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STEM OPT Can Be an Alternative Solution to the H-1B Cap

The STEM OPT extension may be a temporary solution for those H-1B employees who are not eligible to work until the next fiscal year due to the H-1B cap, which mandates that only 65,000 H-1B visas are available each year. Once the cap is reached, H-1B visas do not become available again until the beginning of the following fiscal year. If you have questions about STEM OPT, the attorneys at The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, Co., LPA have decades of combined experience in this area. Contact us for a consultation.

How long does the annual H-1B season last?

The USCIS normally begins accepting H-1B petitions on April 1 for each following fiscal year. The length of the H-1B season varies from year to year. For example, the H-1B cap season was five months for the 2012 fiscal year. The 2013 H-1B season was merely a short two and a half months long because the H-1B cap for the 2013 fiscal year was already reached on June 11, 2012. Employers and immigrant workers who miss the cap must seek other strategies to maintain authorized US employment.

What is the STEM OPT extension?

One promising option is the STEM OPT extension for those foreign nationals who recently graduated from college. The STEM OPT program permits graduates to work for employers that utilize the E-Verify program for up to 17 months, which would allow employment to continue the United States until the following fiscal year when H-1B visas become available again. Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows a foreign student to engage in employment in order to receive practical training related to his or her degree for a period of up to 12 months. OPT can be extended for those H-1B applicants with STEM degrees who missed the H-1B cap.

How does an applicant qualify for the STEM OPT extension?

To qualify for the STEM OPT extension, the applicant employee must have a STEM degree in a field included in the STEM Designated Degree Program List, and also already received post-completion practical training and employment authorization related to their STEM degree. STEM degrees are those in the fields of study in categories of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

What is the E-Verify program?

The applicant employee must work for an employer that uses the E-Verify program. E-Verify is a free online system for businesses to determine eligibility of employees for work in the US. The system confirms eligibility by comparing information from the form I-9 employment eligibility verification with data from the US Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records. Regulations increasingly require employers to participate in the E-Verify program, such as employers that contract with the federal government. Also, several states are enacting regulations that make E-Verify mandatory for certain employers.

If you have questions about the STEM OPT program, please contact our immigration attorneys or call The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, Co., LPA at the nearest office close to you to consult with an attorney.

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