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24 Month STEM OPT Transition

As of May 10, 2016, the STEM OPT extension will last 24 months, and will operate under new rules! Please review the information below to determine how this may affect you, what options you have,and what new requirements will be added.  This webpage will be updated, along with our STEM OPT page, as more specific details are clarified by the responsible government agencies as we get closer to May 10.

 

New eligibility requirements

  • A student cannot apply for the 24 month STEM extension using a volunteer position, or self-employment.
  • A form I-983 training plan, completed and signed by student and employer, must be submitted to IES in order to receive the required I-20 to apply for the 24 month extension
  • Additional fields will be added to the STEM list
  • Students will be able to apply for the STEM extension after an OPT year completed after a degree that is NOT a STEM degree, if they have completed a STEM degree in the US in the past 10 years (past degree must be from an accredited, SEVP-certified US school)
  • Students can have up to 2 STEM OPT extensions in their lifetime, though you can only use one at a time.  The second STEM OPT extension must come after a new, higher degree level is completed, and a new regular OPT year.
  • As of May 10 2016, STEM extension applications can only be accepted up to 90 days prior to the expiration of your first year of OPT

 

For students currently on OPT – when to apply for the STEM Extension?

As always, to be eligible for the STEM extension, you must have your application received by USCIS before your first year of OPT expires.

However, if you are preparing to apply for the STEM OPT extension, and your current OPT year doesn’t expire until after May 10 2016, it may be in your best interest to wait to apply until after May 10, or close to May 10, so that you can more easily participate in the 24 month STEM Extension.   Remember that your STEM extension does not need to be approved before your first year of OPT expires, and you can continue working after your first year of OPT expires as long as you have a pending STEM Extension for up to 6 months (citation, under “What is the application process for the 17-month STEM extension?”).  This timeline will not change with the transition to the 24-month rule.

In brief:

•  If you apply after May 10, you will automatically be considered for the 24 month extension. Please note in this example your I-20 must be created after May 10.

•  If you apply before May 10, and your application is still pending as of May 10, you will be asked for additional information, including the I-983 training plan (submitted to IES only, not to USCIS) and a new 24-month I-20, before your application is approved, and you will be granted the 24 month extension.

•  If your application is approved before May 10, you will receive the 17 months extension and will need to apply again for the additional 7 months of STEM OPT after May 10, following the guidelines below.  This will include a new filing fee of $410.

Please keep these options in mind when deciding when to prepare and submit your application.

 

For students with a pending STEM OPT application, not yet approved on May 10 2016

Students in this situation will receive an RFE (request for further evidence), asking for a new I-20 printed AFTER May 10 2016, recommending the longer period of STEM OPT.

Please note that it is currently expected that we will not be able to prepare 24-month STEM OPT I-20’s until May 16 2016, when the immigration system’s capabilities are updated.

In order to prepare this 24 month STEM OPT I-20, IES must receive an I-983 Training Plan, completed and signed by the student and their employer.  Students will be able to return the new I-20 to USCIS and their application will be processed and approved for the 24 month period of STEM OPT, and the requirements associated with the 24 month STEM extension will apply.

 

For students with STEM OPT approved before May 10 2016

Students currently working on the STEM Extension as of May 10 will be able (but not required) to apply for the additional 7 months of STEM OPT after May 10.  While this process isn’t perfectly clear yet, is seems it will require the following:

  • The current STEM OPT end date must be no less than 150 days in the future, as of the date the application is received by USCIS
    • As an example, a student whose application is received by USCIS on May 10 2016 would need to have their current STEM OPT end no earlier than Oct 7 2016, which is 150 days after May 10.
    • Individual students with current STEM OPT will be contacted directly to notify them as to their eligibility
  • I-983 Training plan, completed and signed by student and employer and submitted to IES
  • New I-20 issued by IES, AFTER May 10 2016, recommending the additional STEM OPT time.  We will need to first receive the I-983 training plan to prepare the new I-20 for you.  Please note that it is currently expected that we will not be able to prepare 24-month STEM OPT I-20’s until May 16 2016, when the immigration system’s capabilities are updated.
  • New I-765 form, $410 filling fee, and supporting documents (presumably the same as your previous OPT and STEM OPT applications)

Please note the deadline to apply for this additional period of STEM OPT is August 8 2016!

 

New Requirements and Rules DURING the 24 month STEM OPT period

  • The student must complete a 12 month evaluation, and 24 month evaluation, with their STEM OPT employer.  The evaluation forms are pages 6 and 7 of the I-983 training plan.
  • The DSO (IES staff) must verify your employer and address information is correct every 6 months (this is a requirement already)
  • The student must report any change in employer or address within 10 days of that event (this is also already required)
  • Any previously unused unemployment time from the original 90 days during regular OPT will still be available during the STEM extension period, as well as an additional 60 days

 

Additional Information

Please use these links for more information:

Study In The States (US Dept of Homeland Security) 

USCIS STEM OPT Website

New Regulation, Full Text

NAFSA Association of International Educators STEM OPT Website