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DHS proposes that certain F-1 STEM students be permitted to extend the OPT period by 24 months

The U.S. District Court struck down the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) Extension rule because according to the court, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) failed to follow the procedures required for a new rule. The court, however, allowed the rule to remain in place through February 12, 2016 in order to give the DHS sufficient time to properly reauthorize the STEM OPT rule.

In compliance with the court’s order, the DHS recently republished the STEM OPT Extension rule and sent it to the Office of Management and Budget. The proposed rule should soon be published in the federal register and stakeholders will be given at least 30 days to submit written comments. The DHS will then review and consider these comments prior to making a final decision on the proposed rule.

DHS is proposing to amend its F-1 nonimmigrant student visa regulations on OPT to allow certain F-1 STEM students who have elected to pursue 12 months of OPT in the United States to extend the OPT period by 24 months.

Because the rule is a “significant rule,” a minimum 60-day delay between final publication and effective date is imposed. As such, to be effective on February 12, 2016, when the court’s order invalidates the STEM OPT rule, the final replacement rule must be published no later than December 14, 2015. The new rule could conceivably be released in time to meet the court’s February 12 deadline.

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