Homeland Security Expands List of STEM Degree Programs

Revision makes more foreign graduates eligible for extension of Optional Practical Training


Contact: Ursula Oaks, 202.495.2553

For Release: May 14, 2012

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2012 – NAFSA: Association of International Educators welcomes action by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last week to expand the list of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degree programs that qualify foreign graduates for a longer period of Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Under the OPT program, foreign students who graduate from U.S. colleges and universities can apply for practical work experience in the United States for up to 12 months. Students who graduate from certain STEM degree programs can extend that work experience for an additional 17 months.

NAFSA has long advocated for expanding the list of STEM degree programs under which foreign graduates are eligible for an OPT extension. In a 2008 letter, NAFSA Executive Director and CEO Marlene Johnson, who currently serves on the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council, urged DHS to recognize the value of OPT to U.S. economic competitiveness, noting its importance in retaining foreign graduates whose talents are sought by U.S. employers. Johnson went on to write that “it would be optimal to make OPT extension available to all international students; we are hopeful that the successful implementation of [the rule adding 17 months of OPT for certain STEM degree graduates] will lead to the expansion of OPT extension to all fields in short order.” Meanwhile, Johnson wrote, a revision of the DHS list of eligible STEM degree programs was needed.

NAFSA welcomes this action on the part of DHS and remains committed to working with the department to make the United States more open, accessible, and attractive to the world’s best talent and future leaders.

View the DHS news release.

View the expanded list of STEM degree programs (new additions are in bold).