DHS publishes new International Entrepreneur Rule

On January 17, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") published a final rule in the Federal Register concerning regulations to implement new International Entrepreneur parole authority. DHS lists increasing and enhancing entrepreneurship, innovation and job creation as its goals for this new rule which is scheduled to become effective on July 17, 2017. The rule provides guidance for the use of parole - on a case-by-case basis - for entrepreneurs of start-ups who can demonstrate they would provide significant public benefit to the U.S. through evidence of "substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation." Among the criteria adjudicators would consider are receipt of capital investment from U.S. investors with established records of successful investments and obtaining significant awards from certain Federal, State or local government entities. A foreign national who receives a grant of parole under this new rule would be permitted an initial stay of up to 30 months in the U.S., with the possibility of an additional 30 month extension to facilitate the applicant's ability to oversee and grow her or his start-up in the U.S.

We expect to bring you a detailed summary of this new rule in our February newsletter.

Reminder: USCIS filing fee increase and new regulations affecting high-skilled workers are now in effect

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") published its final rule in the Federal Register on October 24, 2016 announcing the new fee schedule for applications.  The new rule increases fees for most applications and petitions by a weighted average of 21%. Please refer to our update from November 2016 with examples of the fee increases for some of the most common types of applications and petitions.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") published a final rule in the Federal Register on November 18, 2016 announcing a number of important changes and codifying existing agency policy regarding high-skilled non-immigrant workers, EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 immigrant workers and their employers. A detailed summary of this new rule, which went into effect on January 17, 2017, can be found in the News and Updates section of our firm's website.

DHS publishes new regulations affecting high-skilled non-immigrants, EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 immigrant workers, and their employers

On November 18, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) published its final rule affecting high-skilled nonimmigrant workers, EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 immigrant workers and their employers. This new rule becomes effective January 17, 2017 and contains a number of important changes, as well as codifies a great deal of existing agency policy, including the following provisions:

Immigrant Petitions

  • The new rule expands the list of events that can lead to a loss of a priority date. An individual may be stripped of a priority date if the underlying employment based immigrant visa petitions is revoked for fraud, or a willful misrepresentation of a material fact, if DOL revokes an underlying labor certification, if a USCIS or DOS officer invalidates a Labor Certification, or if USCIS determines that the original petition was approved based on a material error.
  • Codifies that an approved I-140 remains valid where USCIS determines that a new job offer is in the same or similar occupation as listed in the original approved I-140.
  • Explicitly confirms the long-standing policy that an approved petition remains valid indefinitely unless approval is revoked by USCIS or the DOS.
  • Provides a new basis for a narrow group of individuals in valid H-1B, L-1, H-1B1, O-1 and E-3 status to obtain employment authorization independent of their current status. A nonimmigrant in one of the aforementioned statuses who is the beneficiary of an approved I-140, is subject to an immigrant visa retrogression, and who can demonstrate “compelling circumstances” may now apply for employment authorization. USCIS has provided examples of compelling circumstances such as serious illness or disability of the nonimmigrant or a dependent family member “that entails the worker moving to a different geographic area for treatment or otherwise substantially changing his or her employment circumstances.” If an individual can establish compelling circumstances, USCIS may in the exercise of discretion issue an Employment Authorization Document or Card (EAD) valid in one year increments. Once the principal worker is granted an EAD under the new rule, his or her spouse and children may also apply. Unfortunately, USCIS makes clear that use of employment authorization granted by the new rule will generally result in a loss of nonimmigrant status and result in, at a minimum, a temporary ineligibility for adjustment of status.
  • For renewals for these “compelling circumstance” EADs, the principal worker will need to demonstrate he or she is still subject to an immigrant visa retrogression and compelling circumstances continue to exist. Alternatively, renewals are authorized if the worker’s priority date is one year or less from the Final Action date on the Visa Bulletin in effect at the time the extension application is filed. The principal worker’s spouse and children may apply for a renewal at the same time as the principal worker, but their applications hinge on the principal’s being approved.

