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OPT now for 29 months?

Seems like DHS passed out a new rule extending the period of OPT by 17 months to a total of 29 months -- it appears to me the rule was put out yesterday....

Here are a couple of (.gov) websites
DHS: 17-Month Extension of Optional Practical Training for Certain Highly Skilled Foreign Students

There is a also a 42 page (badly written) pdf on the first website for more details
and an extract --

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security released today an interim final rule extending the period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) from 12 to 29 months for qualified F-1 non-immigrant students. The extension will be available to F-1 students with a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics who are employed by businesses enrolled in the E-Verify program.
"This rule will enable businesses to attract and retain highly skilled foreign workers, giving U.S. companies a competitive advantage in the world economy," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "By extending the training period by an additional 17 months to students who are employed by businesses enrolled in E-Verify, we are further ensuring a legal workforce in the U.S. and aiding good corporate citizens."
Another aspect of the rule responds to the situation in which an F-1 student's status and work authorization expires before he or she can begin employment under the H-1B visa program. The interim final rule addresses this problem by automatically extending the period of stay and work authorization for all F-1 students with pending H-1B petitions. The rule will also implement certain programmatic changes, including allowing students to apply for OPT within 60 days of graduation.
To be eligible for an OPT extension, an F-1 non-immigrant student must:
  • Currently be participating in a 12-month period of approved post-completion OPT;
  • Have successfully completed a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) included in the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List from a college or university certified by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Student and Exchange Visitor Program;
  • Be working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student's major area of study;
  • Be working for, or accepted employment with, an employer enrolled in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' E-Verify program. E-Verify is a free, internet-based system operated in partnership with the Social Security Administration that helps employers to determine the employment eligibility of newly-hired employees; and
  • Properly maintain F-1 status.
The interim final rule and additional information on the H-1B program is available at www.dhs.gov


Baruch MFE Director
I heard of the rule change as well, from two sources, but am not sure when will it be in effect.
From the language used, looks like it takes effect immediately
Today, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, lauded the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for extending the period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) for qualified F-1 non-immigrant students from 12-29 months. The ruling from DHS came after an April 1, 2008 letter from Specter and members of the Republican High Tech Task Force (HTTF), urging extension of the program.

"In order to remain competitive, the American technology sector needs to be properly equipped to attract and maintain exceptionally talented workers from the U.S. and abroad, including foreign students being trained at U.S. universities," Senator Specter said. "We need to be sure that we are supplying the necessary tools for the technology industry to be able to do that."

The deadline to file for H1-B visas is typically a month or two before most students obtain their degrees from their respective universities. Applicants must have a degree in order to apply for an H1-B visa. This presents a timing issue for students searching for work in the U.S. after graduation, and the U.S. firms that need workers. OPT currently provides some respite from the problem by allowing those employers to benefit from the skills of these students for 12 months. Extending the program to 29 months allows employers to seek a more durable immigration status for them.

According to the ruling released by DHS, a F-1 non-immigrant student must currently be participating in a 12-month period of approved post-completion OPT, have completed a degree included in the DHS science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) Designated Degree Program List from a college or university certified by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Student and Exchange Visitor Program, and properly maintain F-1 status to be eligible for an OPT extension. The student must also be working for, or accepted employment with, an employer directly related to the student's major area of study and enrolled in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' E-Verify program.

"Having workers that are highly skilled in technology related fields will strengthen American leadership in the industry and ultimately benefit the U.S. economy," Specter continued. "The action taken by DHS is a good step toward maintaining American competitiveness in the technology industry."
Here is the letter sent by the senators to DHS http://carlshusterman.com/pdf/opt110807.pdf

