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STEM OPT Update – Court Ruling

March 11, 2016 Update

The final rule has been published and will go into effect on May 10, 2016. CLICK HERE for the full public inspection version of the final STEM OPT rule. Please note that the regulations actually begin on page 282.

Department of Homeland Security has helpful explanations of the new regulations and transition on the STEM OPT Hub on the Study in the States site.

January 23, 2016 Update

On January 23, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted DHS’s motion to extend the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) rule from February 12, 2016, until May 10, 2016. Read more here.

DHS Proposed Rule

On October 19, 2015, Department of Homeland Security published a new proposed rule for STEM OPT.  The rule was available for public comment until November 18. During that time, Vanderbilt submitted feedback through various higher education associations. The proposed rule can be found in the Federal Register.  A summary and analysis of the proposed rule is available through NAFSA.

District Court Ruling

In August a U.S. District Court ruled on a case regarding STEM OPT.  We know how important OPT is to international students and employers.  ISSS will follow the situation carefully and provide updates as additional information as it becomes available. 

On August 12, 2015, a U.S. District Court found that the Department of Homeland Security did not follow proper procedures when it enacted the regulation that created the 17 month STEM OPT extension.  DHS has until February 12, 2016 to correct the error.  If it does not do so, the regulation allowing for STEM OPT will be cancelled.

DHS is currently working on a new STEM OPT regulation.  We will update you with new information from DHS as it becomes available.  In the meantime, OPT and STEM OPT applications are still being accepted and processed as usual.

  • F-1 students currently on OPT or STEM OPT should continue working. Remember to report your employment and physical address to ISSS here:
  • ISSS will continue to assist students with OPT and STEM OPT applications.
  • The court decision is effective February 12, 2016.Until that date or until a new regulation is enacted, the current regulation remains in effect.
  • The regulation also allowed for automatic cap-gap extensions for F-1 students on OPT who are changing status to H1-B.It is unclear if the court order includes this part of the regulation.

If you are interested to learn more, Lexology and the National Law Review have discussions of the ruling.  The links are below:

Students who are interested in applying OPT or STEM OPT extensions, can find information here:  Applications can be submitted to USCIS up to 90 days prior to degree completion.  We encourage students to apply early to allow for processing time.

If you have any questions regarding OPT or STEM OPT, please contact ISSS at or 615-322-2753.