In 2018, Congress passed a bill which officially recognized architecture as a STEM subject.
This is significant for the profession as it will lead, among others, to a needed more diverse workforce and increase funds to promote and modernize education in architecture.
However, that recognition unfortunately did not translate to any changes to the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List used for F-1 STEM OPT (nor the Occupational Outlook Handbook used for H-1B filings.)
The list of Designated Degrees is based on what DHS considers to be a STEM field of study. DHS has not updated the list since 2016. The core list of designated programs include engineering, sciences, mathematics, technology and related fields.
Currently, international students holding F-1 student visa status can apply for one year of Optional Practical Training (OPT) to gain work experience. Students whose degree is in an immigration-designated STEM field can apply for an additional 24 months — for a total of 36 months — of OPT work authorization. This is known as STEM OPT.
STEM OPT is a significant benefit for employers and international students, since they can strategically use this additional time to transition to an H-1B or another work visa.
We will continue to monitor the STEM field designation and provide updates. In the meantime, below are additional resources in this area: