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 changes in the new STEM rule.

Transition Plans for STEM-eligible Students Currently on 12-Month OPT or 17-Month STEM OPT

STEM-eligible students currently on 12-Month post-completion OPT or with an active or pending 17-Month STEM OPT request should review BIO's STEM Transition webpage to review what options are available and next steps.

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 (or prior to their STEM Transition deadline). Berkeley International Office will begin accepting applications Friday May 6, 2016. However, SEVIS functionality will not allow processing of new 24-Month Extension I-20s until after May 13, 2016.

  1. Log in to the Student SEVIS Update (SSU) system DIRECTLY BEFORE you submit your STEM application to BIO to update all current & previous OPT employment and your current address. (Most  processing delays are due to failure to update all new required fields in SSU.)
  2. Fully review the Berkeley International Office 24-Month STEM Extension Tutorial for detailed instructions on both the BIO application process and submission to USCIS.
  3. Complete the BIO OPT 24-Month Extension Request Form and submit to BIO with $225 Post-Completion Services Fee and supporting documents. 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, employment through employment agencies and self- employment are NOT allowed. STEM-eligible employers must have e-Verify & EIN numbers and the student must have a "bona fide employer-employee relationship".Other types of employment are also problematic- including 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. 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



Students Completing 17-Month STEM Extensions

USCIS will not accept 17-Month STEM applications after May 9, 2016.

Starting 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 do 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.