The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently published a final rule adding 22 fields of study to the STEM-designated program list, expanding the number of F-1 programs eligible for STEM OPT. This rule change is a win for students preparing to enter the highly sought-after H-1B lottery and a win for employers as it is increasingly challenging to retain top talent.
Expanded Degree Programs
F-1 students majoring in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields are eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of post-graduate work authorization known as STEM OPT. However, a student will only qualify if their degree program is included on the STEM-designated program list.
Effective January 21, 2022, the list of STEM-eligible fields has grown to include:
• Cloud Computing (11.0902)
• Climate Science (30.3501)
• Economics and Computer Science (30.3901)
• Business Analytics (30.7102)
• Financial Analytics (30.7104)
• Industrial and Organizational Psychology (42.2804)
Expansion of the authorized STEM fields follows a 2016 Final Rule indicating DHS would consider suggestions to the STEM program list. Upon receiving 97 new field suggestions from the public, DHS has acknowledged and partially adopted the requests. Nominations may still be submitted to SEVP@ice.dhs.gov.
The expansion of the STEM eligible program comes as many F-1 students and U.S. employers are ramping up for H-1B cap season. Use of the STEM OPT extension may be a viable alternative for candidates not selected in the upcoming lottery.
Our team recommends STEM-eligible students take advantage of their OPT extension, regardless of H-1B cap selection, due to the narrow window of time in which the benefit can be requested. STEM extensions may only be applied up to 90 days before a student’s existing OPT expires.
If you have questions regarding your STEM OPT eligibility or the eligibility of your employees, please contact your Dentons Immigriation lawyer.