The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released proposed regulations Oct. 19, 2015, on optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) degrees enrolled at accredited U.S. colleges and universities. The new regulations propose several changes to the existing regulations, including new burdens on colleges and universities with F-1 students and on employers who employ F-1 students working pursuant to OPT.

Among the proposed regulations are provisions that:

  • Require employers to implement a formal, customized Mentoring and Training Plan for students working pursuant to STEM OPT.
  • Authorize DHS to conduct on-site reviews at worksites.
  • Require the terms and conditions of a STEM OPT opportunity (e.g., duties, hours, and compensation) to be commensurate with those applicable to similarly situated workers.
  • Extend the OPT period from 17 months to 24 months for F-1 students who have earned a STEM degree.
  • Require F-1 students to provide their school with an evaluation of their STEM OPT every six months.
  • Provide clearer guidelines to determine the fields of study eligible for extended OPT.

The public is encouraged to comment on the proposed regulations through Nov. 18, 2015. The existing regulations, which have been followed since 2008, were vacated, in part, on procedural grounds on Aug. 15, 2015, by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The regulations were allowed to remain in place until February 2016, allowing DHS time to correct errors. If you have questions about F-1 student OPT or the proposed changes, please contact Toni Blackwood or Kelli Stout.