STEM OPT Extension from 17 Months to 24 Months

By | June 12, 2016
STEM OPT Extension: Today, DHS released an advanced copy of its final rule allowing foreign students with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to extend their Optional Practical Training (OPT) for an additional 24 months. DHS published the final rule in the Federal Register this Friday. The rule will go into effect on May 10. Beginning May 10, students who are currently in the U.S. under their 17-month STEM OPT extension will be able to file to extend their OPT for an additional 7 months.

New STEM OPT Extension Rule Brings Welcomed Relief to Employers and International Students

What Need to Know About the New Rule :

  • Increases the STEM OPT extension period from 17 months to 24 months
  • The STEM OPT Rule is officially published on March 11th, 2016.
  • Improving and Expanding Training Opportunities for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students with STEM Degrees and Cap-Gap Relief for All Eligible F-1 Students
  • 24 Months STEM OPT Final Rule – Effective from May 10, 2016
  • Automatically extends work authorization if students properly file a STEM OPT extension
  • Permits students currently approved for a 17-month extension of work authorization to apply for the balance of the new 24-month extension if they meet certain requirements pertaining to timing of their applications
  • Provides for DHS site visits to employer locations in which STEM OPT students are employed. The DHS will generally give advance notice of such visits but may also conduct an unannounced visit if triggered by a complaint or other evidence of violation of the regulations.
  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is amending its F-1 non-immigrant student visa regulations on optional practical training (OPT) for certain students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) from U.S. institutions of higher education. Specifically, the final rule allows such F-1 STEM students who have elected to pursue 12 months of OPT in the United States to extend the OPT period by 24 months (STEM OPT extension). This 24-month extension effectively replaces the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to certain STEM students. The rule also improves and increases oversight over STEM OPT extensions by, among other things, requiring the implementation of formal training plans by employers, adding wage and other protections for STEM OPT students and U.S. workers, and allowing extensions only to students with degrees from accredited schools. As with the prior 17-month STEM OPT extension, the rule authorizes STEM OPT extensions only for students employed by employers who participate in E-Verify. The rule also includes the “Cap-Gap” relief first introduced in a 2008 DHS regulation for any F-1 student with a timely filed H-1B petition and request for change of status.

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