DHS Extends OPT for Foreign STEM Graduates

Days before the annual deluge of new H-1B filings is set to cascade upon a couple select federal service centers, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued new regulations giving certain foreign students a major boon.

On March 11, 2016, the agency issued new rules extending the amount of time that foreign nationals who graduate from U.S. universities and colleges have to work for U.S. employers. Under the current rules all foreign nationals who graduate from a U.S. college or university can work up to 12 months after graduation in a job correlating to their field of study. If the foreign national graduated in a STEM degree program they can apply for an additional 17 months, so long as the employer is enrolled in E-Verify. With the new rule, however, that extended period for STEM graduates is now 24 months. Thus, foreign nationals who graduate from a U.S. college or university with a STEM degree could work in the U.S. for up to 36 months post-graduation before the employer would need to sponsor them for a work visa, likely the H-1B.

This new rule will allow employers more opportunities to apply for H-1B visas for these highly skilled foreign nationals, which is important given the odds of being selected in the H-1B annual lottery are typically between 1 in 2 and 1 in 4, depending on the year and education history of the applicant.


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