International Student Services

17-Month OPT Extension

In August 2015, a US District Court decided that the current STEM OPT and Cap Gap OPT employment benefits which allow F-1 graduates of certain STEM degrees additional time remain in the US and work in their fields would expire in February 2016. That court has now extended the expiration date of those employment benefits until May 10, 2016. The extension was granted to allow DHS time to finalize new rules about employment benefits. Based on the proposed rules they published October 2015, these benefits are likely to be broader than what currently exists.

Current Status of OPT STEM Eligibility:
F-1 alumni may continue to file, if eligible, for the 17-Month STEM OPT Extension. There are still no changes for students pending or approved for this extension of employment authorization.

Proposed Significant Changes to Current OPT STEM Regulations:

    • Lengthened STEM Extension Period for OPT.
    • The proposal would increase the OPT extension period for STEM OPT F-1 graduates from 17 months to 24 months. The proposal would also make F-1 students who subsequently enroll in a new academic program and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level eligible for one additional 24-month STEM OPT extension.
    • Mentoring and Training Plan.
    • The proposal would require employers to implement formal mentoring and training programs to augment academic learning through practical experience, intended to equip F-1 graduates with a more comprehensive understanding of their selected area of study and broader functionality within that field.
    • Previously Obtained STEM Degrees.
    • The proposal would permit a F-1 graduates to use a prior eligible STEM degree from a U.S. institution of higher education as a basis to apply for a STEM OPT extension, as long as the graduate’s most recent degree was also received from an accredited educational institution.

The full text of the proposed rule may be found on the Federal Register.

Please feel free to contact the ISSO to speak with an advisor if you have any questions.


  • 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.