Currently, foreign students in F-1 nonimmigrant status who have been enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year in a college, university, conservatory, or seminary are eligible for 12 months of post-completion optional practical training (OPT) to work for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student's major area of study. On April 4, 2007, US DHS released an interim final rule that extends the maximum period of OPT from 12 months to 29 months. This rule also ameliorates the so-called "cap-gap" problem by extending the authorized period of stay for all F-1 students who have a properly filed H-1B petition and change of status request (filed under the cap for the next fiscal year) pending with USCIS. If USCIS approves the H-1B petition, the students will have an extension that enables them to remain in the U.S. until the requested start date indicated in the H-1B petition takes effect.



Under new regulations issued by DHS, an F-1 student holding valid OPT can extend the OPT for an addition 17 months (for a total of 29 months). The rule also allows students to file for OPT either within 90 before graduation or up to 60 days after graduation.

To be eligible for OPT extension, an F-1 student must:

  1. Currently hold a 12-month post-completion OPT (as opposed to OPT issued prior to graduation);
  2. Have completed a degree in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics – See http://www.ice.gov/sevis/stemlist.htm for a complete list);
  3. Work for a US employer in a job directly related to the student’s major;
  4. Work for an employer enrolled in E-Verify; AND
  5. Properly maintain F-1 status.

Additional points to remember to apply for the OPT extension:

  1. Extension must be filed on Form I-765 within 30 days of DSO recommendation;
  2. I-765 must be filed with Form I-20 endorsed by the school and a copy of the STEM degree;
  3. Work authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 days upon filing I-765 (need not wait for EAD card issuance to start working);
  4. I-765 has a new field for the employer’s E-Verify information;

Obligations arising after being granted the OPT extension:

  1. Student must report to School (by email, within 10 days) and change in:
    1. Legal name;
    2. Residential and mailing address;
    3. E-mail address;
    4. Employer name;
    5. Employer address;
    6. Job title or position;
    7. Supervisor name and contact information;
    8. Employment start-date; and
    9. Employment end-date.
  2. Student must report to School every six months (by email) to confirm the information listed above, even if there are no changes;
  3. The requirement to report continues if the OPT extension is further extended by the automatic cap-gap provision;
  4. Employer must report to School within 48 hours if the student’s employment ends prior to OPT expiration;


  1. Period of unemployment allowable:  aggregate of 90 days with the initial 12 month OPT; aggregate of a total 120 days with 17 month OPT extension
  2. An employer cannot use E-Verify to retain an OPT student.  E-Verify prohibits the verification of existing employees.
  3. With the 17 month extension, the “start” date is the day after the initial OPT ends, and it ends 17 months thereafter, regardless of when the actual extension is granted.