OPT 24-Month STEM Extension

OPT 24-Month STEM Extension

On March 11, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a new STEM Final Rule, with effective date May 10, 2016. NAFSA: Association of International Educators provides a summary of the rule and current updates and background. Detailed information for students and employers can also be found on the DHS Study in the States OPT STEM Hub. See below for a summary of key points in the new STEM rule.

Berkeley International Office 24-Month STEM Application Procedures & Tutorial

Eligible students may apply for a 24-Month STEM Extension up to 90 days prior to the expiration of their OPT EAD. 

  1. Fully review the Berkeley International Office 24-Month STEM Extension Tutorial for detailed instructions on both the BIO application process and submission to USCIS.
  2. Log in to the Student SEVIS Update (SSU) system DIRECTLY BEFORE you submit your STEM application to BIO. (Most  processing delays are due to failure to update all new required fields in SSU.) You must:
    • Update all current & previous OPT employment
    • Update your current address/email/phone
    • Upload a copy of your OPT EAD
    • Upload a copy of form I-983 Training Plan.
  3. Complete the BIO OPT 24-Month Extension Request Form and submit to BIO with $225 Post-Completion Services Fee. BIO will issue you a new OPT I-20 with a 24-Month Extension recommendation.
  4. Submit a 24-Month Extension request to USCIS.(Detailed instructions available in the STEM tutorial.)

The 2016 STEM Extension rule institutes significant changes for the F-1 OPT STEM Extension, including:

Duration Effective May 10, 2016 the STEM Extension will be for 24 months.
STEM Application Period STEM applications may only be submitted up to 90 days prior to the initial 12-Month OPT EAD expiration.
Eligibility for 2nd STEM Extension The new rule allows a total of 2 lifetime STEM Extensions, the 2nd after earning a new STEM-eligible degree at a higher level and obtaining a new, higher level of 12-Month OPT
Eligible Based on Previously Earned Degree May be based on a previously earned STEM Degree
Updated STEM Definition and CIP Categories STEM Definition and CIP Categories
Required Training Plan and Form I-983 Requires significant responsibility of the employer to provide a training plan related to the field of study, and attestations to wages and compensation being commensurate with "similarly situated U.S. workers"
New Obligations for Students, Schools, and Employers 6 Month validation reports, annual evaluations, and submission of a new I-983 in case of material changes to the original I-983 are now required. Employers must agree to Department of Homeland Security site visits, as well as provide attestations to wages and working conditions
Types of Employment Allowed Volunteer/unpaid positions and self-employment are NOT allowed. Other types of employment are also problematic- including employment through employment agencies, multiple employer arrangements, sole proprietorships, employment through ‘‘temp'' agencies, employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, and other relationships that do not constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship. STEM-eligible employers must have e-Verify & EIN numbers and the student must have a "bona fide employer-employee relationship". DHS confirms that students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Training Plan, and the employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.
Increased Unemployment Students with 24-Month STEM Extensions may have up to 150 days of unemployment during the total OPT period including initial 12-Month and 24-Month STEM OPT period

17 to 24 Month STEM Transition

USCIS allowed some eligible F-1 students on 17-Month OPT to apply for an additional 7 months of STEM OPT from May 10- August 8, 2016. The transition period is now completed and USCIS is no longer accepting applications for the additional 7 month extensions. 

If you are a student who still has a 7-Month Extension pending with USCIS, or you have received a Request for Evidence from USCIS based on a 17-Month STEM Extension transition to 24 Months: see the 24-Month STEM Extension Tutorial for instructions.

As of May 10, 2016 all new STEM applications will fall under the 2016 24-Month Rule. Students who were previously approved for 17-Month STEM and who are not eligible or did not apply for the transition to 24-Month STEM will continue to follow the 17-Month STEM regulations until the completion of their 17-Month STEM EAD. Please review the 17-Month STEM Tutorial for more information regarding 17-Month STEM obligations.

STEM Reporting Requirements & Address/Employment Updates

Please see our OPT Reporting page for more information regarding your obligations during the STEM Extension. This includes updating your personal or employment information, as well as how to comply with with special STEM 6-Month validation and Annual Evaluation requirements.