DHS Expands STEM OPT Program
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expanded the number of students eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. DHS published on January 21, 2022 a Federal Register notice announcing that “The Secretary of Homeland Security is amending the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List [for OPT] by adding 22 qualifying fields of study.” This policy change is important because additions to this list will make more students eligible for the STEM OPT extension. The government uses the STEM Designated Degree Program List to determine F-1 students’ eligibility for the 24-month extension of their post-completion for OPT based on their STEM degree.
The 22 new fields added to the list for STEM OPT are Bioenergy, Forestry, General, Forest Resources Production and Management, Human-Centered Technology Design, Cloud Computing, Anthrozoology, Climate Science, Earth Systems Science, Economics and Computer Science, Environmental Geosciences, Geobiology, Geography and Environmental Studies, Mathematical Economics, Mathematics and Atmospheric/Oceanic Science, Data Science, General, Data Analytics, General, Business Analytics, Data Visualization, Financial Analytics, Data Analytics, Other, Industrial and Organizational Psychology and Social Sciences, Research Methodology and Quantitative Methods.
While this is certainly great news for students, employers in the United States benefit from this change as well. Currently there is a significant need for new hires in data analytics and business analytics. The students who have spent their college education focusing on these areas will certainly help fill the void of available candidates for these positions.
In addition, this expansion is good news for the US economy. Some may say these OPT students are displacing US born workers from jobs. However, studies have shown this to be untrue. Studies have shown that restricting OPT would cause unemployment rates to increase by .15 percent by 2028 and that immigration increases job opportunities for native-born workers overall. A study concluded that a total of 443,000 jobs would be lost in the economy by 2028, resulting in 255,000 fewer positions for native-born workers if significant OPT restrictions were put in place.
In the end, this expansion benefits employers by being able to fill openings with hire qualified workers; students by being able continue their educational pursuits in a chosen field; and the US economy by creating job opportunities for native-born workers.