Changes to regulations that would strengthen and enhance the process for foreign students with science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) degrees from US colleges and universities to get practical training experience in the United States have been proposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
“The enhancement of this regulation was announced as a part of President Obama’s November Executive Actions,” DHS said today in an announcement.
DHS said, “The optional practical training program, or OPT, allows nonimmigrant international students and new graduates to extend their time in the U.S. on their F-1 student visa status to gain on-the-job-learning for up to a year. The proposed rule would allow certain F-1 STEM students to extend their OPT period by 24 months with the appropriate mentoring and training by employers. The proposed rule would also improve and increase oversight over OPT STEM extensions.”
“Our nation will benefit from keeping international students here, educated in US colleges and universities here while they receive additional training, rather than sending them out of the country,” said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Sarah R. Saldaña. “At the same time, US employers will benefit from the increased ability to rely on the skills acquired by US educated-STEM students, as well as their knowledge of markets in their home countries.”
DHS said that, “By increasing access to OPT for STEM students, the proposed regulations will help US colleges and universities remain globally competitive in attracting international students in STEM fields. It also reforms the program to better ensure that practical training opportunities are designed to meet student needs, while requiring greater accountability of employers and students.”
The proposed rule is aimed at ensuring that F-1 students “gain valuable practical STEM experience through practical training that supplements knowledge gained in their academic studies.”
The proposed new rulemaking also seeks to improve and increase the oversight of STEM OPT by requiring implementation of formal mentoring and training plans by employers, and by adding wage and other protections for OPT students and US workers.”
“The proposed rule would only permit STEM OPT extensions to F-1 students with degrees from accredited schools, and whose employers are enrolled in US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ E-verify employment eligibility verification program,” DHS said.
The public comment period regarding the proposed new regulations ends on November 18, 2015.
For more information and to submitformal input on the proposed rule, visit the Federal Register.