24-Month STEM OPT Extension

On March 11, 2016, the US Department of Homeland Security has published the final 24-month STEM OPT Extension rule in the Federal Register which will take in effect on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. The 17-month STEM OPT Extension rule will remain effective until May 9, 2016.

Degree

Student must currently be engaging in 12-month post-completion OPT and have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral program from an accredited SEVP-certified U.S. Institution in a STEM program that appears on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List. Students who graduated with a non-STEM degree but who received a prior STEM degree from an accredited US Institution may be eligible to apply for the STEM OPT Extension. Additional details and eligibility requirements can be found here.

Employment

Job must be a paid position for at least 20 hours per week and relate to the student’s STEM field of study. Volunteer/unpaid positions are not supported under the STEM OPT rule

Employer

Employer must be enrolled in USCIS E-Verify employment verification program and have an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Student may not be self-employed and must be a bona fide employee of the employer signing the Form I-983 Training Plan. The employer that signs the Form I-983 Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience. Staffing Companies (temp agencies) or employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire are not considered eligible types of employment under the STEM OPT rule

Form I-983 Training Plan

Student and Employer must complete Form I-983 Training Plan and submit to IAGS Immigration Advisor (DSO)

Application Deadline

Student must file the 24-month STEM OPT extension with USCIS before

the expiration date of the current 12-month OPT and within 60 days from the date the STEM OPT I-20 has been issued by an IAGS Immigration Advisor.

Apply early!

Applications may be filed up to 90 days before the current 12-month OPT expires.

Second STEM OPT Participation

Students may participate twice in the STEM OPT extension over the course of their academic career. To be eligible for the 2nd STEM OPT Extension, a student must earn a second qualifying STEM degree at a higher level and be on 12-month post-completion OPT at the time they apply to USCIS.

If you are currently on an approved (or have a pending application) 17-month STEM OPT Extension, please review possible options below:

If You…

And…

Then…

Currently have an approved 17-month STEM OPT extension

You do NOT want to add any additional time to your STEM OPT extension

You do not need to file any new forms or pay any new fees. You are authorized to keep working until your 17-month STEM OPT period expires, or is terminated or revoked.

You want to request to add 7 months to your current STEM OPT extension which ends on or before October 6, 2016

You are not eligible since you have less than 150 days of valid work authorization remaining on your current 17-month STEM OPT Extension

You want to request to add 7 months to your current STEM OPT extension which ends after October 6, 2016

You may be eligible to apply.

The application window to file for the 7-month extension is May 10 – August 8, 2016.

If you do so, you must:

  • Have at least 150 days of valid work authorization remaining on your current EAD card at the time your 7-month extension is filed with USCIS;

  • Include a Form I-20, endorsed by an IAGS Immigration Advisor on or after May 10, 2016; and

  • Show that all eligibility requirements are met under the new 24-month STEM OPT extension rule, including submitting the Form I-983 Training Plan

  • You will have to pay the standard USCIS application fee to file for the 7-month Extension

Have a pending application with USCIS for a 17-month STEM OPT extension with USCIS

You do not withdraw your Form I-765 application

Until May 9, 2016, USCIS will continue to adjudicate your application under the 17-month STEM OPT rule.

If your application is still pending on May 10, 2016, USCIS will send you a Notice with Request for Evidence (RFE) to allow you to demonstrate that you are eligible for a 24-month STEM OPT extension.

You must then contact an IAGS Immigration Advisor upon receipt of the RFE to request a new I-20 recommending the 24-month STEM OPT extension. You must meet the new eligibility requirements for a 24-month extension and submit the Form I-983 Training Plan in order to be issued the new I-20. Please contact your employer prior to receiving the RFE to review the I-983 Training Plan

You will not need to pay an additional fee or refile the Form I-765.

How to Apply for the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension

STEP 1: REVIEW AND COMPLETE 24-MONTH EXTENSION HANDOUT AND AGREEMENT
STEP 2: GATHER REQUIRED DOCUMENTS

Gather the documents listed within the 24-month STEM OPT Extension Handout and Agreement and submit these to an IAGS Immigration Advisor. To speak with an IAGS Immigration Advisor for assistance, please call 407-823-2337.

