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STEM OPT Extension: F-1 Student Employment Authorization Application

General Information

F-1 students with degrees in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields may be eligible for an extension of their post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT).  On March 11, 2016 the Department of Homeland Security published a new rule expanding the current STEM OPT extension program, set to take effect May 10, 2016. The new rule is complex and contains major changes for students, employers, and Designated School Officials at F-1 sponsoring colleges and universities.  The following provides information about the new rule, as well as government websites that provide details about the new rule and its requirements.

What has changed for F-1 students?

  • Extension period is increased from 17 months to 24 months
  • Students may be eligible for up to two STEM OPT extensions
  • Students with OPT based on a non-STEM degree may be eligible for the STEM extension based on a previous STEM degree obtained from an accredited institution in the U.S.
  • The list of approved STEM degree fields is expanded
  • Students and their employers must complete and sign a formal training plan on Form I-983 before the F-1 school can recommend STEM OPT and issue a Form I-20
  • STEM OPT employers must report material changes in employment and perform annual evaluations
  • Students are permitted up to 150 days of unemployment during the OPT and STEM OPT period
  • Self-employment and volunteering are not permitted under the new STEM OPT requirement

Transitioning to the new STEM OPT Rule

USCIS will begin accepting applications for the 24-month extension on May 10, 2016

Applications for STEM OPT extensions filed and approved before May 10, 2016

  • Will be approved for the 17-month extension
  • Students would be required to file a new application, with fee, for the additional 7 months of STEM OPT prior to August 8, 2016 (90 days after effective date of rule)
  • Students who file new application must have completed/signed Form I-983 submitted to F-1 school/DSO in order to obtain new Form I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation
  • Students must have at least 150 days left in current STEM OPT extension period to be eligible

Applications for STEM OPT extensions filed before May 10, 2016 and pending as of May 10, 2016

  • USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence asking the student to submit a new Form I-20 requesting the 24-month extension
  • Students will need to submit a completed and signed Form I-983 to the F-1 school/DSO in order to obtain the STEM OPT recommendation and new Form I-20
  • No new application fee will be required

Applications filed on or after May 10, 2016

  • Students who file applications on or after May 10, 2016 (received by USCIS on or after May 10) must submit completed/signed Form I-983 to F-1 School/DSO to obtain new Form I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation

OVIS recommends that you discuss your STEM OPT extension and the Form I-983 with your OPT employer as soon as possible so that you are prepared to file your STEM OPT application.

Additional resources and the link to the Form I-983 are provided for your reference:

 

 

Last Updated: 7/18/16