 2016, the student’s Form I-765 will be adjudicated in accordance with 17 month STEM OPT regulations, which remain in place up until May 10th, 2016. USCIS will be applying the 24 month rule to any applications that are pending after May 10th, 2016 and will issue Request for Evidence to allow students to effectively amend their application for 24 month extension eligibility or refile their EAD application without incurring additional fee. For those who have an approved 17 month STEM OPT issued before May 9th, 2016 will remain valid till the EAD expires or is revoked. As a transitional measure, students with EADs from May 10th, 2016 through August 8th, 2016, will have limited window in which to apply for an additional seven months of OPT, along with meeting certain additional requirements.
Employers now face additional burdens to be able to hire the STEM students. Training program, a minimum number of hours and wages which are attested to and meet the labor market tests, in additional to recruitment is expected from the employer. A new form I-983 has to be completed and provided to the DSO for the student to work for an employer. We will discuss employer obligations, in our next update.
On another awaited update, USCIS received over 236,000 H-1B petitions for FY 2017, during the filing period including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On April 9th, 2016 USCIS used a computer generated random selection or lottery to select enough petitions to meet general category cap and under advanced degree exemption.