Revocation of Approval of Immigrant Petitions

  • Modifies the existing revocation rules in light of INA §204(j). The amended revocation rule provides that an employer’s written withdrawal an approved employment based preference petition 180 or more after the petition’s approval or 180 or more days after an associated application for adjustment of status has been filed remains approved for purposes of I.N.A. §204(j).  Prior to this amendment, a written withdrawal would lead to an automatic revocation of the petition.
  • Also modifies the existing rule regarding situations where the petitioning employer ceases business.  An approved petition will remain valid if the petitioning employer ceases business 180 or more days after the petition’s approval or 180 or more days after the filing of an associated application for adjustment of status for purposes of 204(j).  Again, prior to this amendment, a petitioning employer’s termination of business was an event that triggered automatic petition revocation.

Non-immigrant Classes

  • The new rule allows individuals coming to the U.S. in E-1, E-2, E-3, L-1 and TN nonimmigrant classifications to be admitted up to 10 days prior to the beginning of their authorized employment to permit them sufficient time to arrive, get settled, and begin employment (similar to what is permitted already for H-1B visa holders). These same individuals should also see their admission period include 10 days at the end of their period of authorized employment to permit them time to depart the U.S. or extend, change or otherwise maintain lawful status.
  • Establishes by regulation a grace period of up to 60 consecutive days during each authorized validity period for a number of visa categories, including for E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1, and TN non-immigrants, in order to permit these high-skilled workers the ability to pursue new employment and an extension of their nonimmigrant status without having to depart the U.S. or needing to file a change of status request to B-2 or dependent non-immigrant status.
  • Codifies and expands portability rules previously established under AC21 and subsequent agency guidance, including:
    • An H-1B nonimmigrant may begin concurrent or new employment upon the filing of a non-frivolous H-1B petition on his/her behalf, or at the start date of a requested petition –whichever is later.
    • Successive H-1B portability petitions are allowed – for example, if the H-1B worker was working at Company A, ports to Company B, and while Company B’s petition is still pending, the H-1B worker ports to Company C.
    • Requests to amend or extend any successive H-1B portability petition cannot be approved if a request to amend or for an extension of any preceding H-1B portability petition in the succession is denied, unless the worker’s previously approved H-1B status remains valid.
    • Denial of a successive portability H-1B petition does not preclude an H-1B worker from continuing or resuming working in accordance with a previously approved H-1B petition so long as that prior petition remains valid and the beneficiary has otherwise maintained H-1B status or been in a period of authorized stay and has not work without authorization.
  • Explicitly recognizes that some states permit non-licensed individuals to perform work that otherwise requires licensure if they do so under the supervision of a licensed senior or supervisory personnel. The new rule notes that USCIS will consider the nature of the duties, in addition evidence of the identity, physical location and credentials of the person who will be supervising the H-1B worker and the facts must demonstrate that alien will fully perform the duties of the occupation.
  • Confirms that DHS may approve, for up to 1 year, an H-1B petition on behalf of a worker who will be employed in a job that requires licensure by a state or local authority if the only things precluding the H-1B worker from obtaining the license are a lack of a social security number or proof of employment authorization, or similar technical requirement. Extensions for these individuals may not be approved unless the petitioner can demonstrate at the time of applying for the extension that the H-1B worker is now licensed in that position, or working in a different position or location that either requires a different license (which the H-1B worker has) or no licensure requirement is applicable in the new location.
