As you may have already heard, the Department of Homeland Security has submitted a new, revised rule regarding the STEM extension for Optional Practical Training. If approved the new rule would expand one of the few options for international students to work in the United States after they graduate. You can read the proposed rule here.

The proposed rule would make important improvements to the OPT STEM extension highlights include:

  • Increasing the STEM extension to 24 months (rather than 17 previously).
  • A provision allowing an OPT worker currently on the 17 month STEM extension to apply for the 24 months.
  • Increasing the period during which an OPT worker can be unemployed from the current 90 days and additional 30 days given to 17-month STEM extension recipients to 90 days and an additional 60 days for 24-month STEM extension recipients, giving more opportunity to find another OPT-qualified employer.
  • A requirement that OPT STEM extension workers receive equal compensation, hours, and duties as US workers.

The new rule would also require a student and their employer to write up a formal mentoring and training program to be submitted to their designated school before the institution could recommend a STEM OPT extension in the student’s SEVIS record, and evaluation procedures for STEM extension employees every 6 months, and that the student make a report back to the student’s designated school US university every 6 months. This provision would help ensure equal treatment for international workers during the OPT STEM extension.

While we believe the proposed rule makes important improvements to the OPT STEM extension, we believe the rule could have stronger mechanisms to enforce equal workplace rights, benefits and compensation for OPT workers and to ensure that any new costs associated with the rule do not get imposed on international students as new mandatory university fees.

Read the full proposed rule here. Please note that the new rules are only for candidates who are eligible for the STEM extension.

The public comment period for the new rule will end on November 18th. GWC-UAW will be leaving a comment, if you would like to get involved in this process please contact us. Individuals are also encouraged to comment. You can comment here.

Graduate Workers of Columbia International Student Working Group