On-Campus Employment On-campus employment refers to work performed on school premises or at an affiliated off-site location. On-campus employment may include working in the school library, cafeteria, student store, or work that is part of a student's scholarship, fellowship or assistantship. F-1 Students may be employed on campus as long as they work no longer than 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students are also eligible to work full-time during vacation and school breaks as long as they intend to and are eligible to register for the next term. Off-Campus Interships, or Externships or Cooperative Training Programs (CPT) Cooperative training programs or externships also known as Curricular Practical Training refer to work-study programs required as part of a student's work toward a degree. To be eligible for curricular practical training, a student must have completed nine months of study or be enrolled in graduate studies that require immediate participation in curricular practical training. The maximum amount of curricular or post-completion optional practical (OPT) training is 12 months. STEM field graduates receive an additional 24 months. Thus, if the curricular training is 12 months in length (full-time basis), the student will not be eligible for post-completion practical training. Off-Campus Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training Pre-completion practical training in a field related to studies is permitted for F-1 students as long as they do not no more than 20 hours per week while school is in session, This category allows full-time employment during vacations and on school breaks as long as the student intends to register for the next term. Time spent in pre-completion practical training will count towards the 12 months full-time employment available for post completion practical training. Severe Economic Hardship In cases where an F-1 student is faced with severe and often unforeseen economic hardship, the student may obtain permission to work off-campus in any field for 20 hours per week and full-time while school is not in session. Employment based on financial hardship is not counted towards post-completion optional practical training (OPT), but the student must have completed at least one academic year in F-1 status, and be in good academic standing in order to be eligible for employment based on economic hardship. Post-Competion Optional Ptractical Training Post completion OPT authorizes F-1 students who are completing a bachelor*s or gradate degree in the US. The purpose of post completion OPT is to provide an opportunity for employment experience in the student*s field of study. An F-1 student is entitled to one year of post-completion OPT. However, students who have received one year or more of full-time curricular practical training (CPT) are not ineligible for OPT. Part-time CPT authorization, or fewer than 12 months of full-time CPT authorization, does not affect OPT eligibility. F-1 students may apply to participate in post-completion OPT after completing their studies. Students who are authorized for post-completion OPT, may work part time (20 hours or less per week) or full-time. Students who have earned a degree in certain science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, may apply for a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT employment authorization if they: * Are an F-1 student who received a STEM degree included on the STEM Designated Degree Program List (PDF), * Are employed by an employer who is enrolled in and is using E-Verify, and * Received an initial grant of post-completion OPT employment authorization based on their STEM degree.
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LENGHTENED STEM EXTENSION PERIOD OPT The proposal would increase the OPT extension period for STEM OPT students from the 2008 IFR's 17 months to 24 months. The proposal would also make F-1 students who subsequently enroll in a new academic program and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level eligible for one additional 24-month STEM OPT extension. STEM DEFINITION AND CIP CATEGORIES The proposed rule would more clearly define which fields of study (more specifically, which Department of Education Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) categories) may serve as the bases for a STEM OPT extension. The proposal also sets forth a process for public notification in the Federal Register when DHS updates the list of eligible STEM fields on the Student and Exchange Visitor Program's (SEVP's) MENTORING AND TRAINING PLAN The proposal would require employers to implement formal mentoring and training programs to augment students' academic learning through practical experience, intended to equip students with a more comprehensive understanding of their selected area of study and broader functionality within that field. PREVIOUSLY OBTAINED STEM DEGREES The proposal would permit an F-1 student participating in post-completion OPT to use a prior eligible STEM degree from a U.S. institution of higher education as a basis to apply for a STEM OPT extension, as long as the student's most recent degree was also received from an accredited educational institution. Additionally, in order for such a student to be eligible for the STEM OPT extension, the employment opportunity must be directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree. SCHOOL ACCREDITATION AND EMPLOYER SITE VISITS The proposal would enhance the academic benefit and oversight of STEM OPT extensions by (1) generally limiting eligibility to students with degrees from schools that are accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the Department of Education; and (2) clarifying DHS discretion to conduct employer on-site reviews at worksites to verify whether employers are meeting program requirements, including that they possess and maintain the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences. COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS In addition to reporting and compliance requirements, the proposal would revise the number of days that an F-1 student may remain unemployed during the practical training period. The current program allows a student to be unemployed up to 90 days during his or her initial period of post-completion OPT and up to an additional 30 days (for an aggregate of 120 days) if the student receives a 17-month STEM OPT extension. The proposed rule would retain the 90- day maximum period of unemployment during the initial period of post-completion OPT but allow an additional 60 days (for an aggregate of 150 days) for students who obtain a 24-month STEM OPT extension. The Proposal retains: E-Verify and Reporting Requirements for STEM OPT Employers. The proposal would require STEM OPT employers to be enrolled in USCIS' E-Verify program and to report certain changes in the STEM OPT student's employment. Reporting Requirements for STEM OPT Students. The proposal would require STEM OPT students to report to DHS any changes to their names or addresses, as well as any changes to their employers' names or addresses. Students would also be required to periodically verify the accuracy of this reporting information. Cap-Gap Extension for F-1 Nonimmigrants with Timely Filed H-1B Petitions and Requests for Change of Status The proposal would retain the "Cap-Gap" provision, under which DHS would temporarily extend an F-1 student's duration of status and any current employment authorization if the student is the beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition and requested a change of status. The Cap-Gap extension would extend the OPT period until October 1 of the fiscal year for which the H-1B visa is being requested.