Section: ISSS

OPT STEM Extension

Bridge from Student to Employee
UPDATE! The Department of Homeland Security just announced the new STEM OPT rule, which will take effect this coming May 10, 2016. The new rule permits up to two STEM extensions of 24 months each, replacing the old rule which only allowed STEM extensions of 17 months. Just as with the old rule, the new rule authorizes STEM OPT extensions only for students employed by employers who participate in E-Verify, but also still allows those employers subject to the higher education E-Verify limitation to offer employment to students seeking the STEM extension. The new rule introduces compliance requirements for employers who hire STEM OPT workers, including Form I-983, which will document a formal training plan for the STEM employee. Employers will also be required to evaluate student progress annually, attest that the STEM OPT worker is not replacing a U.S. worker, and that the STEM student's compensation will be commensurate with that of other similarly employed workers.
The rule contains special provisions and deadlines and extends these benefits to persons currently on a STEM extension which will end on or after this October 6. Persons whose STEM extension ends before October 6 will not be able to extend their current STEM authorization beyond 17 months. This news resolves months of uncertainty about the future of the prior regulations for qualified students in science, technology, engineering or mathematics ("STEM") fields and means that STEM students will not have their status disrupted by the federal judge's 2015 order invalidating these regulations. A copy of the new final rule is available here. For a detailed summary and additional resources, please click here.

 

The 17-Month STEM Extension is employment authorization for certain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree holders who are about to finish their regular 12 months of OPT and wish to request additional 17 months of OPT.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Student is currently authorized for post-completion OPT and is working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to his/her field of study at the time of application.
  • The degree that was the basis for the student's current period of OPT is a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree listed on the current STEM Designated Degree Program List. A minor field of study cannot serve as the basis for a 17-month STEM OPT extension.
  • Student has a job-offer from or is employed by an employer registered with the "E-Verify."
  • Student has not received a 17-month OPT extension for a prior STEM degree. An individual is eligible for only one 17-month STEM OPT extension. According to SEVP, this is a lifetime limit.

When to Apply

A qualifying STEM degree holder may file the 17-month extension application up to 120 days before the current OPT end date. However, the STEM extension application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date on which UW-Platteville issues the new I-20 recommending the 17-month extension. In general, a 17-month extension application will take three months to be approved. However, a student's work authorization is extended for up to 180 days while the 17-month extension application is pending. Note, however, that employment must conform to STEM conditions during this interim extension period, including the requirement that the student work only for an E-Verify employer.

Employer's Responsibility

The employer must agree to report within 48 hours the termination or departure of a STEM OPT employee to UW-Platteville International Student Services office via e-mail (intlinfo@uwplatt.edu) with the subject line, "STEM OPT Employer Update" if the termination or departure is prior to the end of the authorized period of OPT. An employer shall consider a worker to have departed when the employer knows the student has left the employment, or if the student has not reported for work for a period of 5 consecutive business days without the consent of the employer, whichever occurs earlier. The employer should provide the student's name, SEVIS ID (if available), and the date the student's employment ended.

Application Instructions

Please see the documents listed in the "Instructions" box at the right.

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