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Business Immigration Zone: New USCIS 24-Month STEM OPT Extension Rule Now in Effect

June 13, 2016

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) new 24-month optional practical training (OPT) extension for F-1 students with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees recently went into effect.

The 24-month rule replaces the previous 17-month STEM OPT extension. As of May 10, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will only adjudicate 24-month STEM OPT applications. Employers of students with 17-month employment authorization documents (EAD) should note the following:

  • All existing 17-month EADs will remain valid until the EAD expires or is terminated or revoked.
  • An eligible 17-month STEM OPT participant who wants to apply for the additional seven months of STEM OPT has until August 8, 2016, to submit an application to USCIS. DHS will not automatically convert 17-month extensions into 24-month extensions.
  • Students with pending 17-month extension applications will receive a request for evidence (RFE) from USCIS to allow the student to demonstrate his or her eligibility for the 24-month STEM OPT extension.

For assistance with F-1 visa issues involving STEM OPT participants, contact Brandon Davis at brandon.davis@phelps.com