Contact Information
Law Offices of Kamlesh Tewary
1974 State Route 27
Edison, NJ 08817
Ph: (732) 287-0080
Fx: (732) 287-3836


Back    Print    

Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT)

On March 11, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security published a final rule allowing 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 replaced the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to STEM students. Eligible students may begin applying for a 24-month STEM OPT extension on May 10, 2016.

Eligibility for the STEM OPT Extension

To qualify for the 24-month extension, an F-1 student must:

  • Have been granted OPT and currently be in a valid period of OPT;
  • Have earned a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from a school that is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency and is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) when the student submits the STEM OPT extension application.
    • Previously obtained STEM degrees: An F-1 student participating in a 12-month period of post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree 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. An eligible student 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 practical training opportunity also must be directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree.
      • For example: If you are currently participating in OPT based on a master's degree in business administration but you previously received a bachelor's degree in mathematics, you may be able to apply for a STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor's degree as long as it is from an accredited U.S. college or university and the OPT employment opportunity is directly related to your bachelor's degree in mathematics.
    • STEM degrees obtained in the future: If a student enrolls in a new academic program in the future and earns another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level, the student may be eligible for one additional 24-month STEM OPT extension.
      • For example: If you receive a 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor's degree in engineering and you later earn a master's degree in engineering, you may apply for an additional 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your master's degree.
  • Work for an employer who meets all the requirements listed below in the STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities section.
  • Submit the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization up to 90 days before the current OPT employment authorization expires, and within 60 days of the date that the designated school official (DSO) enters the recommendation for OPT into the student's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.

Applying for a STEM OPT Extension

To apply for an extension, a student must properly file:

  • Form I-765 with the application fee on or after May 10, 2016,
  • Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, endorsed by the DSO on or after May 10, 2016, and
  • A copy of the STEM degree.

If a student file an extension application on time and the OPT period expires while the extension application is pending, USCIS will extend employment authorization for up to 180 days.

After Receiving a STEM OPT Extension

A student receing a STEM OPT extension must:

  • Report changes to the DSO within 10 days of the change. The student must report changes to:
    • Legal name
    • Residential or mailing address
    • Email address
    • Employer's name
    • Employer's address
  • The student must report to the DSO every 6 months to confirm the information listed above, even if none of that information has changed.

More information can be found at the DHS Study in the States F-1 Optional Practical Training page.

Unemployment during the OPT period

The law allows a student to be unemployed during the OPT period for a limited number of days.

If a student received…

the student may be unemployed for…

For a total of…

(during the OPT period)

Initial post-completion OPT only

Up to 90 days

90 days

17-month extension

An additional 30 days

120 days*

24-month extension

An additional 60 days

150 days*

*If a student is granted an additional 7-month extension in addition to the 17-month STEM-OPT (for a total of 24-month STEM OPT extension) then that individual may be unemployed for a total of 150-days during the OPT period.

STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities

An employer who wants to provide a practical training opportunity to a STEM OPT student during his or her extension must:

  • Be enrolled in E-Verify and remain in good standing.
  • Report material changes to the STEM OPT student’s employment to the DSO within 5 business days.
  • Implement a formal training program to augment the student’s academic learning through practical experience.
  • Provide an OPT opportunity that is commensurate with those of similarly situated U.S. workers in duties, hours, and compensation.
  • Complete the Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. In this form,  the employer must attest that:
    • It has enough resources and trained personnel available to appropriately train the student;
    • The student will not replace a full- or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker; and
    • Working for the employer will help the student attain his or her training objectives.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may visit the employer's worksite(s) to verify whether an employer is meeting the STEM OPT program requirements, including whether the employer is maintaining the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences for the STEM OPT student.

More information can be found at the DHS STEM OPT Hub.

OPT Students Who Currently Have (or Have an Application Pending on May 10, 2016 for) a 17-Month Extension

The new rule authorizing the 24-month STEM OPT extension will go into effect on May 10, 2016. A student who currently has a 17-month STEM OPT extension may apply to add 7 months to the STEM OPT period on or after May 10, 2016 as long as he/she has at least 150 days of valid employment authorization remaining on the date that the student properly files a new Form I-765. The Form I-765 must be filed, with fee, on or before August 8, 2016.  Applications with less than 150 days of validity remaining and/or applications filed after August 8, 2016 will be denied.

Until May 9, 2016, USCIS will continue to adjudicate STEM OPT applications under the 2008 interim final rule (see 73 FR 18944). Any STEM OPT extension applications filed and approved before May 10, 2016 will be granted a 17-month extension.

A student who currently has an application for a 17-month STEM OPT extension that remains pending on May 10, 2016 will receive a request for evidence (RFE) to allow the student to demonstrate eligibility for a 24-month STEM OPT extension.

The chart below outlines the options in that scenario.

If the student…

And…

Then…

Currently has a 17-month STEM OPT extension

does NOT want to add any additional time to the STEM OPT extension

The student need not file any new forms or pay any new fees. The student is authorized to keep working until the 17-month STEM OPT period expires, or is terminated or revoked.

The student wants to request to add 7 months to the STEM OPT extension

The student may submit a Form I-765, with fee, on or after May 10, 2016. To do so, the student must:

  • Properly file on or before August 8, 2016;
  • File Form I‑765 within 60 days of the DSO’s recommendation;
  • Has at least 150 days of valid work authorization remaining on the date that the new Form I-765 is filed;
  • Include a Form I-20, endorsed by the DSO on or after May 10, 2016; and
  • Show that the student, the DSO, and the employer meet all the 24-month STEM OPT extension requirements, including submitting the Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.

Has an application for a 17-month STEM OPT extension

The student does not withdraw the Form I-765 application

Until May 9, 2016, USCIS will continue to adjudicate the application under the 2008 interim final rule.

If the student's application is still pending on May 10, 2016, USCIS will send the student a request for evidence to allow him/her to demonstrate eligibility for a 24-month STEM OPT extension.

The student must then submit a Form I‑20 endorsed on or after May 10, 2016, indicating that the DSO recommends a 24-month OPT extension and that the student, the DSO, and the employer meet the requirements for a 24-month extension.

The student need not pay an additional fee or refile the Form I-765.

Is a STEM student

Wants to apply for a STEM OPT extension on or after May 10, 2016.

The student must file:

  • Form I-765
  • Form I-20, endorsed by the DSO within the past 60 days, and endorsed on or after May 10, 2016
  • A copy of the degree
  • The employer's name as listed in E-Verify
  • The employer's E-Verify Company Identification Number or valid E-Verify Client Company Identification Number

Source: USCIS Website | Last accessed: January 5, 2017.

Information on this website is provided for information purposes only, and its presentation herein neither creates an attorney-client privilege nor constitutes legal advice.


Home | About Us | Practice Areas | News | Useful Links | Directions

Copyright 2017 | Disclaimer