Summary of 24 Months STEM OPT Extension and Key Dates to Remember [Videos]

As you can imagine, F-1 Visa students on OPT status have a bunch of questions about applying for 24 months STEM OPT Extension. By now you should have learned from STEM OPT Extension updates about 17 to 24 months STEM OPT.

Depending on the date when you current OPT expires (12 months or 17 months STEM OPT), your question would vary on how to get 24 months of STEM OPT Extension? Here’re few videos to explain frequently asked questions for various OPT Expiry dates.

  1. 12 Months OPT Expiring Before May 10, 2016
  2. 12 Months OPT Expiring After May 10, 2016
  3. 12 Months OPT Expiring on May 10, 2016
  4. How to get 7 more months of STEM OPT Extension

12 Months OPT Expiring Before May 10, 2016

If your initial 12 months OPT Expires before May 10, 2016, what should you do to get 24 months STEM OPT?

12 Months OPT Expiring After May 10, 2016

If your initial 12 months OPT Expires after May 10, 2016, what should you do to get 24 months STEM OPT?

 

12 Months OPT Expiring on May 10, 2016 

This is an interesting scenario. Here’s what I think you should do. If that’s the case, apply for 17 months STEM OPT Extension ASAP.  Wait for RFE.

12 months opt expires on may 10 2016

How to get 7 more months of STEM OPT Extension

If you are on 17 months STEM OPT, you have multiple scenarios to consider

  • Already applied for 17 months STEM OPT Extension, then how to get 7 more months of  STEM OPT Extension
  • 17 months STEM OPT Expires before May 10, 2016
  • 17 months STEM OPT expires after May 10, 2016

24 Months STEM OPT Extension Rule – Key Dates

One reader forwarded this email the received from the DSO. I think its well written and informative.


 

The rule significantly changes the STEM OPT program and places greater responsibilities on students, employers, and Designated School Officials. The rule will go into effect on May 10, 2016.

Below you will find a summary of some of the major changes and issues found in this new regulation. For those, you in STEM fields the following are the most important issues to understand now.

1) If your current 12 months OPT expires before May 10, 2016, and you are eligible for the STEM OPT extension; you should file for it now so you won’t lose it. Once approved you will be able to file for the remaining 7 months to give you the full 24 months of STEM OPT.

 

2) If your current 12 months OPT expires after May 10, 2016, wait to file until May 10th so you can apply for the full 24 months of OPT. Gather your documents now and have them ready to go on May 10th.

 

3) Those already on the 17 months STEM OPT extension will only be able to file for the extra 7 months of OPT is you have at least 150 days left on your OPT as of the date of filing. You won’t be able to file until at least May 10th and must file for the remaining OPT by August 8, 2016. If you don’t have 150 days of OPT left on the 17 month STEM extension as of the filing date, you will not be able to obtain the additional 7 months of OPT.

 

4) Those of you with 17 month STEM extension applications pending at Homeland Security will receive only 17 months of OPT if it is approved before May 10, 2016. Once approved you can immediately file for the remaining 7 months of OPT between May 10, 2016, and August 8, 2016.

 

5) Those of you with 17 month STEM extensions pending that are not approved by May 10th will receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) from Homeland Security. You will need to contact us immediately when you get the RFE. You will need a new I-20 recommending the 24 month STEMP OPT period and the I-983 Training Plan to obtain the full 24 months STEM OPT extension.

Summary of the important changes in the final rule:

  • Lengthens the STEM OPT Extension period to 24 months (rather than 17 months).
  • Allows students to benefit from two periods of STEM OPT Extension based on higher degree levels (i.e. rather than the one period per lifetime currently allowed).
  • Clarifies and expands the total unemployment allowable while engaged in OPT and STEM OPT Extension.
  • Allows certain students who have prior STEM OPT qualifying degrees to benefit from STEM OPT Extensions after OPT based on non-STEM related degrees.
  • Re-affirms the “cap-gap” benefit for students with expiring OPT and STEM OPT Extensions and selected H-1B petitions.
  • Re-affirms the ability to file for OPT up to 60 days after the completion of the academic program.
  • Issues Related to currently pending or approved STEM OPT applications
  • Any 17-month STEM OPT EAD that is issued before May 10, 2016, will remain valid for 17 months.
  • 7 more months 
    • Starting on May 10, 2016, certain students with such EADs will have a limited window in which to apply for an additional 7 months of OPT, effectively enabling them to benefit from a 24-month period of STEM OPT.
    • To qualify for the 7-month extension, the student must satisfy the following requirements: The STEM OPT student must properly file an Application for Employment Authorization with USCIS, along with applicable fees and supporting documentation, on or before August 8, 2016 (the petition must be filed within 60 days of the date the DSO enters the recommendation for the 24-month STEM OPT extension into the student’s SEVIS record).
    • The student must have at least 150 calendar days remaining prior to the expiration of the 17-month STEM OPT EAD at the time the Application for Employment Authorization is filed. This means that there will be many students currently on the 17 month STEM OPT extension who will not be eligible to receive the additional 7 month OPT period.
  • If the STEM OPT Extension application is not approved by May 10, 2016, USCIS will request that the student provides updated forms and information before they can approve a case. Once the updated forms and information are provided, the STEM OPT Extension will be granted for 24 months. Updated forms will include a new I-20 recommending the 24 STEM OPT extension and the completed I-983. Students will receive a formal Request for Evidence (RFE) in such cases.
  • Students approved for the 17 months STEM OPT extension will be able to accrue 150 days of unemployment. Those who have applied for the 7 additional months of STEM OPT employment are not entitled to 150 days of unemployment until the 7 additional months of OPT has been approved.
  • A student may not receive a STEM OPT extension for a volunteer opportunity.
  • Issues Related to obtaining multiple STEM OPT authorizations or using STEM OPT employment for a degree obtained in the past
  • STEM students will now benefit from the ability to earn the second qualifying STEM OPT period by obtaining a STEM degree at a higher educational level.
  • The rule permits an F-1 student participating in a 12-month period of post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree to use a prior eligible STEM degree as a basis to apply for a STEM OPT extension.
  • The STEM degree must have been completed in the U.S. and have been obtained within the past 10 years.
  • Students wishing to obtain a STEM OPT employment period based on a degree obtained in the past must apply through the DSO at school the student most recently attended.
  • Students will not be able to obtain back-to-back STEM OPT extensions. A STEM OPT extension can only be granted as an extension of a regular OPT period.

