DHS Issues Interim Rule on Optional Practical Training for F-1 Students
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an interim final rule, effective April 8, 2008, that extends the maximum period of optional practical training (OPT) from 12 months to 29 months for F-1 students who have completed a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree and accept employment with employers enrolled in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS’) E-Verify employment verification program. Currently, F-1 students who have been enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year in a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified college, university, conservatory, or seminary are eligible for 12 months of OPT to work for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study.
The interim rule requires F-1 students with an approved OPT extension to report changes in the student’s name or address and in the employer’s name or address, and periodically to verify the accuracy of this information. The rule also requires the employers of F-1 students with an extension of post-completion OPT authorization to report to the student’s designated school official (DSO) within 48 hours after the OPT student has been terminated from, or otherwise leaves, his or her employment with that employer before the end of the authorized period of OPT. The interim final rule also implements a programmatic change to allow students to apply for OPT within 60 days of finishing their studies.
USCIS said the interim rule ameliorates the so-called “cap-gap” problem by extending the authorized period of stay for all F-1 students who have a properly filed H-1B petition and change of status request (filed under the cap for the next fiscal year) pending with USCIS. If USCIS approves the H-1B petition, the students will have an extension that enables them to remain in the U.S. until the requested start date as indicated in the H-1B petition takes effect.