In a press release dated January 31, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a number of proposed administrative reforms designed to enable the United States to attract and retain highly skilled foreign nationals. These reforms, which will not be effective until regulatory or administrative action is taken to implement them, include the following:
• Eligibility for a 17-month extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment authorization would be expanded to include students who have a prior degree in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field and would not be limited to those who have just graduated with a degree in a STEM field. At present, only students whose most recent degree is in a designated STEM field may obtain a 17-month OPT extension. Under this proposed change, for example, a student that has just graduated with degree in business administration, but earlier obtained a degree in electrical engineering, would be eligible for a 17-month OPT extension. It is not clear if DHS plans to allow individuals whose earlier degrees in STEM fields were obtained overseas to qualify for this extension. DHS also indicated that it will review “emerging fields” of study for possible inclusion in the list of designated STEM fields.
• H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B employees would be allowed to work once the principal H-1B visa holder has begun the employment-based permanent resident process, provided that the H1-B spouse has completed a yet-to-be-determined minimum period of H-1B status in the United States. At present, H-4 dependents may only work once they have filed an adjustment of status application and received an Employment Authorization Document. The proposed change might allow H-4 dependents to accept employment while their H-1B spouses are undergoing the PERM labor certification application or immigrant petition process, provided the H-1B spouse has held H-1B status for the requisite period of time...
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