Foreign-born science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students who seek to extend their original 17-month STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) periods by an additional seven months can now apply for a 24-month extension.
The window to extend STEM OPT periods for certain students ends in early August as the application period to add seven months to existing 17-month STEM OPT extensions closes. The Aug. 8 deadline comes after the Department of Homeland Security published a final rule in March that replaces the previous 17-month STEM OPT extension with a 24-month STEM OPT extension.
The STEM OPT extension applies to certain STEM students who hold F-1 status and who meet other specified requirements. For those who are eligible, Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization– along with the required fee and signature– must be on file with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on or before Aug. 8, 2016.
STEM-OPT students applying to add seven months to their 17-month OPT periods could do so in cases where:
- The STEM OPT extension request is based on a 17-month extension
- The seven-month extension request was made by filing a new Form I-765 between the dates of May 10, 2016 and Aug. 8, 2016. These dates must be within 60 days of the date the designated school official enters the 24-month OPT extension recommendation into the student’s SEVIS record.
- The applicant has at least 150 days of valid employment authorization remaining during the current extension.
- All parties– the student, the designated school official and the employer– meet all the requirements of the 24-month STEM OPT extension.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued its final rule on the STEM OPT extension changing from 17 months to 24 month in March.
Qualifications for the 24-month extension include:
- Students must have been granted OPT and in a current period of OPT.
- Students must have earned a bachelor’s master’s or doctorate degree from a school accredited by an agency of the U.S. Department of Education and certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
Additional information on the STEM OPT extension program is available on the USCIS Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT) page.