HSE LEGALcurrents

Please Deliver this Notice to the Appropriate Responsible Institutional Personnel

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has released the new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (“STEM”) work authorization rules, which will take effect May 10, 2016. The new rules are important because they provide three years of work authorization to foreign national graduates of U.S. colleges/universities with STEM degrees and E-Verify employers. In addition, the rules provide these graduates additional chances to apply for an H-1B visa through the H-1B visa lottery, which had a 30% acceptance rate last year due to the limited number of H-1B visas available.

The rules provide for the following benefits:

  • ­Graduates can apply for three years of work authorization following graduation, which is seven months more than previously allowed
  • Certain graduates participating in the shorter STEM work authorization program may extend their program by seven months
  • Graduates may apply for work authorization based on an earlier degree program (previously they could only apply based on their current degree program)
  • Graduates are eligible to participate in the STEM work authorization program twice - they can apply for a second STEM work authorization extension upon completion of a second degree at a different educational level (e.g. bachelor’s versus master’s degree)

The new rules also place responsibilities on students, schools, and employers, including the following:

  • ­Just like the old rules, employers must participate in E-Verify to take advantage of this program
  • The employer and student must develop a formal training program to be reviewed by the student’s school as part of the work authorization application
  • The Department of Homeland Security may conduct employer site visits to ensure compliance with STEM work authorization rules
  • Employers must attest that STEM workers’ duties, hours, and compensation are commensurate with other similarly situated U.S. workers
  • Students must submit periodic reports to the student’s school, and employers and students must report changes to the terms and conditions of employment

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin accepting STEM work authorization applications pursuant to these new rules on May 10, 2016. Please contact us if you would like additional information about the new STEM OPT work authorization rules.

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