Working with F1 student visa holders who are applying for H 1B visas is an important part of my work as an immigration attorney. From my law office in San Francisco, I handle numerous cases including those that involve the extension of the OPT (Optional Practical Training) time for pending H 1B applicants. These applicants are often stuck in the cap gap.
STEM Designated Degrees
Students with STEM degrees (S= science, T= technology, E= engineering, or M= mathematics) who work for companies that subscribe to E-Verify are eligible for the extension. (The Social Security Administration utilizes E-Verify, an Internet-based system, to check on a newly hired employee’s right to work.)
The extensions, which until a few years ago were for 12 months, are now for 29 months. The STEM OPT extension has been granted to help U.S. employers stabilize and retain employees.
One of my primary concerns as an immigration lawyer is that those who seek the STEM OPT extension meet all requirements. In the San Francisco Bay area, there are many such students who want to request and petition for the extension. The requirements include:
- That the applicant is currently involved in 12-months of pre-approved post-completion OPT.
- Degrees are successfully completed in specific areas. These are the STEM areas (S= science, T= technology, E= engineering or M= mathematics) and are part of the Designated Degree Program List of the DHS STEM. These are degrees from a certified U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program at a college or university.
- They must be employed by a United States business in an occupation that is connected with their primary area of study.
- That their employer is a part of the program known as E-Verify which is connected to the USCIS.
- The applicant must have maintained their F 1 status on a proper manner.
My immigration law practice involves a range of activity with those who presently hold a F 1 visa and are about to see their status change. As a lawyer working in this area, I am constantly aware of the need to facilitate the application process to ensure that the student and employer are well served.