USA: Deadline to apply for an additional 7 months of STEM OPT is August 8

The filing window for requesting a 7-month extension of STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) will close on August 8, 2016.

All requests received by United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) after August 8, 2016 will be rejected.

As previously announced, a substantially revised STEM OPT program took effect on May 10, 2016. The new program allows F-1 students with a U.S. degree in a designated science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) field to extend their initial 12-month grant of OPT by an additional 24 months, so long as that they meet the new rule's requirements. Under the previous program, F-1 students with STEM degrees were only eligible to extend by 17 months.  The new rule attempts to bridge this gap between the two programs by allowing certain F-1 students to lengthen their 17-month grant of STEM OPT by an additional seven months.

Who is Eligible for a 7-Month Extension

An F-1 student working on a 17-month extension of STEM OPT may request an additional seven months, for a total of 24 months, provided he/she meets the following criteria:

  • The F-1 student's qualifying degree meets the new requirements of the regulation;
  • Both the F-1 student and his/her employer comply with the new rules, including having an approved I-983 training plan and a new I-20 endorsed by the Designated School Official (DSO) for a STEM OPT extension;
  • The F-1 student has at least 150 days remaining on the 17-month STEM OPT extension as of the date USCIS receives the request for the 7-month extension; and
  • The F-1 student files the request for the 7-month extension with USCIS on Form I-765 between May 10, 2016 and August 8, 2016, and within 60 days of the date the DSO enters the recommendation for the 24-month OPT extension into the SEVIS record.

What This Means for Eligible F-1 Students

Eligible F-1 students seeking the additional seven months of STEM OPT must submit their request to USCIS by Monday, August 8, 2016. Those who choose not to request an extension or who fail to meet the deadline may continue to work according to their grant of 17-month STEM OPT and remain subject to the prior program’s rules.

Stuart Beaty

Celsium, Birmingham, UK