STEP 3: MAIL APPLICATION PACKET

Once complete, the application packet must be mailed to USCIS. The 24-month STEM OPT application packet must be received by USCIS before the expiration date of the current 12-month OPT and within 60 days from the date the STEM OPT I-20 has been issued by an IAGS Immigration Advisor.

While the 24-Month STEM OPT Application is Pending

Once you have received your Receipt Notice from USCIS, you may check the status of your case online. Please review the Notice to ensure your name and address information are correct.

If you have timely filed the 24-month STEM OPT Application with USCIS, you can continue working for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of the prior post-completion OPT EAD while the STEM extension application is pending, as long as that employment conforms to STEM conditions.

Once approved, the new EAD card will be mailed to the address listed on your application (I-765). Please note the U.S. Postal Service will not forward mail from the federal government to a different address.

Review your card for errors. If there are any errors, please make an appointment with an immigration advisor at IAGS, who will then determine whether or not you should send your card back for correction.

A copy of your new EAD card (front and backside) is require during your appointment.

Student reporting requirements and responsibilities

While on the 24-month STEM OPT Extension, students must report the following to an IAGS Immigration Advisor:

Updated Form I-983 Training Plan –new employment or “material changes”

A new Form I-983 Training Plan must be completed and submitted to an IAGS Immigration Advisor when:

Beginning a new job with a new employer during the 24-month extension

Any time there is a “material change” in the terms and conditions of the original I-983. Material changes can include but is not limited to:

  1. Any change of the employer’s Employer Identification Number (EIN)Any reduction in student compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked.

  2. Any significant decrease in hours per week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity.

  3. Changes to the employer’s commitments or student’s learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983.

 

Within 10 days

Please report any of the following changes/updates using the STEM OPT Status Form:

  1. Legal name

  2. Residential or mailing address

  3. Employer name and address

  4. Status of current employment/unemployment

 

Within 10 days

Six-month validity reports. A student in a period of 24-month STEM OPT must confirm the validity of the following information using the STEM OPT Status Form:

  1. Legal name

  2. Residential or mailing address

  3. Employer name and address

  4. Status of current employment/unemployment

 

Every 6 months

Evaluation Requirements. A student must complete two self-evaluations during the course of his or her STEM OPT period by using pages 6 & 7 of the I-983 Training Plan. Evaluations must be signed by the student and his or her immediate supervisor, and then submitted to and IAGS Immigration Advisor.

First Evaluation:

within 12 months of STEM OPT start date

Second/Final Evaluation:

End of 24-Month STEM OPT Period

Unemployment during 24-month STEM OPT

Students who are granted a 24-month STEM OPT extension are allowed an additional 60 days of unemployment beyond the initial post-completion OPT limit of 90 days. This means that students who obtain a 24-month STEM OPT extension will have an aggregate total of 150 days of allowable unemployment during their 36-month OPT period.

Employer reporting requirements while on the 24-month STEM OPT Extension

The employer is required to report to IAGS Immigration Advisor (isc@ucf.edu) within 5 business days if the student’s employment is terminated for any reason prior to the end of the authorized extension period. More information on the Employer’s reporting requirement can be found here.

Options after 24-month STEM OPT Extension

You will have 60 days after your EAD card expires to make departure plans or other arrangements within the U.S. You may elect to do one of the following:

  1. Return to your home country within the 60-day grace period
  2. Request a new I-20 for a new program at UCF (student must be admitted and receive an updated I-20 for the new program within the 60-days grace period be able to begin classes within 5 months from the expiration date of the EAD Card)
  3. Transfer to another institution within the U.S. (student must complete the SEVIS transfer to the new institution within the 60-day grace period and be able to begin classes within 5 months from the expiration date of the EAD Card)
  4. Apply for a nonimmigrant/immigrant status change