Last week USCIS announced a new rule for students who study STEM subjects at universities.
Now graduates of US universities who study science, technology, engineering or mathematics will be eligible for 24-month STEM extension after completing their regular 1 year OPT. The 24-month extension will replace the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to STEM students. Eligible students may begin applying for a 24-month STEM OPT extension on May 10, 2016.
A STEM extension can be obtained after completion of a bachelor’s or master's degree in a STEM field. This is a great help to students studying in the USA. Due to strict filing deadlines for various work visas, and high demand for work visas some students cannot secure a work visa on time and have to leave the USA.
Extending the OPT status from 17 months to 24 months allows graduates to work in the USA for 2 additional years after regular 1 year OPT, and STEM graduates will have more options to legally stay in the USA.
At our law office, we often consult students on how to legally change their status from a student to a work visa. We often advise students to switch majors from non-STEM to STEM.
As an immigrant, you will have a tremendous advantage if you are enrolled in a STEM field.
First, the job prospects are better.
Second, jobs in STEM fields are better paid and it is easier to find a job with STEM degrees.
Third, employers are more likely to be willing to sponsor students with STEM degrees for H-1B visas or green cards.
Fourth, you have 3 years of lawful work in the USA (1 year OPT and 2 years of STEM extension) as opposed to just 1 year of regular OPT.
As an immigrant, you benefit greatly from spending your time, efforts and money on a STEM degree diploma.
Further, a recent BBC article explains this shift in the USA treatment of STEM students. Currently, China opens a new university EVERY WEEK.
In 2013, 40% of Chinese graduates completed their studies in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subject - more than twice the share of US graduates.
So the graduates who are the cornerstone of economic prosperity in knowledge-based economies are increasingly and disproportionately likely to come from China and India. By prolonging the STEM extension, the USA is trying to keep STEM graduates in the country and give them more options to legally work here.
By 2030, China and India could account for more than 60% of the Stem graduates in major economies, compared with only 8% in Europe and 4% in the United States.
Countries like China and India are betting on the future which will largely be a knowledge-based economy.
In the latest round of the OECD Pisa tests, the 10% most disadvantaged 15-year-olds in Shanghai scored higher in mathematics than the 10% most privileged 15-year-olds in the United States.
We now see that USCIS recognizes the need to act to keep our STEM graduates here in the USA. President Obama voiced the need to reduce the cost of US education and possibly provide the first 2 years of college for free in order to make the economy more competitive.
At our law office we often work with highly educated and talented workers and students. We welcome new USCIS law on STEM extension.