Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
On July 12, 2023, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) updated the STEM Designated Degree Program List by adding eight new qualifying fields of study. The Program List is generally used to determine whether a degree completed by an F-1 nonimmigrant student qualifies as a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree as determined by DHS. If an F-1 nonimmigrant student’s degree qualifies as a STEM degree, they are afforded the opportunity to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion optional practical training (OPT). With a STEM OPT extension, F-1 nonimmigrants have the opportunity to work for up to three years after completion of their STEM program of study.
The new list went into effect immediately.
The last update to the STEM Designated Degree Program List was in January 2022. In the 2022 Federal Register notice, DHS announced the addition of 22 qualifying fields of study and also included instructions for how interested parties could nominate areas of study for potential inclusion or removal from the STEM Designated Degree Program List. With over 200 nominations to include 120 additional fields to the STEM List, DHS selected the following eight new qualifying fields of study along with their corresponding Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) codes:
- Landscape Architecture (04.0601)
- Institutional Research (13.0608)
- Mechatronics, Robotics, and Automation Engineering Technology/Technician (15.0407)
- Composite Materials Technology/Technician (15.0617)
- Linguistics and Computer Science (30.4801)
- Developmental and Adolescent Psychology (42.2710)
- Geospatial Intelligence (43.0407)
- Demography and Population Studies (45.0501)
All previously listed fields of study continue to remain on the STEM Designated Degree Program List as no nominations were received to remove any of the currently listed fields.
The update to the list is of importance as it now provides more international students the opportunity to work in the United States on a temporary basis. It is the school that determines the specific qualifying program. Moreover, the expansion provides a significant benefit to employers as they can now hire and retain F-1 nonimmigrants who meet the STEM OPT 24-month extension eligibility requirements for up to three years, rather than just up to one year on OPT. Initiatives like the expansion of the STEM Degree Program List play a crucial role in promoting innovation, economic growth, diversity and inclusion, and cultural exchange.