The Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) and F-1 Status Extended for Eligible Students under the H-1b Cap-Gap Regulations

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made an announcement that the period of post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) will be extended for eligible F-1 status students. The Optical Practical Training period has been extended from 12 months to a maximum of 29 months. The extension is made available to those F-1 students who have earned a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics and are engaged by organizations registered in the E-Verify program.

The new regulation has given way for the US companies to attract and keep hold of foreign workers who excel in their work performance. As with the previous regulations, students were granted a maximum OPT period of only 12 months, which forced the students to depart the US even when they possessed an approved H-1B petition. As per the estimation by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) extension will benefit around 12,000 students. Further studies by DHS show that there are nearly 70,000 students in OPT. 23,000 of those 70,000 students have completed their graduation in STEM fields.

Even when the F-1 student status and work authorization come to an end, the cap-gap extension allows the students to remain in F-1 status. The “cap-gap” or the gap that exists between the F-1 and H-1B is being filled by this automatic extension.

As per the former regulations, F-1 students were insisted on applying for post-completion Optional Practical Training prior to graduation. But the new rule lets students apply for their OPT during their 60-day departure preparation period. Students are also given the option to apply for the OPT extension before the expiration of their current OPT period.

The OPT application process can be started with a requisition to the Designated School Official (DSO) available at their school institution for a recommendation for OPT.

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