Opportunity for Academic Training Extensions for J-1 College and University Students in STEM Fields

The Directorate of Private Sector Exchange (Private Sector) is pleased to announce an initiative for College and University Student-category exchange visitors participating in academic training in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We introduce this opportunity in response to the recent Joint Statement of Principles in Support of International Education. Department-designated sponsors have also expressed an interest in incentivizing more STEM opportunities for international students. Eligible exchange visitors must be undergraduate and pre-doctoral degree-seeking J-1 College and University students who are pursuing or recently completed STEM-related studies. The maximum total length of their academic training is capped at 36 months; non-degree seeking students are not eligible to apply. The initiative will run for the next two academic years (2021-2022 and 2022-2023) for exchange students who meet the academic training requirements. Sponsors seeking Department approval of STEM academic training extension requests must comply with 22 CFR §62.43(c). HOW TO APPLY/REQUEST THIS EXTENSION: Sponsors may request STEM-related academic training for up to 36 months for College and University students pursuing STEM undergraduate or pre-doctoral degrees and recent graduates who seek to commence academic training no later than 30 days after completion of their STEM-related studies. Current regulations cap academic training for undergraduate and pre-doctoral candidates at 18 months with the following exception: “[T]he amount of academic training … [f]or undergraduate and pre-doctoral training, does not exceed 18 months, inclusive of any prior academic training in the United States, or the period of full course of study in the United States, whichever is less; except that additional time for academic training is allowed to the extent necessary for the exchange visitor to satisfy the mandatory requirements of his or her degree program in the United States.” (22 CFR 62.23(f)(4)(ii)). Sponsors seeking academic training extensions up to 36 months pursuant to this initiative must comply with the requirements set forth in 22 CFR §62.43(c)). They must secure prior written approval by submitting extension requests through the Private Sector’s Office of Designation via AGexchanges@state.gov. As part of the required written justification, sponsors should indicate the STEM field and corresponding Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code relating to the subject-matter of the extension. A complete list of STEM field CIP codes for which exchange students are eligible to apply for this academic training extension is included in the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM Designated Degree Program List at the following address: https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/stem-list.pdf. While participating in these extensions, exchange students must continue to meet the requirements of 22 CFR §62.23(f), including but not limited to, being primarily in the United States to study, pursuing training that is directly related to their major field of study, and either engaging in a full course of study or commencing with their academic training within 30 days after completion of their related studies. Private Sector may, at its discretion, conduct a site visit to ensure that program requirements are being met, including that the host possesses and maintains the ability, personnel, and resources to provide structured and guided work-based training experiences that achieve a program’s stated goals and objectives as required by 22 CFR. §62.23(f)(6). Please submit any questions to the following email address: AGexchanges@state.gov.

FAQs FOR ACADEMIC TRAINING (AT) STEM EXTENSION

What is the latest program end date for STEM Academic Training Extensions for a J-1 student?

  • The STEM academic extension is in effect for two academic years (2021-2022 and 2022-2023). Sponsors may submit academic training STEM extension requests through the Office of Private Sector Exchange Designation via AGexchanges@state.gov. There is no specific deadline for filing extensions, but they must be for programs with an end date on or before the last day of the 2022-2023 academic year, i.e., June 30, 2023.

It is the exchange community’s understanding that the maximum total length of STEM academic training is capped at 36 months. Does this mean that the RO/ARO can only request an academic training STEM extension one time? More specifically, must exchange visitors have a position offer for the full period of academic STEM extension upfront, rather than separate training experiences/extensions up to the maximum academic training period allowed?

  • If the maximum program duration does not exceed 36 months, sponsors can make multiple STEM academic training extension requests, as long as the exchange visitor meets all other eligibility requirements.

How do I apply for an Academic Training Extension for a J-1 College and University Student in a STEM Field?