The Associated Press: Some Foreign Students Get Extended Stay
By EILEEN SULLIVAN – 1 day ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — Foreign students in the United States studying science, math, engineering and technology can stay in the country 17 months longer if their future employers comply with an immigration verification program of the Homeland Security Department.
The policy change, announced Friday, will give those who want to work in the U.S. under a highly skilled worker visa program more time to wait for their applications to be processed. The hitch is that their employers must be enrolled in the E-Verify program, the system employers use to check whether they are hiring documented workers.
Until now, these students had 12 months to be accepted into the highly skilled worker visa program, known as H-1B. Now they will have 29 months to stay in the U.S. as a student worker.
The change will affect about 23,000 foreign students getting degrees in science, engineering, math and technology during a time when the U.S. is creating more tech jobs but producing fewer college and university graduates with engineering degrees.
Part of the new policy is to create a "logical ladder" to citizenship for foreigners who come to the U.S. to study these highly skilled fields, said Homeland Security policy undersecretary Stewart Baker.
"Lots of people come here to study, and then they say, 'Well, I'd like to get a job,' and pretty soon they find that they and their kids are really thinking like Americans and they want to become citizens," Baker said during an interview with reporters.
But the 29 months are for students in STEM majors. the OPT for other majors have been shortened to 3 months. Does FE count as a STEM major?
Forget about the 17 months extension. There is a more serve problem for all.

Now, under the new rule, one can only have a maximum 90 days of unemployment. This means, you have only 90 days to find a job or you are out.

It actually limits your possiblity to find a job and or wait for a better job consider some company only recuit at certain time a year.
looks like it's official now:

announcement on DHS' site:
DHS: 17-Month Extension of Optional Practical Training for Certain Highly Skilled Foreign Students

full text of the interim final rule (i love how they call these things ;)

i think this calls for a celebration. international students - unite! [to throw a party]

my bad, i didn't realize the very first posting had the same links (i blame gloomy sunday;).

that said, my calls for the celebration stand ;]
Yes. Here is the link of the orginal file, look at page 22:


" Periods of Unemployment during OPT

DHS regulations currently define the period of an F-1 student's status as
the time the student is pursuing a full course of study at an SEVP-certified
school or engaging in authorized post-completion OPT. 8 CFR 214.2(f)(5).

They do not specify how much time the student may be unemployed, making it
difficult to determine when an unemployed student on post-completion OPT
violates the requirements for remaining in F-1 status.

As status during OPT is based on the premise that the F-1 student is working
, there must be a limit on unemployment, just as the F-1 student's period in
school is based on the premise that he is actually pursuing a full-time
course of study, and there are limits on how often the student can reduce
his course load.

An F-1 student who drops out of school or does not pursue a full-time course
of study loses status; an F-1 student with OPT who is unemployed for a
significant period should similarly put his status in jeopardy.

Therefore, this rule specifies an aggregate maximum allowed period of
unemployment of 90 days for students on 12-month OPT.

This maximum period increases by 30 days for F-1 students who have an
approved 17-month OPT period. In addition to clarifying the student's status
, this measure allows time for job searches or a break when switching

The limit of 90 days can make 29 months / 12 months useless, if you cannot land a job within 90 days. And it is for ALL students, not only those STEM.

I have planed to ask all the F-1 students in my school to express the oppositon.

FE is definitely one of STEM majors. If anything, it is STEM. It has science, technology, engineering, math. You can't get any more perfect than that ;)

Can you put some links to the 90 days window? I think we have some different interpretation of the new law here.
my impression is that it has always been that an F-1 students only have 2-3 months to find employment upon completion of full-time college coursework. So in that regard, this new set of ruling did not change things as far as I can tell. Am I missing something?
As far as I know about F1, after you graduate, you have 12 months to work using OPT without the employer's sponsorship. This is helpful because some programs graduate in May and the H1B filling is April 1 so most like those graduates can start working with OPT and fill for H1B next year.
The new rule extends the OPT period to 29 months. This ensures the graduates have plenty of time to fill for H1B.
Graduates with masters degree and PhD are not subject to the 40K visa cap, but the additional 20K cap.

As for what sixthday said, I think it's a misunderstanding of the rules somewhere. I'm not an immigration lawyer so we will see more writing about this in the coming days.
i think that considering the high share of international students in our program, maybe someone who knows a good corporate immigration lawyer who would be willing to stop by and give us a talk could invite that person over.
on the other hand, given the significance of this announcement, there will be plenty of on-line discussions (including this one) to provide ample explanation of what exactly this means to our cohort.
also, what about the folks at baruch's international students office? have they gotten any better within last couple of years? maybe we could invite them over. thoughts?
My first though: Allan Wernick
He is chairman of CUNY Immigration program something. He has a column in NY Dailynews and gives talk at Baruch about immigration changes. You can email him questions. Probably talk to the folks at the int'l office to bring him in to talk about this. I would trust him more than most online immigration websites I read
He talked at Baruch before H1-B Visa Sponsorship for International students - QuantNetwork - Financial Engineering Forum
His NYDailynews column http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/columnists/wernick/
His website http://www.allanwernick.com/
For John, in the past, F-1 students can have up to 60 days to apply for OPT after graduation. However, once you are in OPT, you have 12 months of free time. You dont have to have to be employed to mantain your legal status. Thus, you can basicly spend up to 12 months to find job. You can wait until the right job posted. However, now you can only have 3 months of unemployment or you will have to leave the country or change visa status.

