24 Month STEM OPT Extension

Highlights of the New STEM OPT Rule

The US government published new rules for the STEM OPT extension on March 11, 2016.   Based on an initial reading of the new STEM OPT rules, ISSA has prepared this information for students and Notre Dame graduates who are currently on OPT.  This summary does not include every detail of the new rule, but shares the most important and relevant information.  As new information becomes available, this webpage will be updated.  Please note that the government has not yet provided details about the new procedures, so we are unable to advise as to how this will happen. We hope to have those details soon.

 

  • Duration of the STEM extension is increased to 24 months.
  • Students will be eligible for 2 STEM extensions per lifetime.  Second must be at a higher degree level than first.  (Previous 17 month extension does count as one of the two.)
  • Students on a non-STEM OPT who previously earned a STEM degree will be able to apply for the extension based on prior degree if the following conditions are met:
    • The STEM degree must have been issued within the 10 years preceding the request for the extension, 
    • The STEM degree must have been issued by an educational institution located in the US, and with US accreditation.  
    • The job the extension is based on must be related to that STEM degree.
  • Over the course of the entire 3 years of OPT the student may have up to 150 days of unemployment total.
  • Students must get their employer to complete form I-983.  This is an official training plan that must be submitted with the OPT extension application.  See details here.
  • If a student changes positions or employers during extension timeframe they must submit a new I-983 and obtain an ISSA recommendation within 10 days of change.
  • Student must complete an official self-evaluation before the 12 and 24 month marks of the stem extension, and must submit these to ISSA.
  • In addition, students must submit a STEM validation report to ISSA every 6 months.

 

If you will be applying for a STEM extension in the near future

  • The earliest date the USCIS will accept an application for the STEM extension is 90 days before your first year of OPT ends.
  • As long as the USCIS receives your extension application before the last date of your first year of OPT, you may continue to work while the application is being processed.
  • Recommendation:  If your OPT dates allow, we recommend that you wait and file on or after May 10, following the new procedures.  (The government has not yet shared the details of the new procedures, so they are not included here.)

 

If you have a current STEM extension application pending with the USCIS

  • STEM applications that are approved on or before May 9, 2016, will be granted 17 months and will be subject to the current STEM rules and requirements.  See next section for information about further extension options.
  • STEM applications that are still pending on May 10, 2016 will be sent a Request for Evidence (RFE) requesting a new I-20 that recommends 24 months instead of 17.  The student will need to provide the completed I-983 to ISSA before ISSA can make the new recommendation and print the new I-20.  These students will become subject to the new regulations and requirements.

 

If you are currently on the 17 month STEM extension, or will be by May 10, 2016

  • Those with a 17 month STEM extension will be allowed to apply to get the additional 7 months only if they meet ALL of the following criteria:
    • Must submit new complete I-765 packet (with new fee) between May 10, 2016 and August 8, 2016.
    • Must submit application within 60 days of ISSA’s recommendation in your SEVIS record.
    • Must have at least 150 days of STEM OPT remaining on the date of filing.  (In other words, if your current extension expires before October 7, 2016, you will not be eligible to apply for the additional time.)
  • Once the 7 month extension request is filed, the student, employer, and ISSA will become subject to the 24 month rules and requirements.  If the 7 month extension is denied for some reason, they will revert back to the 17 month rules and requirements. 

 

Additional Information:

https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub   Government website providing information for students, employers, and schools.

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=ICEB-2015-0002-43168   The actual regulation.  The regulatory language actually begins near the end of the document.