The United States is opening its doors wider to international students seeking practical work experience in America. An announcement in the Federal Register reveals that the U.S. will add eight new fields of study to the STEM OPT (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Optional Practical Training) program. This move aims to provide more international students with the opportunity to work in the United States temporarily, a welcome development in a competitive global landscape where other countries are also vying for high-skilled foreign nationals.

The Optional Practical Training (OPT) program allows international students holding F-1 status to temporarily work for a U.S. employer in jobs directly related to their major area of study. Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion). The F-1 STEM optional practical training (OPT) program allows international students who have earned a degree in certain science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT employment authorization.

Published on July 12, 2023, the Federal Register notice jointly issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) outlines the addition of eight qualifying fields of study to the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List

The new fields of study added to the list are:

  • Landscape Architecture
  • Institutional Research
  • Mechatronics, Robotics, and Automation Engineering Technology/Technician
  • Composite Materials Technology/Technician
  • Linguistics and Computer Science
  • Developmental and Adolescent Psychology
  • Geospatial Intelligence
  • Demography and Population Studies

The OPT program is of paramount importance to many international students, as it provides them with the opportunity to gain practical work experience in their field of study. Moreover, it opens doors to potential future opportunities, including the chance to obtain H-1B status and an employment-based green card. Without such prospects, many international students might not consider studying in the United States.

It’s essential to note that the previous administration had considered imposing new restrictions or even eliminating the OPT and STEM OPT programs. The uncertainty surrounding these programs, coupled with new restrictions on H-1B visas, prompted an increasing number of international students to consider studying in other countries, with Canada being a popular destination.

As the U.S. moves to add more fields to the STEM OPT program, it sends a positive signal to international students worldwide. By expanding opportunities for practical training and work experience, the United States reaffirms its commitment to attracting global talent and fostering innovation in STEM fields.

With the horizon broadening for international students, the U.S. remains an attractive destination for those seeking a world-class education and a pathway to meaningful career advancements. The added fields of study in the STEM OPT program open up new possibilities and cement America’s position as a thriving hub for international talent.

About the Author

Natalia Muñoz
Associate Attorney at Garvish Immigration Law Group | (800) 951-4980 | | Profile | + posts

Natalia Muñoz is an Associate Attorney at Garvish Immigration Law Group. She was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia where she earned a law degree from Universidad de Los Andes followed by a specialization in Foreign Relations and Negotiation at the same University. She later moved to the U.S. to pursue her graduate studies in law in Boston University. After graduating she moved to Miami where she worked as an international tax and corporate attorney advising foreign investors for over 15 years.