Whether you follow the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil or not, last month on Groundhog’s Day the little herbivore failed to see his shadow and an early Spring season was predicted.  This announcement was hopeful news for those of us still reeling from the blizzard that blanketed the District of Columbia metro area in late January this year.  But for F-1 students majoring in STEM degrees, Phil might as well have seen his shadow because a cold and bitter wind swept over them with the indecision from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about whether or not it would extend student visa regulations concerning optional practical training (OPT).

However at the last minute, the sun has come out for STEM students on this early, very Spring-like day: DHS disclosed that its final rule on extending STEM OPT for an additional 24-month period for eligible international students is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on the deadline, March 11, 2016, and will go into effect this May.  See 300-page rule at the Federal Register’s Public Inspection link at: https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-04828

Only STEM students working for U.S. employers who are registered with E-Verify will be able to take advantage of this STEM OPT extension for a total of 36 months.

This extension of STEM OPT comes at an opportune time:  the H-1B cap season for FY2017 is upon us and the numerical cap has been reached for the past 3 years within the first week of April, providing limited visa options for international students to work and remain in the U.S. after completing F-1 OPT.

Spring weather should come early more often…

Posted by: Cynthia Hemphill