DHS Expands STEM OPT Fields for International Students
On July 12, 2023, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added eight fields of study to the Designated Degree Program List qualifying F-1 students to secure a STEM OPT (science, technology, engineering, mathematics Optional Practical Training) extension of employment authorization.
The change provides more international students with the opportunity to gain additional practical experience by temporarily working in the U.S. These updates are part of the Biden Administration’s ongoing efforts to provide additional pathways for STEM students and researchers to continue ongoing research efforts in the U.S. In its 2016 STEM OPT Final Rule, DHS indicated it would continue to make ongoing updates to this list, in keeping with changes to STEM fields, academic programs and/or technological trends.
STEM OPT Program
OPT allows certain F-1 students to undertake 12 months of practical work experience related to their area of study either during or following the completion of their degree program. Typically, the program allows students to work for 12 months. Students who have earned a degree in a designated STEM field are eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of OPT, allowing them to work for a total of 36 months
New STEM Fields of Study
The newly designated fields of study include:
- Landscape Architecture
- Institutional Research
- Mechatronics, Robotics, and Automation Engineering Technology/Technician
- Composite Materials Technology/Technician
- Linguistics and Computer Science
- Developmental and Adolescent Psychology
- Geospatial Intelligence
- Demography and Population Studies
What Employers and Students Need to Know
The notice impacts qualifying F–1 nonimmigrant students seeking a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT. Employers and students should review DHS’s STEM Designated Degree Program List for the complete list of fields that qualify and confer with immigration counsel regarding associated compliance requirements.
Students seeking an OPT STEM extension with an E-Verify employer must work with their employer to complete Form I–983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students” and must apply to renew their initially granted OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) during its validity period by filing Form I–765, “Application for Employment Authorization” with USCIS.
For additional information, please contact your designated Gibney representative or email firstname.lastname@example.org.