24-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 you will find detailed information how UTD’s F-1 student population can qualify and 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. The application must be properly filed with USCIS no sooner than 90 days before the expiration of their EAD card.
  • 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.
  • F-1 students who currently have a 17-month STEM extension application pending with USICS may receive a Request For Evidence for an I-20 with the 24-month STEM extension and the Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT.
  • 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.

Application Process

Carefully review the information about the 24-Month or 7-Month extension

  1. Pay the $100 Practical Training Fee if you are applying for the 24-Month extension
  2. Submit to the International Student Services Office (ISSO):
    • STEM OPT Request Form
    • Completed Form I-765
    • Completed Form I-983
    • Current EAD card
    • USCIS Request for Evidence (if any)
    • Transcripts (if applying based on your previous STEM degree)
    • Previous I-20(s) (if applying based on your previous STEM degree)
  3. Within about three business days you will be sent an email that the DSO Letter/OPT I-20 is ready for pickup. You will be given mailing instructions when you pick up the DSO Letter/I-20.
  4. Compile the application, make a copy for your personal file and mail the application to USCIS. (as of May 23, 2017 USCIS will not accept the DSO Letter anymore)
  5. If you are in a period of post completion OPT USCIS must receive your application before your period of initial OPT ends.
  6. If you are in an authorized period of STEM OPT USCIS must receive your application between the dates of May 10, 2016 – August 8, 2016 and you must have at least 150 days of employment left.
  7. If you currently have a 17-month STEM extension application pending you must submit the DSO Letter/I-20 and I-983 to USCIS by the due date listed on the Request for Evidence.
  8. If you are in a period of post completion OPT your 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.
  9. If approved, an OPT extension Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will be mailed to the address listed on the submitted I-765 showing an additional 7 or 24  months of OPT.

Employer Requirements

  • DHS may conduct site visits to employers 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 by sending an e-mail to mailto:issocurrent@utdallas.edu.
  • 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 at the following intervals:
  • Prior to submitting their STEM OPT application to the ISSO.
  • 12 months from their STEM EAD start date and include a progress report on accomplishments and skills or knowledge obtained.
  • If there are changes to or deviations from the student’s formal training plan.
  • 24 months from their STEM EAD start date.

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 on the OPT STEM Reporting Form.

  • The student must report changes in employment status to the ISSO on the OPT STEM Reporting Form. Additionally, the employer must report changes to the student’s employment status to the ISSO within 5 business days by sending an e-mail to mailto:issocurrent@utdallas.edu.
  • 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.

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 150 days of unemployment.