  • Provides for more consistent adjudication for non-profit employers affiliated with institutions of higher learning and government research organizations filing cap-exempt H-1B petitions, including the potential for non-profit employers and government research organizations to pursue cap-exempt H-1Bs even if they have never previously petitioned for an H-1B employee.
  • Prior regs and interim policy memoranda had required cap-exempt non-profits to demonstrate the non-profit was connected to or associated with an institution of higher education through shared oversight or control by the same board or federation, was operated by an institution of higher education, or was attached to an institution of higher education as a member, branch, cooperative, or subsidiary, or proof the organization had been granted a cap-exempt H-1B in the past.  The new rule provides an additional option: proof that the non-profit has entered into a formal written affiliation agreement with an institution of higher education that establishes an active working relationship with the institution of higher ed for purposes of research or education, and that a fundamental activity of the non-profit is to directly contribute to research or education mission of the institution of higher education.
  • The new rule also expands cap-exempt status for government research organizations by clarifying that federal, state or local entities whose primary mission is the performance of basic and/or applied research may qualify as cap-exempt. The previous version of the regulations stated a government research organization was a “United States Government entity” so the expansion to state and local government entities engaged in research is notable.
  • In addition, an H-1B petitioner who is not a qualifying institution or organization may claim an exemption from the cap for H-1B employees if the majority of his/her duties will be performed at a qualifying institution, organization or entity, and those duties directly and predominantly further the essential purpose, mission or objectives of the organization (higher education or non-profit or government research).
  • Clarifies two existing policies of USCIS concerning employees working for cap-exempt and then cap-subjected employers: 1) that an H-1B nonimmigrant working for a cap-exempt organization must be counted against the cap when changing employers to a cap-subject employer if he/she has not previously been counted against the cap within the past 6 years, and 2) concurrent employment with a cap-exempt and cap-subject employer is permitted, but the H-1B nonimmigrant must continue to maintain the cap-exempt employment. Failure to do so may result in USCIS revoking the concurrent, cap-subject petition unless the beneficiary has been counted against the cap within the past 6 years or obtains a new cap-subject H-1B approval.
  • Codifies that time spent physically outside the U.S. exceeding 24 hours by an alien during the validity of an H-1B petition approved on the alien’s behalf does not count towards the 6 year maximum. The burden is on the H-1B petitioner to provide evidence in the form of passport stamps, I-94 records, and airline tickets, along with a chart, indicating 24 hour periods spent outside the U.S. when seeking to recapture time and extend the alien’s H-1B status.
  • Allows for extension of H-1B status beyond the 6 year maximum under 214(g)(4) when a petitioner can show more than 365 days have passed since it filed a labor cert with DOL under 203(b) or an immigrant visa petition with USCIS under 203(b).  Petitioners may file an H-1B petition seeking a lengthy adjudication delay exemption within 6 months of the requested start date, which may be before 365 days have elapsed since the filing of the Labor Cert or I-140.

