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News & Updates
The OPT STEM Extension was involved in a court case bringing to light the violations in following court procedures of notice and comment. This court case has also led to proposed changes to the existing STEM Extension.
A summary of the timeline of this case is listed below:
On August 12, 2015, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia found that DHS' did not follow procedures of notice and comment when the 2008 STEM OPT extension was set as law. This, according to the judge, was "a serious procedural deficiency" that merits "vacatur" (i.e., rescinding, setting aside, annulling) the STEM OPT extension.
On October 19, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security published the proposed STEM OPT rule. Over 50,000 comments were submitted about the rule, and those comments were reviewed over the course of several months to amend the STEM OPT rule.
On March 9, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the final STEM OPT Rule that significantly expands and changes the STEM OPT Extension and addresses the concerns of the ongoing court case.
On Friday, March 11, 2016, The rule has been officially published and information provided on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s website
The new OPT STEM Extension Rule is effective May 10, 2016.
The full ruling is available online. Note, it is in PDF format and 300 pages.
Summary of the important changes in the final rule:
- Lengthens the STEM OPT Extension period from the current 17 months to 24 months.
- Allows students who earn multiple STEM designated degrees to benefit from two periods of STEM OPT Extension as long as they complete a higher degree for the second extension. Currently, only one STEM OPT period is allowed per lifetime.
- Clarifies and expands the total unemployment allowable while engaged in OPT and STEM OPT Extension (150 days of unemployment total, 90 days for OPT, 60 days for STEM).
- Allows certain students who have prior STEM related degrees to file for STEM OPT Extensions based on the prior STEM degree after OPT with a non-STEM related degree.
- Affirms the Cap-Gap benefit for students with expiring OPT and STEM OPT Extensions and selected H-1B petitions.
- Affirms the ability to file for OPT up to 60 days after the completion of the academic program.
Students with existing approved STEM OPT – Any OPT STEM Extensions that were/will be approved before May 10, 2016 are valid for 17 months of STEM OPT employment. Students with approved STEM Extensions are eligible to apply for the additional 7 months of OPT as long as you have at least 150 days (5 months) of STEM OPT remaining on your EAD. To apply for that extension of your existing STEM OPT, you will be required to submit a complete I-765 application for work authorization to USCIS, along with applicable fees and supporting documentation, on or before August 8, 2016.
Part of the changes to STEM Extension includes additional reporting from your employer. In addition to the existing documents required for OPT STEM applications, you and your employer will be required to complete the I-983. This form serves as an outline of your employment and work goals for USCIS to verify your employment. Your supervisor will also be required to submit annual reports of your work performance. For more information about the I-983 and instructions for completing this form, please see the Form I-983 Instructions
Earliest date: 90 days before your current OPT end date
Latest date: End date of your current OPT
Note: The application must be received by USCIS before the current EAD expires. Students who have applied for the extension may continue working on the expired EAD for 180 days or until the application is approved as long as they have received the receipt of the application from USCIS.
While on STEM Extension
Report OPT changes within 10 days of the change. To report OPT changes, contact International Student Services (firstname.lastname@example.org)
No more than 150 days of unemployment during the entire 36 months of OPT (90 days OPT, 60 days STEM)
While on STEM OPT
- You must be employed in a position directly related to the program of study listed on your I-20
- The employer must be E-Verified
- You must submit an updated I-983 completed by you and your employer to the International Student Services office for any employment change within 10 days of the change. You must submit I-983 evaluations within the assigned deadline
Validation Report: Students on STEM extension must submit a validation report confirming current employment to ISS every six months starting from the date extension begins and ending when the student’s F-1 status ends. The validation report is due within 10 days of each reporting date. NOTE: Failure to submit the annual 6 month report will result in the termination of your I-20 by USCIS.
I-983 Evaluation on Student Progress: Students must also submit the annual Evaluation on Student Progress listed on the I-983 (pages 6-7). The first annual progress report must be submitted to the International Student Services office 12 months after the approval of your STEM OPT. The second annual report must be submitted 24 months after the approval of yoru STEM OPT. Failure to submit the I-983 reports within 10 days of these anniversary dates will result in the termination of your I-20 by USCIS