International students holding F-1 visas may remain in the United States for a year of Optional Practical Training (OPT) after earning a degree if they are working, training, or interning in their field of study. Employed graduates with STEM degrees – that is, degrees in science, technology, electronics, and mathematics – may remain an additional 17 months.

On October 19, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a change to the OPT program that would allow international students with STEM degrees to stay and work in the United States for an additional 24 months rather than 17, or a total of 36 months rather than the current 29. If you are currently in the United States with an F-1 visa, immigration advice and help is available. You can speak with an experienced Las Vegas employment immigration lawyer regarding your visa and its provisions, qualifying for the OPT program, or applying for a change of your immigration status.

Under the new DHS proposal, the 24-month extension for F-1 STEM students would replace the current 17-month STEM-OPT extension. Additionally, eligibility for a STEM-OPT extension would expand to allow students to use a previously-earned STEM degree from an accredited school as the basis for a STEM-OPT extension.

This change would make the STEM-OPT extension available to students with a prior STEM background whose current OPT participation is based on a different degree. The DHS also proposes to require employers to submit formal mentoring and training plans and to add wage regulations giving STEM-OPT students the same protections provided to many other international workers. Like the current 17-month extension, the 24-month extension would be authorized only for STEM-OPT students working for employers enrolled in the E-Verify program.

International graduates – and the employers who hire them – should contact a reliable immigration lawyer at once for the comprehensive immigration help and advice you need. An experienced Las Vegas employment immigration attorney can help you avoid the common mistakes and misunderstandings, address your concerns, and provide the immigration experience and insights you need.