Breaking News 06.08.2016

New 24-Month STEM OPT Rule Now In Effect

The Department of Homeland Security's new STEM OPT rule is now in effect, as of May 10, 2016. Significantly, the new rule permits STEM extensions of 24 months (one per degree level, two per lifetime), replacing the old rule which only allowed STEM extensions of 17 months. Just as with the old rule, the new rule authorizes STEM OPT extensions only for students employed by employers who participate in E-Verify, but also still allows those employers subject to the higher education E-Verify limitation to offer employment to students seeking the STEM extension.

The new rule introduces compliance requirements for employers who hire STEM OPT workers, including Form I-983, which documents a formal training plan for the STEM employee. Employers will also be required to evaluate student progress annually, attest that the STEM OPT worker is not replacing a U.S. worker, and that the STEM student's compensation will be commensurate with that of other similarly employed workers.

As of May 10, 2016, USCIS will not grant pending 17-month STEM OPT extensions. Rather, those with pending 17-month extensions may expect a Request for Evidence in order to complete the new Form I-983.

A student who previously received a 17-month extension may apply for the additional 7-month extension as long as the student (1) has at least 150 calendar days of work authorization remaining at the time of filing of a new I-765; (2) files the new I-765 before August 8, 2016; and (3) otherwise meets the new regulatory requirements, including the submission of the I-983. USCIS recommends that such students apply as soon as possible before the August 8 deadline.

More information can be found here.

DHS Announces Future Fee Increases

On May 5, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") announced a plan to increase filing fees for most types of immigrant and non-immigrant petitions and applications. The DHS will seek public comment on the fee increase proposal until July 5, 2016, and will finalize the new rule sometime after that date.

The fee increase proposal encompasses many common employment-based and family-based forms, including the I-129, I-130, I-140, I-485, I-539, N-400, I-765, I-131 and others.

DHS has not increased filing fees since 2010. The proposed fee increases vary, with most forms forecasting a 20-40% increase.

We will continue to update you once the timetable for fee increases has been finalized.

DOL Session Reveals Vital Information Regarding PERM Reforms

Mr. Ware returned from the national NAFSA Conference in Denver with big news from the US Department of Labor. Bill Rabung, incoming Chief of Operations, admitted that changes to the PERM labor certification process, which will be published in the Federal Register this month, with include both a remedy for "harmless error" in the application, as well as vital changes to the recruitment process. Mr. Ware, a participant in the DOL panel at the conference, got a chance to ask Mr. Rabung quite a few questions on this and other issues.

In addition to the DOL Panel, Mr. Ware assisted in giving an eight hour workshop on issues vital to heathcare institutions, ably chaired by Michele Stelljes. He also spoke on the Customs and Border Protection panel, chaired by Ben Colston.

Attorney Speaking Engagements

Ware|Immigration attorneys frequently present at regional and national conferences. They also have speaking engagements at various universities and corporations across the nation.

If you are interested in attending one of the presentations or inviting an attorney to speak at your business, please contact [email protected] to discuss possibilities.

Here are some of the upcoming engagements.

Ware|Immigration On the Web

Check out our website for more information, and we invite you to connect with us via Facebook or Twitter for updates.