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F-1 OPT: STEM Extensions

This page covers the 2016 STEM Rule under F-1 OPT regulations, allowing for 24-month authorization(s) for eligible students currently pursuing 12-month OPT based on a recent or previously-completed qualified STEM degree.  This rule takes effect May 10, 2016, although anyone who will be eligible can begin preparations in advance with their employer.  If you are looking for information on the previous 2008 STEM Rule, please visit our main STEM Extension OPT page.

 

Eligibility

Eligible F-1 students may apply for the OPT STEM Extension with a recommendation from their current sponsoring academic institution. You must meet the following eligibility criteria before preparing the application:

  • 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 a qualified Bachelor, Master, or Doctorate degree in a STEM field within the past 10 years, as designated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Submit a completed & signed Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students to the ISO when requesting the STEM Extension recommendation
  • Employed, or will be employed during the STEM Extension period, by a qualified and responsible employer
  • Not previously authorized for two periods of STEM Extension OPT

Post-completion OPT: The STEM Extension will only apply to current OPT authorizations that were originally approved as post-completion, either after completion of all degree requirements or all requirements excluding the thesis.  The initial 12-month OPT authorization period must also be unexpired and the unemployment limit should not have been exceeded.

Qualified Degree Program: Students must have completed requirements for a degree-bearing program, or have completed all requirements excluding the thesis if the current UR degree is the basis of the STEM application.  At the time the STEM Extension is recommended in SEVIS, the awarding U.S. institution must maintain valid accreditation with the Department of Education and current certification under the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).  For a previously earned degree, it must have been conferred no more than 10 years prior to the STEM recommendation.

ICE-designated STEM fields: The major associated with the qualified STEM degree must appear on the government's STEM Designated Degree Programs List, which is maintained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  You can easily check the major and related CIP Code by referencing the Form I-20 that was issued for that program of study.  If you did not maintain F-1 status during that degree or cannot locate your I-20, you may need to contact the institution to confirm STEM eligibility.

I-983 Training Plan: The Form I-983 must be fully executed and signed by both the student and authorized officials from the employer (the current draft version will be made official on 5/10/16).  Both student and employer must also agree to submit an updated Training Plan any time there is a change or regular evaluations are due.

 

Authorization Period & Documentation

A STEM Extension begins immediately following the current 12-month OPT period end date.  There is no option to delay the start of the extension period, unlike the initial OPT authorization.  Additionally, the STEM Extension is granted for the full 24 months and cannot be granted in shorter pieces to save time for a future request.  Once approved, your extended employment authorization is granted as full-time.  While students are now eligible for up to two STEM OPT authorization periods, these cannot be stacked back to back (for 48 months of continuous work permission).  Instead, the subsequent STEM period must follow completion of a higher degree level and a new 12-month initial OPT approval.

If the STEM application is timely filed while the initial 12-month OPT authorization is valid, your current work permission is automatically extended up to 180 days while the case is pending with USCIS.  Ultimately, when the STEM Extension is approved, you will receive a new I-766 Employment Authorization Document, or EAD card.  In the interim, you can document your continued 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.

When you receive your new EAD card documenting the approved STEM Extension, please provide a copy to ISO by emailing us at: opt@rochester.edu.

 

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