On May 10, 2016, a new rule published in the Federal Register will allow students who have studied a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field in the U.S. to apply for a longer Optional Practical Training (OPT) period. An OPT period is the designated amount of time international students are legally allowed to work in the U.S. to receive hands-on experience in their fields of study.
Of the almost one million international students currently studying in the U.S., over 40% are pursuing a college education in a STEM field. This means that over 400,000 students will be eligible to work in the United States for an additional 24 months after graduation. This is seven months longer than the previous STEM OPT period.
This is significant news for many international students. These two years will give them more opportunity to refinance private students loans (allowing for a lower loan interest rate), continue building a credit score, actually pay off student loans, and, of course, gain invaluable professional experience that will be useful throughout their careers.
MPOWER CEO and Co-Founder Manu Smadja was especially excited about this development. As a former international STEM graduate student with a Master’s degree in engineering, he understands how vital the new OPT rules are – he used his own OPT period to demonstrate his skills to his employer and was quickly sponsored for a long-term visa. “This is great news for all current and upcoming international students in the U.S.,” he said. “The U.S. desperately needs STEM talent to fuel the tech revolution it’s undergoing…and the extended OPT is a step in the right direction.”
Here are the basics of OPT extension simplified in a graphic. Students should check with their universities to see how to register for this career-defining opportunity.
(Click infographic to enlarge)
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