The New 24-Month STEM OPT Extension: How to qualify and who will be affected?


On May 11, 2016, USCIS’s approved 24-month STEM OPT extension rule went into effect. This rule allows certain F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees, and who meet other specified requirements, to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT. The 24-month extension will replace the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to STEM students.

To qualify for the new 24-month STEM OPT extension, the student must meet the following requirements:

1. Must be granted OPT and currently be in a valid period of OPT;

2. Must already possess a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a school that is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education and is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) at the time of filing the STEM OPT extension application.

3. Previously obtained STEM degrees: If you are an F-1 student participating in a 12-month period of post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree, you may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree earned from a U.S. institution of higher education to apply for a STEM OPT extension. You must have received both degrees from currently accredited and SEVP-certified institutions, and cannot have already received a STEM OPT extension based on this prior degree. The OPT employment opportunity also must be directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree.

4. STEM degrees you obtain in the future: If you enroll in a new academic program in the future and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level, you may be eligible for one additional 24-month STEM OPT extension.

5. Work for an employer who meets all the requirements listed below in the STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities section.

6. Submit the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization up to 90 days before your current OPT employment authorization expires, and within 60 days of the date your designated school official (DSO) enters the recommendation for OPT into your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.

The following are groups of students who will be affected by this rule:

1. Students who have already applied to USCIS for a 17-month STEM OPT extension but whose applications may still be pending on May 10, 2016;

2. Students who already have an approved 17-month STEM OPT extension, but are interested in a possible 7-month extension under the new rule; and

3. Students whose standard 12-month OPT will expire before May 10, 2016.

If you are a student or you are representing a student that falls within any of these categories, you may want to look into the new STEM OPT extension to find out if this extension is suitable for you or your client.

Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Damini M. Patel Damini M. Patel, Esq is an associate attorney at the Nair Law Group, a law firm practicing exclusively in the area of US Immigration and Nationality law. The firm represents business and corporate clients in all matters of employment-based immigration.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.