  • Sponsors may request STEM-related academic training for up to 36 months for College and University students pursuing STEM undergraduate or pre-doctoral degrees and recent graduates who seek to commence academic training no later than 30 days after completion of their STEM-related studies.
  • Sponsors seeking academic training extensions must secure prior written approval by submitting extension requests through the Private Sector’s Office of Designation via AGexchanges@state.gov.  As part of the required written justification, sponsors should indicate the STEM field and corresponding Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code relating to the subject-matter of the extension.  A complete list of STEM field CIP codes for which exchange students are eligible to apply for this academic training extension is included in the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM Designated Degree Program List at the following address: https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/stem-list.pdf (PDF).
  • Eligible exchange visitors must be undergraduate or pre-doctoral degree-seeking J-1 College and University students who are pursuing or recently completed STEM-related studies.  The maximum total length of their academic training is capped at 36 months; non-degree seeking students are not eligible to apply.  The STEM extension will run for the next two academic years (2021-2022 and 2022-2023) for exchange students who meet the academic training requirements. Sponsors seeking Department approval of STEM academic training extension requests must comply with 22 CFR §62.43(c).
  • While participating in these extensions, exchange students must continue to meet the requirements of 22 CFR §62.23(f), including but not limited to, being primarily in the United States to study, pursuing training that is directly related to their major field of study, and either engaging in a full course of study or commencing with their academic training within 30 days after completion of their related studies.

Do I need to sign the Statement of Interest if I want to apply for an Academic Training extension?

  • No, it is not necessary to sign the Statement of Interest to apply for an Academic Training Extension.  Sponsors seeking academic training extensions must secure prior written approval by submitting extension requests through the Private Sector’s Office of Designation via AGexchanges@state.gov.

Is there a max/cap on the number of extensions?

  • The maximum total length of academic training is capped at 36 months.

Are non-degree seeking students eligible for the Academic Training extension?

  • No, non-degree seeking students may not apply.

Will the initiative affect the home-residency requirement for exchange visitors?

  • The initiative will not affect the home-residency requirement for exchange visitors. Some exchange visitors are subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement following their exchange program. Please visit travel.state.gov for additional information.

What is the maximum duration of STEM-related Academic Training and how does it apply to university programs that are less than three years in length?

  • The maximum total length of academic training for this initiative is capped at 36 months, inclusive of any prior academic training in the United States as an exchange visitor, or the period of the full course of study in the United States, whichever is less.  If you are currently enrolled in a STEM program, maximum academic training eligibility is equal to the amount of time of your studies.  Exchange visitors in one-year programs are only eligible for one year of academic training, two-year university programs are eligible for two years of academic training, and four-year programs are eligible for the maximum three years of academic training.  Talk to your sponsor about eligibility and submission of an extension request.

If the student has graduated from a designated STEM field, does that automatically grant them eligibility for the extension? Or do we have to apply for each EV extension separately?

  • Yes, this initiative is for students in STEM fields; however, it does not grant them automatic extensions after graduation. The RO/ARO needs to submit an extension request for each EV to our office by emailing AGexchanges@state.gov.

Do the Academic Training Extensions for J-1 College and University Students in STEM Fields mean, for example, that a graduate student in a 1-year STEM degree program would be eligible to extend their academic training to 36 months?  I am aware that academic training is not supposed to exceed the program duration.

  • No, this exchange visitor would be limited to one year of academic training. The maximum total length of academic training for this initiative is capped at 36 months, inclusive of any prior academic training in the United States as an exchange visitor, or the period of the full course of study in the United States, whichever is less.

If a student was only given 2 years duration to complete their program, can they still be eligible for 36 months of AT?

  • No, the exchange visitor would be limited to two years of academic training.  The maximum total length of academic training for this initiative is capped at 36 months, inclusive of any prior academic training in the United States as an exchange visitor, or the period of the full course of study in the United States, whichever is less.

Can requests for extensions for those who are currently on Academic Training be done through SEVIS, or does the program sponsor have to contact AGexchanges@state.gov for process/guidance?

  • The RO/ARO should submit an extension request for each eligible exchange visitors to: AGexchanges@state.gov.

Is 36 months of Academic Training repeatable if a student goes to a higher degree level?

  • No, completing an additional higher degree program does not increase the eligible academic training period.

Are Exchange Visitors in STEM fields permitted to request an extension beyond the maximum duration of participation?

  • No, exchange visitors must continue to abide by the maximum duration associated with their respective J-1 visa category.

I have an Exchange Visitor who was previously seeking a bachelor's degree.  Would they only be eligible for 4 months of STEM-related academic training or would they have access to the 36 months?

  • If the exchange visitor is pursuing or recently completed STEM-related studies at the undergraduate or graduate level, the maximum total length of their academic training is capped at 36 months, inclusive of any prior academic training in the United States as an exchange visitor, or the period of the full course of study in the United States, whichever is less.

Should the Responsible Officer (RO) request the Academic Training STEM extension for each eligible student interested in applying, or email on behalf of all J-1 eligible exchange students?

  • The RO/ ARO needs to submit an extension request for each eligible exchange visitor to the Department by emailing AGexchanges@state.gov.

Are PhD exchange students who are graduating in the Fall of 2022 eligible for the Academic Training extension?

  • Per 22 CFR §62.23(f)(4)(iii), post-doctoral exchange visitors are already eligible for academic training of up to 36 months, inclusive of any prior academic training in the United States as an exchange visitor, or the period of the full course of study in the United States, whichever is less.  If you have not exhausted all 36 months, you may contact your RO/ARO for AT authorization in SEVIS.

Will there be a fee required for the 36-month STEM Academic Training extension during academic years 2021/22 and 2022/23?

  • There is no fee required for the Academic Training extension under this initiative. The RO/ARO should submit an extension request for each eligible exchange visitor to: AGexchanges@state.gov.

Are only students graduating in the next two academic years (i.e., 2022 and 2023) eligible for the 36 months of Academic Training? Does it also include students who graduated in 2020 or 2021 but are currently on Academic Training? Can these students also extend their Academic Training up to 36 months?

  • Yes, extension eligibility applies to all of the above. Please note, the maximum total length of Academic Training is capped at 36 months, inclusive of any prior Academic Training in the United States as an exchange visitor, or the period of the full course of study in the United States, whichever is less.
  • If a student is currently enrolled in a STEM degree program, maximum Academic Training eligibility is equal to the amount of time of their studies. Exchange visitors in one-year programs are only eligible for one year of Academic Training, two-year university programs are eligible for two years of Academic Training, and four-year programs are eligible for the maximum three years of Academic Training.

We have non-degree exchange students at our institution, but they are pursuing or have completed a STEM related degree from their home institution overseas. Would they be eligible for the extended Academic Training opportunity?

  • No, non-degree seeking students are not eligible for the extension, regardless of whether they are pursuing or have completed a STEM-related degree at their overseas institution.

When will the Academic Training extension become effective?

  • This academic training extension is effective now and covers Academic Year 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. Sponsors seeking Academic Training extensions must secure prior written approval by submitting extension requests through the Office of Private Sector Exchange Designation via AGexchanges@state.gov. The Office will notify you once the extension is approved.

Does the academic training extension require rulemaking in the Federal Register?

  • No, the Academic Training extension is permitted within current regulations.

Can we expect further instructions?

Who qualifies? Only currently enrolled students? Or will students currently in a period of authorized post-completion Academic Training also qualify?

  • Students currently engaged in post-completion Academic Training and currently enrolled students may qualify for the extension. Sponsors may request STEM-related Academic Training for up to 36 months for College and University students pursuing STEM undergraduate or pre-doctoral degrees and recent graduates who seek to commence academic training no later than 30 days after completion of their STEM-related studies.

Will the program sponsor authorize the Academic Training, or will your office have to approve in advance? Will we receive information regarding the process?

  • Sponsors seeking Academic Training extensions must secure prior written approval by submitting extension requests through the Office of Private Sector Exchange Designation via email at: AGexchanges@state.gov. For any additional questions please do not hesitate to reach out to us at AGexchanges@state.gov.

Will the requirements be similar to the F-1 STEM OPT requirements (reporting, etc.)?

  • Sponsors seeking Department approval of STEM Academic Training extension requests must comply with 22 C.F.R. § 62.43(c).
  • While participating in these extensions, exchange visitors must continue to meet the requirements of 22 C.F.R. § 62.23(f), including but not limited to, being primarily in the United States to study, pursuing training that is directly related to their major field of study, and either engaging in a full course of study or commencing with their academic training within 30 days after completion of their related studies.
  • BridgeUSA may, at its discretion, conduct a site visit to ensure that program requirements are being met, including that the host organization possesses and maintains the ability, personnel, and resources to provide structured and guided work-based training experiences that achieve a program’s stated goals and objectives.
  • (For reporting requirements specific to F-1 OPT please visit the DHS OPT website here: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/sevis-help-hub/student-records/fm-student-employment/f-1-optional-practical-training-opt and https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/sevp-portal-help/maintain-information/opt-student-reporting-requirements.)

Do the Responsible Officers (ROs) authorize STEM Academic Training for 36 months up front? Or will ROs authorize the initial period of Academic Training under current rules and then provide an extension to up to 36 months? For example, if someone is in a one-year program, they currently get 12 months of post-completion Academic Training, then we could give them another 24 months making it 36 months?

