Image courtesy of studyinthestates.dhs.gov
Image courtesy of studyinthestates.dhs.gov

2 Weeks Later: The New STEM OPT Rule

On May 10, The Department of Homeland Security launched the new 24-month STEM OPT extension. Do you still have questions? We’re here to help!

WASHINGTON–On Tuesday, May 10 the Department of Homeland Security officially launched the 24-month STEM OPT extension for qualifying international students. Two weeks later we’re seeing if you have any questions.

First, a quick reminder:

Optional Practical Training, or OPT, lasts 12 months for international students who graduate and want to work at least one year in the U.S. to gain work experience. Students who studied a STEM (science, technology, engineering, or medicine) field can now apply for a 24-month extension, giving them 36 months of employment in the U.S. (Before the extension for STEM OPT students was 17 months).

There are also other changes besides extending the amount of time of STEM OPT. DHS launched the STEM OPT Hub to help students, university administrators, and employers understand the new OPT program.

If you were on the STEM OPT 17-month extension before May 10 OR had applied for the extension before May 10, here are some important details:

  • The 17-month extension rule stayed in effect through May 9, 2016.
  • If you applied for an extension anytime before May 10, it was treated as a 17-month extension. Only applications received after May 10 are considered for 24-month extensions.
  • If you were on a 17-month extension that was issued on or before May 9, 2016, you may be able to apply for an additional seven months of OPT allowing you to benefit from the new 24-month extension. You must meet the following requirements:
    • Have 150 calendar days left on your EAD
    • Apply between May 10-August 8, 2016
    • Fulfill the 24-month STEM OPT extension requirements

Do I qualify for the 24-month extension? 

  • You must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in a qualifying STEM field (click for the listby an institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Click here to see the list.
  • The student must have a job offer from an employer who is enrolled in USCIS’s E-Verify, employment verification program. Click here to learn more about E-Verify.
    • You must be able to work at least 20 hours/week and receive formal training and learning objectives.
    • You must work with the employer to complete the Form I-983 (click for details).
  • You may not apply for STEM OPT extension during the 60-day grace period following an initial (usually 12-month) period of post-completion OPT.

For all the details on the new STEM OPT rule, below are helpful links for students:

Homepage: STEM OPT Hub Students with 17-Month STEM OPT Applications Pending on May 10, 2016 Students with Existing 17-Month STEM OPT EADs on May 10, 2016 Students: Determining STEM OPT Extension Eligibility Students: STEM OPT Reporting Requirements STEM OPT Frequently Asked Questions

The new STEM OPT rule also includes other enhancements as well, including more responsibilities for employers and designated school officials (DSOs) to make sure international students receive quality experiences while working on OPT.

The enhanced STEM OPT rule is still under public inspection, but it is set to start on May 10. It has been a long journey to get to this point. From October 19-November 18, 2015 the public could share thoughts and opinions about the enhanced STEM OPT program. DHS received 50,500 comments, the most in DHS history.

Read some of the comments here

 

If you have questions, please call 703-603-3400 or email SEVP@ice.dhs.gov and include STEM OPT in the subject line. Offices are open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.(ET). You can also contact your DSO and/or immigration advisor at your university/college.

 

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