New Rule on OPT STEM Extension

OPT Extension For F-1 STEM Students

On March 9, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued its final rule regarding Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension for F-1 students with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) degree.

The OPT Requirements:

  1. The OPT must be directly related to the course of study;
  2. STEM degree must be from an accredited college or university;
  3. prospective employer and student must execute a formal training plan detailing the learning objectives of the OPT and a plan for achieving the objectives;
  4. Reporting Requirement
    1. 6 months Validation: the student and the school must confirm information about the student and the employer
    2. Annual Self evaluation: the student must report the progress of the OPT to the designated school official (DSO), it must also be signed by the employer
    3. Student and employer must report changes in employment status
    4. Student and Employer must report material changes to or deviations from the formal training plan to the DSO
  5. Employer must register for E-verify
  6. Employer must make attestations

Additional Rules:

Under the new rule, a qualifying F-1 Student with a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) degree from an accredited school and has been granted 12 months of OPT may apply to extend the OPT for an additional 24 months. This new 24 month extension rule replaces the old 17 month extension rule. Some students that are currently on a 17 month extension can apply to extend for another 7 months to get a total of 24 months.

The New rule also makes it possible for students on their initial 12 months OPT to apply for a 24 month STEM extension based on a previous STEM degree if the initial OPT is based on a non-STEM degree.

Students can be eligible for 2 different 24 months STEM extension upon completing 2 qualifying STEM degrees at different educational levels. This means that if your have a STEM bachelor’s degree, you can apply for OPT and 24month extension based on that degree, then if you also complete a STEM master’s degree you can apply for OPT and 24 month extension based on the master’s degree.

Additionally under the new rule, OPT students must be paid a commensurate compensation; it cannot be a volunteer position

How to get an additional 7 months if on a 17 month OPT extension:

As of the effective date of May 10, 2016, the student must have at least 150 days remaining on their 17 month OPT extension. The student must also meet all the other requirements for extension including the training plans, employer attestation and reporting requirement.