After Donald Trump became president, employers and universities worried international students would no longer be allowed to work on Optional Practical Training (OPT). Many students would not come to America in the first place without OPT and the ability to gain practical experience and potentially later a work visa. Despite placing OPT restrictions on the regulatory agenda and enacting inhospitable policies toward students and employers more generally, the Trump administration did not eliminate Optional Practical Training. After Joe Biden became president, companies and universities have found a new reality—the U.S. government expanding students eligible for OPT in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
What Is The Policy Change? In a Federal Register notice published on January 21, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced, “The Secretary of Homeland Security is amending the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List [for OPT] by adding 22 qualifying fields of study.”
Why Is The Policy Change Important? “The government uses the STEM Designated Degree Program List to determine F-1 students’ eligibility for the 24-month extension of their post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), based on their science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree,” noted Berry Appleman and Leiden in an advisory. “Additions to the list make more students eligible for the STEM OPT extension.”