• Sheehan Health Care Group
  • Sale of 5 nursing homes and 2 hospice companies
  • Boston Celtics
  • Develpment of new practice facility, Boston, MA
  • Apollo Security International, Inc. of Massachusetts and New York
  • Stock sales to Universal Protection Service, LLC d/b/a Allied Universal Services

Employers May Now Employ F-1 OPT Workers In Business & Management Positions And In Psychology-Related Positions For An Additional 17 Months And May Delay H-1B Filings

Berin Romagnolo May 13, 2011

Most foreign national students are here in F-1 status, and many F-1 students are granted Optional Practical Training (OPT) to work in the U.S. for 12 months after graduation.  Employing F-1 OPT students is a great option for employers, primarily because it is relatively inexpensive, fast, and easy, as compared to other visa categories.  F-1 OPT status is granted by the U.S. college or university (generally, without any employer involvement), and the student applies for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by him/herself to prove work authorization.  So, generally, the employer hiring an F-1 OPT student with an EAD signs no immigration forms, has no liability to pay at least the prevailing wage, pays no visa application fees, and has no delay in waiting for Approval Notices from the USCIS.

Generally, F-1 students can extend their OPT's and EAD's for an additional 17 months (for a total of 29 months) if: (1) they have a U.S. college or university degree in a STEM program (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), and (2) the employer wishing to take advantage of the additional 17 months is enrolled in E-Verify.  This extended OPT and EAD option is great for employers who do not want to pay for an H-1B work visa yet, are unsure as to whether they want or need to hire that foreign national long-term, and/or do not or cannot pay the prevailing wage required for H-1B visa holders.  In the past years, when the government ran out of H-1B work visas and stopped issuing them for months until the next fiscal year began on October 1st, this extended OPT was a great way to allow F-1 OPT students to continue to work while waiting until they could apply for an H-1B visa.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) publishes a list of degrees that qualify as STEM degrees.  Until now, generally, employers filling financial services, business, and management jobs and those filling psychology-related jobs have not been able to take advantage of this 17-month extension option because F-1 OPT candidates applying for such jobs generally did not have a degree on the STEM list.  The STEM list was primarily computer sciences, medical sciences, mathematics, and engineering.  It did not contain management, business, and financial analysis related degrees and did not contain psychology-related degrees.

But, ICE just added 50 additional STEM degrees that can qualify for the 17-month OPT extension.  ICE has added Management Science, Business Statistics, and Educational Statistics and Research Methods to the STEM list, opening the door to some F-1 students to extend their OPT status to work in business and management-related jobs.  ICE also added Biopsychology, Cognitive Psychology and Psycholinguistics, Comparative Psychology, Developmental and Child Psychology, Experimental Psychology, Personality Psychology, Physiological Psychology/Psychobiology, Social Psychology, Psychometrics and Quantitative Psychology, and Psychopharmacology to the STEM degree list, allowing employers to utilize the F-1 OPT option for psychology-related jobs for an extended period of time, without any visa application process or fee by the employer.  Because we still have plenty of H-1B's left for the current fiscal year, employers may consider requesting that their qualified F-1 workers extend their OPT's for an additional 17 months instead of applying for an H-1B work visa right now, and then apply for an H-1B in April, 2012, for the 2013 fiscal year.

As a reminder, the 17-month extension is only available when the employer has registered for E-Verify, which is a separate decision with various considerations. 

The entire STEM list is attached, and the new additions are in bold.

For more information, please contact Berin Romagnolo.

This Alert is provided for information purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice.  According to Mass. SJC Rule 3:07, this material may be considered advertising. ©2011 Posternak Blankstein & Lund LLP.  All rights reserved.

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