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F-1 OPT: 17-month STEM Extensions (2008 Rule)

This page covers the 2008 STEM Rule under F-1 OPT regulations, allowing for a single 17-month authorization for eligible students who were currently pursuing 12-month OPT following a qualified STEM degree. Eligibility under this rule expired May 11, 2016, although anyone already authorized under this rule will be able to complete their current STEM authorization period. If you are looking for information on the revised 2016 STEM Rule, please visit our main STEM Extension OPT page.


STEM Program Overview

F-1 students who applied for a STEM extension prior to May 10, 2016 were eligible for the 17-month extension, for a total for 29 months of work permission. Students must have completed a degree in a qualified field of Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) and work for a U.S. employer enrolled in the government's E-Verify database. 

 

Eligibility

Students were able to apply for the 17-month OPT STEM Extension until May 10, 2016 under the following eligibility criteria: 

  • Maintaining valid F-1 status and currently pursuing authorized post-completion OPT employment directly related to your field of study at the University of Rochester
  • Completed your most recent Bachelor, Master, or Doctorate degree in a qualified STEM field, as detailed on the STEM Designated Degree Programs list (ICE)
  • Employed, or will be employed, by an employer enrolled in the E-Verify database (see below)
  • Not previously authorized for a 17-month STEM Extension, at any degree level

Authorization Period

A STEM extension begins immediately once the current 12-month OPT period ends. There is no option to delay the start of the extension period, like there is with the initial OPT authorization. USCIS will grant approval for the STEM Extension period on a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.  While the application is pending with USCIS, documentation of your work permission can be more difficult, but employers should be able to confirm your authorization with the expired EAD and a copy of the new I-20 with STEM recommendation. Additionally, it may be helpful to have a copy of the Receipt Notice to show that the application was timely filed.

 

Unemployment Limits & E-Verify

The cumulative OPT unemployment limit is extended to 120 days once the STEM Extension is approved. However, this does not replenish any days reported as unemployed during the regular 12-month OPT authorization.  Whatever remains of the initial 90-day allotment is increased only by an additional 30 days throughout the 17 months of STEM Extension OPT. If you are unemployed for an aggregate of more than 120 days during your total 29 months of authorized OPT, any remaining work permission will be void.

In addition to the criteria above, the conditions of your employment authorization are extended to require that your employer is enrolled in E-Verify during a 17-month STEM Extension. Volunteer/unpaid, part-time, or multiple activities may be used to satisfy the employment qualification for OPT reporting purposes. You may switch employers at any time during your STEM Extension OPT, provided the new employer is also enrolled with E-Verify. You may also pursue the following additional types of employment:

  • Self-employment (must set up a business and register with E-Verify)
  • Employment as an independent contractor (1099 employment)
  • Employment through an agency or consulting firm (the employing agency must be registered with E-Verify, but not necessarily the company where you are placed)

All employment activities during the 17-month STEM Extension period must take place with an employer enrolled in E-Verify. The E-Verify database is an internet-based system operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration. E-Verify information for employers is available online. Be sure to discuss this option and determine eligibility with any new employer! For those employed by the University of Rochester and need to apply for a 17-month STEM Extension, the University's E-Verify Number is 344342.

 

Reporting Requirements

The 17-month STEM Extension carries all the same reporting requirements and document considerations as the initial 12-month OPT authorization. Please reference information on OPT Rules & Reporting for those details. You will continue to remain under F-1 status and University of Rochester immigration sponsorship throughout the 17-month STEM Extension period and must still satisfy all reporting obligations through ISO during this time. Please use the our online OPT Reporting Forms to submit required information as often as needed.

Changes in your personal or employment details must be submitted within 10 days of any change. Additionally, you must submit a verification report every 6 months during the 17-month STEM Extension , even if there are no changes to your contact or work information.  Required reporting includes changes in:

  • Official name, residential address, personal phone, or email
  • Employer or employment location
  • Periods of unemployment or any interruption of employment (greater than 10 days)
  • Notification of new immigration status or departure from the U.S.
  • Semi-annual verification report to confirm contact and employer details

 

For additional guidance, return to F-1 OPT: STEM Extensions.