On March 11, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security published a final rule allowing certain F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees, and who meet other specified requirements, to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT. The 24-month extension will replace the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to STEM students (see 73 FR 18944). Eligible students may now apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extensionThe 2016 STEM Extension rule institutes significant changes for the F-1 OPT STEM Extension, including:
|STEM Application Period||STEM applications may only be submitted up to 90 days prior to the initial 12-Month OPT EAD expiration.|
|Accreditation||The degree that is the basis for the 24-month extension to be "from a U.S. educational institution accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the Department of Education at the time of application."|
|Eligibility for 2nd STEM Extension||The new rule allows a total of 2 lifetime STEM Extensions, the 2nd after earning a new STEM-eligible degree at a higher level and obtaining a new, higher level of 12-Month OPT|
|Eligible Based on Previously Earned Degree||May be based on a previously earned STEM Degree|
|Updated STEM Definition and CIP Categories||STEM Definition and CIP Categories|
|Required Training Plan and and Form I-983||I-983 Requires significant responsibility of the to provide a training plan related to the field of study, and attestations to wages and compensation being commensurate with "similarly situated U.S. workers"|
|New Obligations for Students, Schools, and Employers||Annual evaluations, 6 month validation reports, and submission of a new I-983 in case of material changes to the original I-983 are now required. Employers must agree to Department of Homeland Security site visits, as well as provide attestations to wages and working conditions|
|Types of Employment Allowed||Volunteer/unpaid, employment through employment agencies and self- employment are NOT allowed. STEM-sligible employers must Verify & EIN numbers and the student must have a "bona fide employer-employee relationship”. Other types of employment are also problematic- including multiple employer arrangements, sole proprietorships, employment through ‘‘temp'' agencies, employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, and other relationships that do not constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship. DHS confirms that students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Training Plan, and the employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.|
|Increased Unemployment||Students with 24-Month STEM Extensions may have up to 150 days of unemployment during the total OPT period including initial 12-Month and 24-Month STEM OPT period|
Students must apply for the 24-month OPT extension prior to the expiration of the first 12 months of “regular” OPT. The application must be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of the first OPT period EAD in order to be properly (timely) filed. USCIS will not accept I-765 applications for STEM extensions any earlier than 90 days before the current EAD expiration date. Accordingly, HGU International students office will process a STEM recommendation I-20 no more than three months and one week in advance of your current OPT end date. *Please note: you cannot apply during the 60 day grace period.
The start date of the 24-month OPT extension will be automatically set to the day after the expiration of the current 12-month OPT authorization. The end date will be 24 months later. (It is not possible to request smaller increments of time for the OPT extension.)
If you receive a STEM OPT extension, you must:
If you are an employer who wants to provide a practical training opportunity to a STEM OPT student during his or her extension, you must:
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may visit your worksite(s) to verify whether you are meeting the STEM OPT program requirements, including whether you are maintaining the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences for the STEM OPT student.
A student's F-1 status and OPT STEM employment authorization will be extended if the student is the beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition requesting change of status and an employment start date of October 1st of the following fiscal year. This benefit applies to all students on post-completion OPT. The extension of status and work authorization automatically terminates upon the rejection, denial or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf. Students should make an appointment with their Student Services Advisor -- prior to the expiration of their OPT STEM -- to discuss how they can take advantage of this benefit.
Once students have completed their period of post-completion OPT STEM, they are permitted to remain in the United States for up to sixty days in order to prepare for departure from the U.S. Students are not permitted to continue employment during this period. While travel within the U.S. is permitted during the grace period, departure from the country and reentry in F-1 status is not permitted during this time. Once a student departs the U.S., the grace period is concluded.
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