The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued a final rule that allows foreign graduates of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (“STEM”) programs from U.S. universities an additional 24 months of F-1 Optional Practical Training (“OPT”) work authorization.

The new rule will be published in the Federal Register on March 11, 2016. It will not go into effect until May 10, 2016.

The new rule allows foreign students holding F-1 status and graduating with STEM degrees to extend their period of OPT from an initial period of 12 months to a total of 36 months. The new 24-month period was increased from a 17-month period. OPT allows F-1 students and graduates to work in the United States either during their schooling or after they graduate.

Currently, in order for F-1 students to be eligible for the STEM extension, they must be employed by employers who participate in E-Verify. Under the new rule, employers also will be required to implement formal training plans and add wage and other protections for STEM OPT students and U.S. workers.

See Proposed New OPT Rules: Up to 3 Years OPT for STEM + Cap-Gap Relief for more information.