New Fields of Study for STEM OPT Degrees Added

Foreign nationals enter the United States every year for various reasons, including work, tourism, and education. The visa they use to gain entry into the US depends on the reason for their visit. For international students, this is typically the F-1 status. However, only certain fields of study qualify for extensions that also permit work authorization. According to the latest updates from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), there are eight new fields that fall under the STEM OPT degree and qualify for the two-year work authorization extension. We’ll break those fields down here.

F-1 Visa Background

When a foreign national is accepted as an international student into the United States, that person enters the country under an F-1 status. By nature, this means they can study, but they can’t work while they’re actively in school without specific authorization.

However, once they graduate, they are given up to twelve months of Optional Practical Training (OPT). This is a work authorization in which they are still learning their new profession but can also earn an income simultaneously. In certain fields, this twelve-month period has an optional 24-month extension. Students work for an employer registered with the E-Verify system. This employer agrees to supervise the student’s work and submit the appropriate paperwork as necessary to USCIS.

The OPT program has a strong concentration of STEM students, and since its inception in 2008, the eligible fields for the 24-month extension have expanded significantly. We’ll summarize the latest eight additions to this list next.

1. Landscape Architecture

Landscape architects learn various aspects of physical and natural sciences. They also use technology, engineering, and math as they plan and design areas specifically to permit millions of people to work, live, and enjoy life. These factors make this field an inherent part of the STEM program.

2. Institutional Research

When engaged in institutional research, students are preparing to become institutional researchers at postsecondary educational institutions. During their education, these individuals learn STEM knowledge such as data mining, data analysis, data-driven decision-making, research methods, statistics, and other skills intricately linked to the STEM program.

3. Mechatronics, Robotics, and Automation Engineering Technology/Technician

In these fields, mechatronics engineering technologists are taught how to use a variety of mechanical, electrical, software, and computer skills. Students use this knowledge to create and work with artificial intelligence and smart technology, including robots, computer-integrated manufacturing equipment, and automated guided systems, all dependent on STEM skills.

4. Composite Materials Technology/Technician

Composite techs go to school to learn how to design and build using advanced materials. Integral knowledge of math, natural and physical science, and engineering is vital to the success of this career path. Students will build aerospace technology, yachts, sporting goods, and more.

5. Linguistics and Computer Science

Students interested in pursuing language at its root often head to linguistics and computer science. Both include the study of languages, with linguistics focusing on the evolution of natural language and how it is processed and conveyed. Computer science used that information but applies it to programming. As artificial intelligence becomes more natural, the two fields overlap. 

6. Developmental and Adolescent Psychology

The gap between psychology and science is bridged when STEM enters the picture. Studies in this field include research on connecting mathematics and science with psychology. Students in this field learn how to apply these subjects to early learners to shape their love for STEM before and during adolescence.

7. Geospatial Intelligence

Geospatial intelligence is a relatively new field in STEM applications. The discipline includes imagery and geospatial information. The data is combined, then used and analyzed to describe and assess the physical features of anything geographically referenced on Earth through textual and visual pictures.

8. Demography and Population Studies

Demography and population studies refers to the field of education that focuses on studying population models and phenomena systematically, including any relation to social structure and behavior. This involves mathematical and statistical analysis of data.

What’s Next?

Does your career involve a STEM field with OPT training ending soon? You may qualify for an H-1B work visa that allows you to remain in the US with your current or new employer. Contact our professionals at Visa2US to find out what your options are and how we can work with you to further your employment goals today.

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H-1B Visa

H-1B Visa

H-1B visa is used by businesses and organizations in the United States to employ foreign nationals with the preferred qualifications, knowledge, and expertise in a role.

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I-485 Adjustment of Status

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National Interest Waiver (NIW)

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

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