Adjustment of Status to that of Person Admitted for Permanent Residence

  • EADs may not be issued to an application for adjustment of status under the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998 (HRIFA) until the AOS application has been pending for 180 days, with limited exceptions. If USCIS fails to adjudicate the applicants EAD upon expiration of the 180 day waiting period or within 90 days of filing the EAD application (whichever is later), the applicant shall be eligible for an EAD.
  • USCIS may require any applicants for adjustment of status based on an approved employment-based immigrant petition to affirmatively demonstrate to USCIS, on Form I-485 Supplement J that the employment offer by the petitioning employer is still valid or the applicant has a new offer of employment from the same petitioner, a new employer, or a new offer based on self-employment in the same or similar occupational classification as the employment offered in the original petition. The qualifying visa petition (the I-140) needs to have already been approved (and not revoked) or still pending when the beneficiary notifies USCIS of a new job offer 180 days or more after he or she filed an I-485 application, and the I-140 is subsequently approved. 

Control of Employment of Aliens

  • If an individual’s employment authorization is due to expire, the new regulations require employers to re-verify on Form I-9 (no later than date of expiration of current employment authorization) to reflect the individual is still work-authorized in the U.S. in order to continue his or her employment.
  • For persons presenting EADs for I-9, reverification applies upon the expiration of the automatically extended validity period for the EAD (discussed below) and not the expiration date indicated on the face of the EAD.
  • EADs that are issued to individuals who are not employment authorized incident to status (and including those filing based on Temporary Protected Status) will have their EADs automatically extended for up to 180 days from the date of their EAD expiration upon timely filing for an extension.
  • NOTE: the regulation that provides for automatic extension of EADs also removes the existing regulation requiring USCIS to adjudicate EAD applications within 90 days of receipt. It remains to be seen how this change will affect applicants for initial EADs.

Proposed rule would allow entrepreneurs temporary entry into the U.S.

On August 26, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") announced new proposed regulations to increase and enhance entrepreneurship, innovation, and job creation in the United States. DHS's proposed rule would add new regulatory provisions permitting the use of parole/temporary stay on a case-by-case basis with respect to entrepreneurs of start-up entities whose entry into the U.S. would provide a significant public benefit through the substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation. The regulations describe several metrics for assessing this potential, including the receipt of significant capital investment from U.S. investors with established records of successful investments or obtaining significant awards or grants from certain federal, state or local government entities. 
If granted, parole would provide the entrepreneur a temporary, initial stay of up to 2 years, with the possibility of being extended by up to an additional 3 years, in order to facilitate the entrepreneur's ability to oversee and grow her or his start-up entity in the U.S. DHS would consider subsequent requests for re-parole only when the entrepreneur can demonstrate the start-up entity continues to provide a significant public benefit as evidenced by substantial increases in capital investment, revenue, or job creation.

DHS published its notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register, inviting public comment for 45 days - until October 10, 2016. Once the comment period closes, the agency will review comments received and consider changes to the proposed regulations, publishing a final rule in the Federal Register at a later date. You may submit comments on the proposed rule by e-mail at uscisfrcomment@dhs.gov with DHS docket number USCIS-2015-0006 in the subject line of the message. Iandoli Desai & Cronin P.C. will continue to bring you updates on this new proposed rule in our newsletter and on our website at www.iandoli.com/newsandupdates.

DHS expands provisional waivers

The Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") published a final rule on July 28, 2016 that expands provisional unlawful presence waiver eligibility. Generally, individuals who are in the U.S. and seek lawful permanent resident ("LPR") status (commonly referred to as "green card" status) must either obtain an immigrant visa abroad through consular processing with the Department of State ("DOS") or apply to adjust their status to that of an LPR while they remain in the U.S. Individuals present in the U.S. without having been inspected and admitted or paroled, or who have overstayed a previously valid visa are typically ineligible to adjust status and instead have to depart the U.S. to process their immigrant visas abroad. However, once these individuals depart the U.S., if they have been present in the U.S. without having been inspected and admitted or paroled, or if they overstayed a previously valid visa, they may trigger a 3 year or 10 year bar to re-admission into the U.S. based on accrual of unlawful presence. The Secretary of Homeland Security has had discretion to waive this ground of inadmissibility if the individual can demonstrate that refusal of his or her admission into the U.S. would result in extreme hardship to his or her U.S. citizen spouse or parent. Previously, the foreign national would have to attend his or her immigrant visa interview abroad, and then submit a Form I-601 and evidence of the hardship to USCIS for adjudication. This process resulted in foreign nationals being separated from their family members in the U.S. for extended periods of time while awaiting adjudication of the Form I-601. 
In 2013 DHS implemented a final rule that allowed certain immediate relatives of U.S. citizen spouses and parents to submit a Form I-601A while still in the U.S., accompanied by evidence of extreme hardship their family would face if they were unable to return to the U.S. after immigrant visa processing. USCIS adjudicates the Form I-601A prior to the foreign national departing the U.S. to attend his or her visa interview, thereby reducing the amount of time families are separated from one another while awaiting immigrant visas. The 2013 final rule permitted only immediate relatives - certain parents, spouses and children of U.S. citizens - to request the waiver. By granting the waiver prior to the foreign national departing the U.S., families experienced reduced hardships and lower processing costs for DHS and DOS. In 2015 DHS published a proposed rule to expand the class of individuals who could be eligible for provisional waivers to all statutorily eligible individuals regardless of their immigrant visa classification. The final rule, published August 1, 2016, expands consideration of hardship to include both U.S. citizen and LPR spouses and parents, and is now available to all preference category immigrants, individuals with approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions, and diversity lottery immigrants. A full copy of the rule can be viewed on the Federal Register website and newly eligible individuals may begin submitting Form I-601A beginning August 29, 2016.

