Federal Changes to 2008 DHS STEM OPT Extension Regulation

International students in the US in F-1 status may apply for a year of optional practical training (OPT) following their graduation, regardless of their major.  In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established a regulation granting additional OPT time for F-1 international students whose degrees are in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).  STEM graduates may apply for an additional 17 months of optional practical training, known as the STEM OPT extension. However recently a US federal court has overruled and withdrawn the STEM OPT extension, on the grounds that in 2008 the DHS failed to follow the proper procedure and give notice and receive public comment on the regulation before implementing it.
The Federal Court, in voiding the OPT extension, did acknowledge that there are already many F-1 STEM OPT students already utilizing it.  To immediately require them to withdraw from their jobs, would create immense hardship for the students, and cause major disruptions for the companies they work for.  Therefore, the Court has provided for existing F-1 STEM OPT students to remain in their current positions of employment until February 12, 2016.  Between now and February 2016, the DHS will resubmit the OPT extension regulation following the proper procedures for notice and public comment.
F-1 students to whom a STEM OPT extension has already been granted, may therefore continue in their current positions of employment until February, 2016. 
The expectation is that DHS will complete the proper process for the OPT extension regulation prior to the February 12, 2016 deadline, and hopefully avoid any disruption to students engaged in the employment authorization program.

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