Changes to Guidelines for F-1 Nonimmigrant Student Visas

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) amended its F-1 nonimmigrant student visa guidelines for students who obtain degrees in in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) from colleges or universities in the United States and who elect to pursue an Optional Practical Training (OPT). Effective May 10, 2016, the F-1 students who complete a STEM degree, and who have elected to pursue 12 months of OPT, are able to extend their OPT period by 24 months. This rule replaces the prior rule which allowed students to obtain a 17 month OPT extension after their initial 12 month extension. In addition, the DHS’s new regulation requires formal training plans by employers, adding wage requirements, and only allowing extensions for students who have degrees from accredited universities.