  • Exchange visitors in a four-year program are eligible for the maximum three years of Academic Training up front. The extension can be requested at any time. However, an exchange visitor on a one-year program would still be limited to one year of Academic Training. Maximum academic training eligibility is equal to the amount of time of their studies. Exchange visitors in one-year programs are only eligible for one year of Academic Training, two-year university programs are eligible for two years of Academic Training, and four-year programs are eligible for the maximum three years of Academic Training.

How far in advance can we request the STEM extension? Which documents specifically do you need from us for the STEM extension? Am I right to assume that all you need is a letter from the sponsor? What about a copy of the Form DS-2019, employer letter, etc.

    • Sponsors should request the Academic Training extension as soon as they become aware of an exchange visitor’s interest and confirm their eligibility to participate. As part of the required written justification provided via AGexchanges@state.gov, sponsors should:
        1. Provide the exchange visitor’s full name as documented in SEVIS and SEVIS number.
        2. Confirm the academic training is directly related to the exchange visitor’s major field of study listed on his or her Form DS-2019.
        3. Confirm the exchange visitor is in good academic standing with his or her post-secondary accredited academic institution.
        4. Verify that the host site organization has the resources to support the program objectives of the exchange visitor.
        5. Indicate the STEM field and corresponding Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code relating to the subject-matter of the extension. A complete list of STEM field CIP codes for which exchange students are eligible to apply for this academic training extension is included in the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM Designated Degree Program List at the following address:
https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/stem-list.pdf
    1. .
  • The extension request must be submitted within Academic Years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023.

I pursued my first semester (Fall 2021) remotely from my home country. Am I eligible for the Academic Training extension?

  • Yes. Exchange visitors who conducted some of their exchange programs remotely due to COVID-19 are eligible for the extension, so long as they meet all other eligibility requirements. Eligible exchange visitors must be undergraduate and pre-doctoral degree-seeking J-1 College and University students who are pursuing or recently completed STEM-related studies. The maximum total length of academic training is capped at 36 months or the total length of an exchange visitor’s studies whichever is shorter. Non-degree seeking students are not eligible to apply. The initiative will run for the next two academic years (2021-2022 and 2022-2023).

Can sponsors submit Academic Training extension requests in bulk, versus submitting a separate request for each individual exchange visitor?

  • Sponsors may submit a spreadsheet containing multiple exchange visitors’ information to AGExchanges@state.gov to request Academic Training extensions. ECA then will review each individual extension request.
  • Upon written approval, the sponsor should extend each exchange visitor's program end date in SEVIS. Then in a separate action, the sponsor should extend each exchange visitor's academic training end date in SEVIS.

The CIP code for my degree is not listed on the Homeland Security STEM program list; however, I believe my degree CIP should be listed as STEM. Is the CIP code a requirement for the Academic Training STEM extension?

  • Yes. To be eligible for the Academic Training extension, your Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code must be listed on the Department of Homeland Security STEM program list. Please contact your Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate RO at your academic institution to discuss eligibility based on your CIP code in addition to other requirements for the STEM extension.

My degree CIP code is not listed on the Department of Homeland Security STEM program list, but I believe it should be. More specifically, there are many social sciences listed on the STEM program list, but my major, Social Sciences and Research Methodology, is not on the list. Who should I talk to?

  • Please contact your RO/ARO at your academic institution to discuss your Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code. Please note that accredited academic institutions have established specific CIP codes that correspond with their respective majors and programs.

What is the latest program end date for STEM Academic Training Extensions for a J-1 student?

  • The STEM academic extension is in effect for two academic years (2021-2022 and 2022-2023). Sponsors may submit academic training STEM extension requests through the Office of Private Sector Exchange Designation via AGexchanges@state.gov. There is no specific deadline for filing extensions, but they must be for programs with an end date on or before the last day of the 2022 2023 academic year, i.e., June 30, 2023.

It is the exchange community’s understanding that the maximum total length of STEM academic training is capped at 36 months. Does this mean that the RO/ARO can only request an academic training STEM extension one time? More specifically, must exchange visitors have a position offer for the full period of academic STEM extension upfront, rather than separate training experiences/extensions up to the maximum academic training period allowed?

  • If the maximum program duration does not exceed 36 months, sponsors can make multiple STEM academic training extension requests, as long as the exchange visitor meets all other eligibility requirements.