Comment period closes for proposed USCIS fee increases

On May 4, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") published a proposed rule to increase USCIS filing fees an average of 21% across all application types and to add a few new fees to its existing fee schedule. USCIS indicated it was seeking fee increases for the first time in 5 years in order to cover its current costs for processing a variety of applications. A full copy of the notice and proposed fee changes can be found on the Federal Register website, and a summary of a few of the proposed fee changes can be found on our website. The notice and comment period, originally set to close on July 5, 2016, was extended to July 6, 2016, with DHS having received at least 340 public comments.

USCIS proposes significant fee increases for nearly all applications & petitions

On May 4, 2016, USCIS published a proposed rule to increase filing fees an average of 21% across all application-types and add a few new fees to its existing fee schedule. The agency noted the current fees, set in 2010, are not sufficient to cover the full costs of the services USCIS provides. In hopes of providing better service, reducing wait times and increasing enforcement efforts, USCIS announced its proposed fee increases, which include the following changes for common applications:

  • Form I-129 (H-1B, L-1, O-1, TN, E) would increase from $325 to $460 (42%)
  • Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker would increase from $580 to $700 (21%)
  • Form I-485 Application to Adjust Status for adults would increase from $1,070 to $1,225 (16%)
  • Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative would increase from $420 to $535 (27%)
  • Form N-400 Application for Naturalization would increase from $680 to $725 (8%)

The proposed rule in its entirety can be viewed on the Federal Register website. Comments are due by July 5, 2016 and can be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov.  All submissions should include the DHS Docket No. USCIS-2016-0001. 

DHS announced major changes for employers and F-1 students on STEM OPT

On March 11, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") published its new rule on STEM OPT. Previously, F-1 students who came to the U.S. and graduated with a degree in a STEM field were eligible for a 17 month extension to the existing one year of work authorization for their period of Optional Practical Training ("OPT"). As a result of litigation over the 2008 rule that authorized STEM OPT, DHS published a new rule that includes significant changes for employers, F-1 students, and Designated School Officials ("DSOs") at U.S. colleges and universities. The new regulations include a 24 month extension to OPT, a new requirement for a training plan signed by employers, a requirement employers report wages offered to F-1 students on STEM OPT, and provisions for the transition period between now and the rule taking effect on May 10, 2016 for students currently on STEM OPT. To read a detailed summary of the new rules, visit our firm's website and click the News and Updates tab.

Breaking News: Major Changes for Employers & F-1 Students on STEM OPT

In the March 11, 2016 Federal Register, the Department of Homeland Security published its new rule entitled "Improving and Expanding Training Opportunities for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students with STEM Degrees and Cap-Gap Relief for All Eligible F-1 Students."  A full copy of the rule, effective May 10, 2016, can be found on the Federal Register's websiteNot only are there major changes for F-1 students, but there are also significant new requirements for employers of F-1 students on STEM OPT and Designated School Officials (“DSO”s) at colleges and universities F-1 students attend.  


International students who come to the U.S. on F-1 visas to study at colleges and universities can participate in optional practical training (“OPT”), providing eligible students with one year of work authorization in the U.S. after completing their degrees, so long as their work is directly related to their fields of study. Under DHS’s 2008 regulations, students who completed a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (“STEM”) were eligible for a 17-month extension to their OPT (referred to as STEM OPT), provided the employment was still related to their field of study and required all employers of F-1 students on STEM OPT to enroll in E-Verify.