For Andy, I dont think there is some misunderstanding. The words I qouted is copied from the original legal article. It is clearly stated that in past F-1 students can stay unemployed for up to 12 months and they are not happy with it. Now they will put a limit of 90 days so that only the person who have a job can stay.

Although it is make sense for USCIS, however, it just a disaster for us. The couple interview processes I attended lasted for over 2 months and if you consider another month for background test and relocation. 3 months is simply not enough.
The rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register during the week of April 7, 2008, at which time of publication the rule becomes effective. The new OPT rule brings great relief to many students or OPT holders who are in a difficult position because of the timing of the H-1B filing season and the expiration of their OPT.

Summary and Analysis of the New OPT Rule
29 Month OPT for STEM Students. The 12 month limit on F-1 OPT is extended by 17 months for a total of 29 months for holders of degrees in certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) areas. Eligible degrees are:
  • Actuarial Science. NCES CIP Code 52.1304
  • Computer Science: NCES CIP Codes 1 1 .xxxx (except Data Entry/Microcomputer Applications, NCES CIP Codes 11.06xx)
  • Engineering: NCES CIP Codes 14.xxxx
  • Engineering Technologies: NCES CIP Codes 15.xxxx
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences: NCES CIP Codes 26.xxxx
  • Mathematics and Statistics: NCES CIP Codes 2 7 . m
  • Military Technologies: NCES CIP Codes 29.xxxx
  • Physical Sciences: NCES CIP Codes 4 0 . m
  • Science Technologies: NCES CIP Codes 41 .xxxx
  • Medical Scientist (MS, PhD): NCES CIP Code 51.1401
Additional Requirements.
  • Student must be currently participating in a 12-month OPT and must be working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student's major area of study (which, of course, must be one of the areas listed above)
  • Student must have successfully completed a bachelor's, masters, or doctoral degree from a SEVIS-certified educational institution.
  • The student has not previously received a 17-month OPT extension.
  • The Designated School Official (DSO) must recommend the 17-month OPT extension after verifying that the student otherwise qualifies for the extension.
  • Employer must be E-Verify registered.
  • Employer must agree to report the termination/departure of the student to the DSO.
Application. Students who qualify and wish to extend their OPT by 17 months must file form I-765 and attach the applicable fee. Students who timely file their OPT extension application will be allowed to continue employment until the final decision of the I-765 form or 180 days, whichever comes first. Under the new rule, students can file his or her I-765 up to 90 days prior to his or her program end date, and up to 60 days after the program's end date.
Non-STEM Students
There is substantial relief for non-STEM degree students whose OPT are set to expire. Under the new rule, duration of status and work authorization will be extended for a student on OPT who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting an employment with starting date of October 1. This applies to all students, not just STEM students. This renewal terminates automatically upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition.

We have obtained an advance copy of the DHS rule and we are providing a PDF of the rule as well as detailed analysis below.
Seems like the Baruch International student office knows atleast something about the new rule -- they have a posting saying please report your employers to ISSC...

Baruch College - International Student Service Center

If you are a student interested in applying for or already on OPT Please note the following:
SEVP/ICE has released a new policy for students participating in OPT. If you are on or applying for OPT please see the ISSC's OPT Employment Reporting Form for more information.

H1B applications reaches limit

A side tracker... but news is out on the USCIS webpage that H1b quotas have been filed for FY09 (both general and masters - I think a new record date for masters)....

The important thing is that for the masters students there will be a random lottery like system for the first time -- they received more than 20,000 advanced degree applications....

here is a link



  • H-1B_8Apr08.pdf
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