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U.S. Expands Eligibility for STEM Work Experience Program

Jul 12, 2023

STEM international student on OPT

Great news for international students! The U.S. is expanding who is eligible to work in the country in a job related to their studies. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Wednesday it would add eight new fields of study to the STEM OPT (science, technology, engineering, mathematics Optional Practical Training) program.

What Is OPT?

OPT allows students on an F-1 visa to gain practical work experience in their area of study either during or following the completion of their degree. Typically, the program allows students to work for 12 months, but students who have earned a degree in certain STEM fields can apply for a 24-month extension of their OPT, allowing them to work for a total of 36 months.

Why the Change Now?

The public can provide input on what areas of study should be added or removed. In January 2022, the Biden administration expanded eligibility for STEM OPT, adding 22 qualifying fields of study. DHS has since received nominations for an additional 120 fields of study to be added to the list, of which it chose eight.

The Newly Added Fields of Study

Here are the eight fields of study that have been added to the STEM Designated Degree Program List:

  1. Landscape Architecture
  2. Institutional Research
  3. Mechatronics, Robotics, and Automation Engineering Technology/Technician
  4. Composite Materials Technology/Technician
  5. Linguistics and Computer Science
  6. Developmental and Adolescent Psychology
  7. Geospatial Intelligence
  8. Demography and Population Studies

Looking Ahead

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, initiatives like STEM OPT play a crucial role in promoting innovation, economic growth, and cultural exchange. International students bring fresh perspectives and valuable contributions to their fields of expertise. By expanding access to practical training, the U.S. signals a commitment to fostering a diverse and globally connected workforce.

Check out our 2023 report on international student trends!

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