17-Month OPT Extension

Improving and Expanding Training Opportunities for F–1 Nonimmigrant Students With STEM Degrees and Cap- Gap Relief for All Eligible F–1 Students

The final 24-month STEM OPT rule was published in the Federal Register on Friday, March 11, 2016. It is available for review at 81 FR 13039. The new 24-month STEM OPT rule is effective Tuesday, May 10, 2016, however the current 17-month STEM OPT rule remains in effect through May 9, 2016.

Below are the Major Provisions of the New Rule. In the coming weeks the ISSO will provide more detailed instructions on how UTD’s F-1 student population can apply for the new 24-month extension or additional 7 month extension of their current period of STEM OPT.

Student Eligibility

  • F-1 students with a STEM degree who have been granted 12 months of post-completion OPT may apply to the Department of Homeland Security for a 24 month extension of their period of practical training.
  • F-1 students who are currently in an authorized period of STEM OPT may apply for an additional 7 months, between the dates of May 10, 2016 – August 8, 2016, if they have at least 150 calendar days of employment left at the time of application.
  • The student’s degree must be awarded by an accredited U.S. college or university. The accrediting agency must be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • The extension may be based upon the student’s most recent STEM degree or upon a STEM degree that was conferred within the 10 years preceding the date the student is recommended for the extension by the ISSO.
  • The student may apply for the extension based upon a dual degree program or double major as long as one of the programs is STEM eligible.
  • If based upon a STEM degree awarded in the past, both the students current and past degrees must be received from currently accredited educational institutions.
  • If based upon a STEM degree awarded in the past, the degree must have been issued by an educational institution that is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program at the time of application.
  • The student may be eligible for up to two 24-month extensions based upon two separate STEM degrees at different educational levels moving up.
  • The student and employer must complete Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, outlining learning objectives and a plan to meet those objectives prior to submitting their STEM OPT application to the ISSO.
  • Students are required to update Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, 12 months from their STEM EAD start date and include a progress report on accomplishments and skills or knowledge obtained. Employers must sign the 12 month evaluation as well.
  • If the student adds or changes employers they must submit a new Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, to the ISSO.
  • The student and employer must report changes to or deviations from the student’s formal training plan on Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT outlined above.
  • Students and employers must additionally complete and submit to the ISSO a concluding 24 month evaluation on Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.
  • If a student neglects to submit Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students to the ISSO within 10 days of the conclusion of the reporting period they will be in violation of their F-1 status.

Employer Requirements

  • DHS may conduct sight visits to employer’s where STEM OPT students are employed.
  • The employer must be enrolled in and remain in good-standing with E-verify.
  • The employer must implement a formal training plan, documented on Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, to strengthen the students’ academic learning through practical experience. Existing training plans may be utilized to meet this requirement.
  • The employer must have sufficient resources to provide appropriate training to the student.
  • The employer must confirm that the student will not replace a full-time or part-time , temporary or permanent U.S. worker.
  • The employer must confirm that the training opportunity helps the student meet their training objectives.
  • The employer must report changes to the student’s employment to the ISSO within 5 business days.
  • The employer must give the student an evaluation at the first 12 months of employment and a final evaluation prior to the end of their STEM OPT extension on Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. This requirement is separate from any internal performance evaluation set by the employer.

Employment Requirements

  • F-1 students may no longer volunteer for an employer during the STEM OPT extension.
  • Employment must be for at least 20 hours a week.
  • The employment must be compensated.
  • The employment must include a legitimate employer, employee relationship.
  • The employment must be directly related to the STEM degree that the work authorization was based upon.
  • A student is allowed to work for multiple employers while on a period of STEM OPT, however each employment must meet all of the student and employer requirements outlined above.

Student and Employer Reporting Requirement

  • The student must submit a six month validation report.
  • The student and employer must complete the annual evaluation on Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT outlined above.
  • The student must report changes in employment status to the ISSO. Additionally, the employer must report changes to the student’s employment status to the ISSO within 5 business days.
  • The student and employer must report changes to or deviations from the student’s formal training plan on Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT outlined above.

Unemployment Limit

  • Students on post-completion OPT are allowed a maximum period of 90 days of unemployment.
  • Students on the 24-month STEM OPT extension are allowed an additional 60 days of unemployment for a maximum period of 150 days of unemployment.
  • If a student is in a period of the 17-month extension, and is currently pending the additional 7 month extension they are allowed a maximum period of 120 days of unemployment. After approval to the 24 month extension the student is allowed a maximum period of 150 days of unemployment.

Eligibility

  • No previous 17-month extension on any educational level
  • Currently on initial OPT
  • Within 120 days prior to the OPT expiration date
  • Graduated with a degree from one of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs designated by Homeland Security
  • Employed by employer registered with federal E-Verify system
  • Employed in a position related to the STEM degree

Eligible Degrees

Not all STEM graduates are eligible for the 17-month extension. The U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS) limits this benefit to selected programs. To be eligible the major on your most recent Form I-20 must match one of the designated programs.

Application Process

Applying for an OPT extension is similar to applying for OPT.

  1. Carefully review the information about the 17 Month Extension
  2. Pay the $100 Practical Training Fee *
  3. Submit to the International Student Services Office (ISSO):
  4. Within three business days you will be sent an email that the OPT I-20 is ready for pickup. You will be given mailing instructions when you pick up the I-20.
  5. Compile the application, make a copy for your personal file and mail the application to USCIS. USCIS must receive your application before your period of initial OPT ends.
  6. USCIS will provide a receipt a few weeks after your submission. Check it for errors!
  7. Your OPT authorization will extend up to 180 days past the OPT expiration date while the extension application is pending. However, during that time you must meet the job requirements of the extension, such as working for an E-Verify employer.
  8. If approved, an OPT extension Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will be mailed to the address listed on the submitted I-765 showing an additional 17 months of OPT.

*Due to the additional Practical Training requirements instituted by Homeland Security on April 8, 2008, UT Dallas students are required to pay a $100 Practical Training fee. This fee is separate from the USCIS application fee.