FAQ: STEM OPT Extension
F-1 graduates with a STEM degree, working for an E-Verify enrolled employer, may be eligible for an OPT extension of 24-months. This FAQ answers questions you may have whether you are on your 12-month post-completion OPT, have a pending application for a 17-month STEM OPT extension, or already received a 17-month extension and wants to know if you may apply for the additional 7-months.
Q1: I am still on my 12-month OPT, which will expire before 5/10/16. What should I do?
A: You need to apply for the 17-month extension before your 12-month OPT expires.
Q2: I am still on my 12-month OPT, which will expire on or after 5/10/16. What should I do?
A: You may either (1) apply for the 17-month extension before 5/10/16, or (2) apply for the 24-month extension on or after 5/10/16. Note: either type of STEM OPT extension must be filed before your 12-month OPT expires.
Q3: I applied for the 17-month extension and it is still pending as of 5/10/16. What will happen?
A: USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) and you will be asked to provide evidence your employer and its training program meets the requirements of the new 24-month extension. If the additional evidence is satisfactory, you will receive a 24-month extension.
Q4: I applied for the 17-month extension and it was approved for 17-months. What are my options?
A: You may choose to (1) stay with the 17-month EAD extension, or (2) submit another STEM OPT extension application for 7-months (see Q6 below).
Q5: I received my 17-month extension under the old rule and it expires before 10/08/16. Can I apply for 7 more months?
A: No. You are not eligible for more OPT time because you have less than 150 days remaining on your EAD even if you were to file on 5/10/16, the earliest possible filing date.
Q6: I received my 17-month extension under the old rule and it expires on or after 10/08/16. Can I apply for 7 more months?
A: Yes, but you must file between 5/10/16 and 8/08/16 AND on the day your application is filed, you must have at least 150 calendar days remaining on your EAD.
Q7: How do I calculate my window of opportunity for filing for the additional 7-months?
A: The earliest you may file is 5/10/16 (the day the new rule takes effect). Then, to calculate the last day you may file, subtract 150 days from your 17-month OPT extension expiration date. For example, if your 17-month extension will expire on 10/15/16, the last day you may file is 5/17/16 (10/15/16 minus 150 days). So, your window of opportunity is only 8 days, from 5/10/16 to 5/17/16.
Q8: What are the key differences between the new 24-month extension rule and the old rule for 17-months?
A: Under the new rule, the employer must show it is providing training as opposed to merely offering employment. As such, employers must provide details regarding its training program and show that the training and tasks are in line with the F-1 graduate’s field of study. Employers must also indicate it is compensating F-1 graduates as it does its U.S. employees (i.e., trainees who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents). These details must be addressed in a new form (I-983) which must be submitted to the F-1 graduate’s Designated School Official. If the DSO is satisfied with the information in form I-983, s/he will endorse a new I-20, which must be submitted with the 24-month OPT extension application.
Q9: Does the information and evidence described in Q8 apply if I am only applying for the additional 7-months, or if USCIS issues a RFE for my application for 17-month extension (described in Q3)?