In response to a lawsuit filed in 2015 that alleged DHS’s 2008 regulations violated the notice and comment provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act, DHS revised its STEM OPT regulations and published a new proposed rule on October 19, 2015. DHS received over 50,000 comments to its new rule. Due to the ongoing litigation concerning the 2008 regulations, DHS requested the federal district court hearing that case to allow the 2008 regulations to remain in place until May 10, 2016.  The federal district court granted DHS’s request and on Friday, March 11, 2016, DHS published its new final rule on STEM OPT in the Federal Register, scheduled to take effect May 10, 2016.

DHS’s new rules include many important changes for students, employers, and DSOs.  The regulations also address the transitional period for F-1 students currently on STEM OPT or who have recently applied for their STEM OPT and clarify travel provisions during cap-gap. Several major highlights of the new rules include:


  • F-1 students who graduate from an accredited U.S. college or university with a STEM degree are now eligible for a 24 month extension to their OPT, provided the student and their employer take certain necessary actions.
  • This rule opens up STEM OPT for F-1 students twice in their academic career in the U.S. Previously, a student could only seek one lifetime STEM extension to OPT, regardless of whether the student earned two STEM degrees (example, bachelors in engineering and then a masters in engineering, or a masters and then a Ph.D.). Now students will be eligible for 1 year of regular OPT after each degree level, plus 24 months of STEM OPT for each qualifying STEM degree, with a maximum of two STEM OPT extensions. 
  • F-1 students can seek this extension based on their most recent degree or a previously earned STEM degree, provided that degree was earned within the past 10 years at a qualifying, accredited U.S. college or university. For example, if an F-1 student earned her bachelor's in engineering and then pursued an MBA, that student can seek a STEM extension to her OPT after completing her MBA, so long as the offered employment relates to the STEM degree. 
  • The new rule increases the limits on unemployment during the STEM OPT period. During OPT a student is allowed a maximum of 90 days of unemployment and under the previous rule the STEM extension added 30 days of unemployment for a maximum of 120 days of unemployment. Under the new rule, the STEM extension adds 60 days for a total unemployment period of 150 days over the aggregate 3 years of OPT and STEM extension. 
  • The rules update the degrees that qualify for STEM extension. The updated STEM Designated Degree Program List is available on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's webpage.
  • In light of the required training program with employers, discussed below, self-employment is no longer permitted during STEM OPT. F-1 students must work a minimum of 20 hours per week with their STEM OPT employers. Students can still work for multiple employers but the employment at each job must meet the STEM OPT requirements, including the 20 hours per week minimum and training plans. Volunteering is also not permitted for satisfying the 20 hour per week minimum under STEM OPT.
  • In order for a school's DSO to authorize a student for a STEM OPT extension, the student must provide the DSO with a formal training plan on Form I-983, signed by the employer and the student. The DSO can then authorize the period of STEM OPT on the student's Form I-20, which the student will need for filing his or her application for extending employment authorization with USCIS.


  • E-Verify enrollment is still required for all employers who seek to hire F-1 students on STEM OPT.
  • The new rule includes reporting and training requirements that students and their employers must undertake.  Most notably, a student must draft and an employer must sign a formal training plan on new Form I-983. The final form I-983 is now available on the Department of Homeland Security's Study in the States website.  
  • The training plan will describe the training the student employee can expect to receive, how the training goals will be achieved, describe a performance evaluation process, disclose the wage the employee will be paid, and include several required attestations the employer must make, notably: 
  • The employer has the resources and personnel to provide the F-1 student with the appropriate training; 
  • The student employee will not replace a full or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker; and, 
  • The compensation to the student employee is commensurate to that provided to similarly situated U.S. workers, and if the employer does not employ or has not recently employed at least two other U.S. workers performing similar duties, the employer is obligated to obtain information about other employers offering similar employment in the same geographic area. 
  • To remain in compliance for work authorization, the F-1 student employee is required to submit to his or her school's DSO a self-evaluation of progress towards the training goals 12 months into the employment and at the conclusion of the 24 months of OPT STEM employment, countersigned by the employer.
  • The employer is required to report to the school's DSO a student's termination or departure of an OPT student within five business days if the termination or departure occurs prior to the end of the authorized period of OPT. Employers shall consider a student to have departed when the employer knows the student has left the practical training opportunity or has not reported to work for a period of five consecutive business days without the consent of the employer.
  • To ensure compliance with all the details contained in the training plan, DHS may conduct site visits to employers upon providing 48 hours notice. If DHS receives any complaints or suspects non-compliance, it may conduct site visits without notice. 


