A lot of immigrants to the United States get their foot through the door (so to speak) by coming here as international students through the STEM OPT program. STEM OPT stands for science, technology, engineering or mathematics optional practical training, and it allows students with F-1 visas to continue to work in the U.S. even after completing their studies.
Under the STEM OPT program, eligible students can extend their work authorization for a total of 36 months after graduation while simultaneously gaining practical work experience that could ultimately not only help prepare them for brilliant careers but also give them an opportunity to decide if they want to pursue a more permanent immigration status through an H-1B visa or an employment-based green card.
The new eligibility is an attempt to lure highly qualified workers to the U.S.
In early 2022, the current presidential administration announced that it was adding 22 new qualifying fields of study, including climate science, mathematical economics and cloud computing – all fields that are growing quickly. Eight new fields were also recently added to the amended list of qualifying studies published by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in July of 2023.
This move comes at the same time that other nations are also trying to attract the best and brightest from foreign lands through similar programs – and it’s a sharp reversal from the trend seen in the prior administration, which wanted to either deeply restrict or eliminate the STEM OPT program.
These changes are welcome news for many would-be immigrants who may have felt that they had limited choices before. If you’re seeking a new path forward on your immigration journey, find out more about your legal options.