STEM Degree Programs Expanded by DHS

In an effort to keep more and more students with science and technology backgrounds in the U.S., DHS has added more science, technology, engineering, and math designated degree programs to the list of qualifying student visa extensions.

The recently added STEM designated-degree programs include pharmaceutical sciences, econometrics and quantitative economics. These programs qualify eligible graduates on student visas for an optional practical training (OPT) extension. Generally, OPT allows eligible international students to remain in the United States for up to 12 months while they gain work experience and receive training related to their programs of study. This is great for a student wanting to gain valuable experience in their field while allowing a company a chance to see if this person would be a good fit and worth sponsoring on another work visa.

For students who graduate with a STEM designated degree, they can remain for an additional 17 months on an OPT STEM extension. A student may be eligible for the 17-Month OPT STEM extension under the following circumstances:
– The degree for your current period of post-completion OPT is a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM program listed,
– The employer from which you are seeking work uses the E-Verify Program, and
– A student has not already received a 17-month extension of OPT.

“Attracting the best and brightest international talent to our colleges and universities and enabling them to contribute to their professional growth is an important part of our nation’s economic, scientific and technological competitiveness,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. “International students and exchange visitors bring invaluable contributions to our nation, and this helps empower the next generation of international entrepreneurs, right here in America.”
By expanding the list of designated STEM degree programs to include such fields as pharmaceutical sciences, econometrics and quantitative economics, the Department is helping bring the best, most qualified international students to the United States.

These reforms reflect the Obama administration’s ongoing commitment to promote policies that embrace talented students from other countries, who come to study in our finest colleges and universities and enrich the nation by allowing highly skilled foreign graduates to extend their post-graduate training in the United States and work in their field of study upon graduation.

Let us hope that with the expansion of the STEM degree program that it will indeed keep more talented students here in the U.S. with the potential to build our Economic infrastructure and stay competitive in the global economy.