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The STEM OPT 24-Month Extension: Here's What's New

March 15, 2016

On March 11, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its final rule on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) optional practical training (OPT) extension. This final rule will go into effect on May 10, 2016, and at that time will replace the current 17-month STEM OPT extension.

What is new about the amended regulation?

  • DHS extended the period of time from 17 months to 24 months and strengthened oversight of the program by adding new features.  
  • Specifically, DHS added the Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students,” to the rule. When properly completed, this form clearly articulates the STEM OPT student’s learning objectives and affirms the employer’s commitment to helping the student achieve those objectives.
  • DHS now reserves the right to conduct employer site visits to ensure that the STEM OPT student and employer are following the conditions laid out in the Form I-983.
  • Students may now use prior, qualifying STEM degrees to apply for the 24-month extension. For more details about this enhancement, please visit the STEM OPT Hub page dedicated to helping students determine their STEM OPT eligibility.
  • Students must receive their qualifying STEM degree from a school that is both accredited and Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified. The accreditation must come from an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the school must hold that accreditation at the time the student submits their application for the STEM OPT extension.
  • DHS extended the maximum allowable days of unemployment for students on the STEM OPT extension. Visit the STEM OPT extension overview for more information.
  • F-1 students with qualifying degrees are now eligible to participate in the STEM OPT extension twice throughout their academic career. However, in order to apply for the STEM OPT extension for a second time, the student must complete a qualifying STEM degree at a higher education level and complete an initial period of regular post-completion OPT.
  • Students participating in the STEM OPT extension must still regularly report to their designated school official (DSO) every six months and must now complete two self-evaluations throughout the duration of the extension.

Students interested in participating in the STEM OPT extension must still find employers who are in good standing with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) E-Verify system and must train with the employer for a minimum of 20 hours per week.

Additionally, a DSO must still recommend a student in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System prior to the student submitting their STEM OPT application to USCIS.  

Want to learn more about the new STEM OPT extension? Visit the STEM OPT Hub on Study in the States. There you will find comprehensive information about how DHS is transitioning from the 17-month to 24-month extension. New resources are also available to help students, DSOs and employers navigate the eligibility and reporting requirements for the new rule.

Share this blog post with your network on social media using the hashtags #StudyintheStates and #STEMOPT.

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