The long awaited STEM OPT Extension Final Rule has published in Federal Register today. Congratulations to the student community out there in chaos and eagerly waiting for the new rule to be in place. The STEM OPT Extension Rule proposal has received record number of 50,500 public comments.

Congratulations to all who contributed in this rule making process by posting strong positive comments. Beginning 10th May, 2016, the USCIS will issue RFEs to the pending STEM OPT applications. This will enable the students to successfully amend the applications to eligible for 24 month STEM extension without additional fee.

Here are 15 things you need to know about the new STEM OPT Extension Rule:

1. The STEM OPT Extension has increased to 24 months from 17 months.

2. A second higher STEM Degree from a US Academic Institution will be qualified for a 2nd STEM Extension of another 24 months. This is a great news for those the H-1B petitions not picked in the lottery system.
3. The student must at least have 150 calendar days remaining prior to the expiration of 17 Months STEM Extension in order to be eligible for additional 7 months STEM OPT period as per the new rule.

4. The previous STEM degree can be used to quality for a 24 months STEM OPT Extension if not used before and both degree received from a currently accredited institutions.

5. To quality for STEM extension, the student must be graduated with a STEM degree from an academic institution which is accredited AT THE TIME of application for extension.

6. Maximum Unemployment Period during STEM OPT Extension has extended from 30 days to 60 Days(for an aggregate of 150 days).

7. The student must report any changes to STEM OPT employment to the DSO within 5 business days. This includes the changes to the name, address or employer.

8. The Cap-Gap during change of status to H-1B would extend the OPT until 1st October for the timely filed H-1B petitions.

9. The STEM Definition and CIP(Classification Of Instructional Program) Categories or Specializations will be updated in the SEVP(Student Exchange Visitor Program) Website.

10. Limiting STEM OPT Extension eligibility to Students with degrees only from accrediting agencies recognized by Department of Education.

11. Employer On-Site Visits to be increased to verify the students are meeting the STEM OPT Extension requirements. DHS will provide notice to employer 48 hours before the visit unless a complaint or other evidence of non-compliance in place.

12. Employers or the hiring companies must be enrolled in USCIS E-Verify Program and report STEM student employment changes.

13. The Employers or the hiring companies are required to attest that they have sufficient Resources and Trained Personnel to provide mandatory Mentoring and Training to students under STEM OPT.

14. Employers or the hiring companies must implement a formal Mentoring and Training Program for the students working under STEM OPT Extension or may use the existing training program to satisfy the regulatory requirements to track the progress of STEM OPT students.

15. The Employers or the hiring companies are required to attest that they will not lay-off or terminate a Temporary or Permanent US worker as a resulting of hiring a STEM OPT student.

Complete Document of the new STEM OPT Extension rule:


Writer: Ram Rayavarapu.

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