  • USCIS will begin accepting 24 month STEM OPT employment authorization applications (Form I-765) on May 10, 2016.
  • Any F-1 student who has applied for STEM OPT and whose I-765 application is still pending as of May 10, 2016 will receive a Request for Evidence ("RFE") from USCIS providing the student the opportunity to amend his or her 17 month STEM request to the full 24 month STEM period without having to pay a new application fee.
  • An F-1 student who receives this RFE who wishes to take advantage of the additional 7 months of STEM OPT must obtain a new I-20, endorsed on or after May 10, 2016, which will require the student to provide his or her DSO with a training plan on Form I-983, signed by the student's employer.
  • A student who presently has a valid 17 month extension of STEM OPT has a limited window in which to timely file for a 7 month extension to obtain the benefit of the full 24 months of STEM OPT.  F-1 students who fall into this category must provide their DSO with a training program, obtain a new I-20 dated on or after May 10, 2016, must file on or before August 8, 2016 (90 days after this rule goes into effect) and at the time of filing the I-765 students must have at least 150 days left in their current 17 month STEM OPT period.

We expect USCIS will be providing additional guidance over the coming weeks to advise on a number of the changes in the new rule. Please check our website at www.iandoli.com/newsandupdates for the latest changes to the STEM OPT rules and any other immigration-related news

OPT STEM Update - Current STEM OPT rules stay in place until May 10, 2016

On Friday, January 23, 2016, the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the vacatur of the present STEM OPT rules be stayed until May 10, 2016.  This action comes as a relief to international students currently on F-1 OPT STEM extension or who are eligible for such extension, as well as their employers and their schools' international student offices.  Pursuant to this latest order, the current 17-month extension of OPT, available to students who graduated from a U.S. college or university with a STEM degree, will remain in place until at least May 10, 2016 while we await publication of the final rule on STEM OPT from the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS").

To recap, the Washington Alliance of Technology workers sued DHS last year, arguing that DHS had not engaged in proper notice and comment when it promulgated the 2008 regulations that enabled F-1 students to seek an 17-month extension of work authorization pursuant to their period of Optional Practical Training ("OPT")  after completing their studies in the U.S.  In August 2015, the U.S. District Court agreed with the Washington Alliance of Technology workers and ordered the current STEM OPT rules that allowed for a 17 month extension in work authorization be vacated as of February 12, 2016 unless DHS corrected its procedural deficiency.  In October 2015, DHS published the new proposed STEM OPT rule and received over 50,000 comments in response. On December 22, 2015, DHS filed a motion requesting the court permit the existing STEM OPT extension program to continue until May 10, 2016 to enable the agency time to address a majority of the comments received when publishing its final rule.  This most recent order, dated January 23, 2016 and available to view here, allows DHS's motion and thus extends the existing STEM OPT program rules from 2008 through the spring.  

We expect DHS will publish its final rule in the coming months with a number of important changes to the STEM OPT program.  The attorneys of Iandoli, Desai & Cronin P.C. will continue to post updates on this important news at www.iandoli.com/newsandupdates.  You can contact us at info@iandoli.com with your questions about STEM OPT, the proposed regulations, and any other immigration related questions.