Additional Resources

I tried to cover as may scenarios as possible when it comes to applying for new 24 months STEM OPT Extension. If you have any questions about when to apply for STEM OPT Extension, please post them in the comments section (below). Also, talk to your DSO, understand the timeline and make it work for you. Don’t miss the transition window to apply for 7 more months of STEM OPT Extension. Unfortunately, some students will be eligible to get 7 more months of additional STEM OPT Extension.

14 Comments

  1. Abdul on September 28, 2016 at 1:18 AM

    My current STEM OPT 17 MONTHS is valid until OCTOBER 2017. However, I missed the deadline to apply which was August 8, can i apply before January 7th 2016?

  2. Neeha Naidu on July 6, 2016 at 2:19 AM

    Hi Raghu,

    First of all, thanks a lot for such useful blog.
    I am working for a good MNC in California on 17 months OPT STEM extension, which is valid till September 2017. I am in the process of applying for additional 7 months extension.

    Currently I am pregnant and planning to take maternity leave starting from October for 2 months. I will be on unpaid leave but still be employed during those 2 months. I will join back the company after my maternity leave.

    What’s confusing now is the guidelines of 24 month STEM Extension, which says that minimum requirement to maintain STEM Extension is to work for at least 20 hrs a week. Not sure, is this a stipulated rule for 17 months extension also.

    1. If I apply for OPT STEM Extension 7 months, am I allowed to take unpaid medical leave (as per California State law)?

    2. Will my OPT status gets affected, If I take unpaid medical leave?

    3. Do I need to mention about the maternity leave in my I-983 STEM OPT training Plan.

    Thanks
    Neha

  3. Venugopal on June 22, 2016 at 4:57 PM

    Can I change employers while my OPT STEM application is pending?

    I applied 17months STEM extension later I got an RFE with USCIS saying that 24months I-20 must be submitted. So meanwhile I have changed my employer what’s the steps need to be done. I will update the same to university.

    Please send me a link to process further steps. Explaining the process what steps need to be done.

  4. Sowmya on May 4, 2016 at 3:53 PM

    Unpaid Employment in initial OPT, is eligible for 24 months OPT Extension ?

    • Raghuram Sukumar on May 4, 2016 at 10:20 PM

      Talk to an Attorney. Expect RFE when applying for extension (or H1B)

  5. Arun on May 3, 2016 at 2:58 PM

    My wife’s OPT (17 month extension) expires around Jan 23rd 2017. Can we apply for the additional 7 months right away after May 10th or we are not eligible until 150 days from the expiry period?

    Please let me know

    • Raghuram Sukumar on May 4, 2016 at 10:22 PM

      Apply before the Aug deadline.

  6. Rachel on May 2, 2016 at 12:50 PM

    Hi Raghu, I am currently on my OPT 17-month STEM extension period and I am eligible to apply for 7 additional months after May 10th. Since May 10th is approaching soon, I am in the process of gathering necessary document to submit to USCIS. I am having some problems completing I-765 form (Training Plan for STEM OPT Students). Do you think you could make a short video on how to complete each section and maybe share a good sample so that it would help out a lot of students in similar situation? Does this form need to be typed or hand-written? Also, I can see that last two pages are “Evaluation on Student Progress”. Can I leave those pages blank when I submit the paperwork? When exactly do I need to complete this part? Please share! Thanks a lot!! (btw, I also live in Raleigh, NC) 🙂

    • Raghuram Sukumar on May 2, 2016 at 2:12 PM

      Rachel,

      I’m will ask Attorney Murali if we wants to create a course with me. Thanks.

  7. Ramakanth on April 28, 2016 at 3:00 PM

    Hi Raghu,
    Can you please explain this, “A student may not receive a STEM OPT extension for a volunteer opportunity”.

    What does it actually mean?

    Is student eligible for 24 months OPT extension if he is in Unpaid employment during his initial OPT?

    • Raghuram Sukumar on April 28, 2016 at 7:03 PM

      I can’t comment on rule language. Talk to an attorney if you are taking part in “volunteer” job and planning to show that as employed period.

  8. Sangama Vemulapally on March 30, 2016 at 3:00 PM

    Hi Raghu,

    I have a question regarding this change “Allows certain students who have prior STEM OPT qualifying degrees to benefit from STEM OPT Extensions after OPT based on non-STEM related degrees”. I have a masters in Biotechnology (STEM degree) and I’ll graduate soon with a MBA (non-STEM degree). I haven’t used my OPT yet, so can I choose between my two masters for my OPT?

    Does this apply to same level of education degrees like two master’s?

    Thank you.

    • Raghuram Sukumar on April 3, 2016 at 9:26 AM

      Yup, previous STEM degree from U.S. would qualify for STEM OPT. Talk to your DSO.

  9. Mohamed Abubacker on March 29, 2016 at 7:01 PM

    Hi Raghu

    Thank you for updating about STEM OPT extension, I have a question, Currently I am in 17 months STEM extension, it is expiring on March 9, 2017. Can I apply for extension another 7 months?

    Thanks

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