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January 27, 2016

Newcomer's Almanac: A Newsletter for Newcomers to the United States

The Newcomer's Almanac is a publication of the Interchange Institute and is brought to you each month compliments of the International Scholars Office. You must have an MIT certificate to access the newsletter.

February edition - topics include the upcoming presidential Primaries and Caucuses; Valentine's Day; and Black History Month.

January edition - topics include Background to Today's News; New Year's Eve and New Year's Day; Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Your Car in Winter.

December edition - topics include [Presidential] Candidates on the Issues; the upcoming Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa holidays; and Your Home in Winter.

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January 26, 2016

STEM OPT Update

On January 23, 2016, the U.S. District Court granted the Department of Homeland Security's request to extend the stay of the vacatur of the current STEM OPT rule from February 12, 2016 until May 10, 2016.

This extension allows current F-1 regulations to remain in place until May 10, 2016 while the agency completes review of over 50,000 comments received in response to its new proposed regulations. We expect DHS to republish the new STEM OPT regulations before May 10, 2016. The regulations will likely be released as a final or interim final rule.

PLEASE NOTE:

  • If you have an EAD that allows you to work, you may continue do so until May 10, 2016.

  • If you have not yet applied for STEM OPT, you may do so before May 10, 2016. And you may be able to request a further extension in the future if STEM OPT is expanded to 24 months.

  • Please continue to read the web postings, emails and tweets of the international office at the university that originally authorized your OPT/STEM OPT, as it may post important updates, advice and information. The MIT ISchO will also try to keep you informed of the latest developments.

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January 6, 2016

Update for Employees and Fellows with EADs for OPT and STEM OPT

In August, 2015, we informed you about the court case in which the U.S. District Court determined that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not follow proper administrative procedure in 2008, when it issued regulations on F-1 student Optional Practical Training. These regulations allow F-1 students with degrees in STEM fields to apply for a 17-month OPT extension, and for F-1 students on OPT to extend their OPT during a gap between the end of the OPT and the beginning of an approved H-1B visa petition. The court gave DHS a deadline of February 12, 2016 to republish the regulations and allow for public comments. After that date, the old regulations would be revoked or “vacated.”

In October 2015, DHS released new proposed regulations called “Improving and Expanding Training Opportunities for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students With STEM Degrees and Cap-Gap Relief for All Eligible F-1 Students.” The rule proposes to expand STEM OPT from 17 months to 24 months, expand the list of educational fields eligible for STEM extensions, require accurate reporting of the employment/activity in which students on OPT STEM extensions are engaged, and other requirements.

On December 22, 2015, DHS requested an extension from the court until May 10, 2016, to allow current F-1 regulations to remain in place while the agency completes review of over 50,000 comments received in response to the proposed rule. We feel very optimistic that the court will grant such an extension, but cannot guarantee it. If the extension is granted, the old regulations will likely remain in effect, meaning that the EAD cards of students on STEM OPT will continue to be valid for work and that students eligible to apply for STEM OPT extensions will still be able to do so.

Read the DHS motion for “limited relief” (extension) from the court

If the extension is granted, DHS hopes to take the comments received into consideration and republish the STEM OPT regulations by the new deadline of May 10, 2016. The regulations will likely be released as a final or interim final rule.

Background on the STEM OPT issue

PLEASE NOTE:

  • DHS has not taken action to revoke the work permission of students currently on STEM OPT. If you have an EAD that allows you to work, you may continue do so. If the extension requested by DHS is granted by the District Court until May 10, 2016, DHS will likely allow anyone on STEM OPT to continue on STEM OPT until that date.

  • If you have not yet applied for STEM OPT, you may do so before February 12, 2016 (and possibly May 10, 2016 if the extension is granted by the court). And you may be able to request a further extension in the future if STEM OPT is expanded to 24 months.

  • There are currently over 100 international scholars on F-1 STEM OPT who are on appointment at MIT as postdocs and in other positions. For those of you currently on STEM OPT whose EAD cards expire within the next six to seven months, our office is already in contact with your departments, laboratories and centers to discuss whether or not your appointments will be extended, and if so, to determine what your next visa status should be.

  • For those of you who have imminent travel plans and want to change status through travel, or who are considering forfeiting STEM OPT time you have left, please contact the ISchO to speak with an advisor about J-1 visa considerations.

Please continue to read the web postings, emails and tweets of the international office at the university that originally authorized your OPT / STEM OPT, as it may post important updates, advice and information. The MIT International Scholars Office will also try to keep you informed of the latest developments.

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November 15, 2015

International Education Week

International Education Week is November 15-21, 2015. Celebrate by participating in one or more of the many internationally-focused lectures and cross-cultural activities taking place this week.

IE Week Events

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November 12, 2015

STEM OPT Resources

The following resources from NAFSA: Association of International Educators may be helpful to those seeking to better understand the recent court ruling and the new proposed STEM OPT rule:

Focus on STEM OPT

STEM OPT Rulemaking

Read the ISchO's announcement about F-1 OPT and STEM OPT below.

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August 24, 2015

Announcement to Employees and Fellows on OPT and OPT STEM Extensions

By now you may have heard about a decision by the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The court ruled that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not follow proper administrative procedure when it issued regulations on F-1 student Optional Practical Training. The rule allows F-1 Students to apply for 17-month STEM extensions or to extend OPT during a gap between the end of OPT and the beginning of an approved H-1B visa petition.

The court gave DHS six months, until February 12, 2016, to republish the regulations with an appropriate notice and call for comments.

  • The decision does not yet have an effect on people with OPT. DHS has not taken action to revoke the work permission of students currently on STEM OPT or extensions of OPT under the “cap gap.”

  • If you have an EAD that allows you to work, you may continue do so until February 12, 2016.

  • If you have not yet applied for STEM OPT, you may do so before February 12, 2016.

It is believed that, before that date, DHS will republish the regulations. The rule will likely state whether existing EAD cards are still valid and whether OPT, STEM OPT and cap gap OPT will be available to future applicants. The regulations will allow for public comment. Parties both in favor of and opposed to longer Practical Training periods will submit comments.

We are optimistic that the US Department of Homeland Security will continue to see the merits of allowing talented former international students to remain in the US for training and to contribute their skills and ideas to the US economy. However, we cannot predict what a government agency will do. The new regulations may contain less favorable provisions, making certain types of OPT more difficult or impossible to get.

Please continue to read the web postings, emails and tweets of the international office at the university that originally authorized your OPT / STEM OPT, as it may post important updates, advice and information.

There are approximately 160 international scholars at MIT on OPT and STEM OPT, so you may be sure that we will also closely monitor the situation and inform you when there is any news.

In the meantime, for many of you who are on STEM OPT that will expire in the first half of 2016, our office has already contacted you or your department/lab/center (DLC) to plan for your next visa, or we will be doing so very shortly.

For those of you whose STEM OPT expires later in 2016, we will begin contacting you and your DLCs in the coming months. We expect to know more before February 2016 about the fate of your existing EAD cards.

Individuals currently on OPT and possibly eligible for STEM OPT at some point in the future, please continue to monitor the news from your home universities. They are best informed about how soon you can and should apply for STEM OPT, while the option is still available.

You may read more about the ruling in the court case here.

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May 8, 2015

Presentation for MIT postdocs: Immigration options for post-MIT employment
May 7, 2015

Presentation Announcement

Slides - Part 1*

Slides - Part 2*

*An MIT computer certificate is needed to access these files.

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