24-Month STEM OPT Extension
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a Final Rule to extend and expand F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) for certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) majors. The new STEM OPT Rule, went into effect on May 10, 2016.
How is the new 24-Month STEM OPT rule different from the old STEM OPT rule?
This new STEM OPT Rule features the following significant changes:
- Extends STEM OPT to 24-Months: The STEM OPT program was extended from 17-months to 24-months for eligible applicants applying on or after May 10, 2016.
- Introduces the I-983 Training Plan: The new STEM OPT rule requires employers to complete a Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, as well as a 12-Month and final evaluation on the goals outlined in the Training Plan.
- Requires E-Verify Employer: In order to qualify for STEM OPT, students must be employed in a paid job related to their major and for an E-Verify employer.
- Expands the CIP List of STEM OPT-Eligible Majors: The new STEM OPT rule expands the list of Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) major field codes that qualify for STEM OPT, and creates a process by which new majors can be added to the list in the future.
- Allows additional periods of STEM OPT: The new rule allows students to apply for STEM OPT based on a previously-earned STEM degree, and allows for a 2nd lifetime STEM OPT extension after earning a higher degree in a STEM major field.
- Allows for transition from 17-Month to 24-Month STEM OPT: The STEM OPT rule outlines a transition plan for students with pending applications for STEM OPT on May 10, 2016, and for students with approved 17-Month STEM OPT who wish to extend to the 24-Month program.
- Adds new reporting requirements: The STEM OPT rule adds several significant new reporting requirements for students, employers and Designated School Officials (DSOs).
- Continues “Cap-Gap” Protection: The rule extends “cap-gap” protection for students on F-1 OPT whose employer has filed a timely petition for H-1B sponsorship on their behalf, provided the petition requests change of status and an October 1st start date subject to the H-1B cap.
I am currently on my 12-Month OPT. Do I qualify for STEM OPT under the 24-Month Rule?
- You must currently hold valid F-1 status and be working on an approved period of post-completion OPT.
- You must have earned a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in a major field that appears on the DHS list of STEM majors based on Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) code:
- You must be working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student’s STEM major area of study.
- Your current or prospective employer must be registered with the DHS E-Verify employment verification system.
- You may not have accrued more than 90 days of unemployment during your initial OPT.
- You and your employer must complete a Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.
- Your employment must be paid and at least 20 hours per week.
To begin your STEM OPT application see:
- Boston University STEM OPT Application Package
For further U.S. Department of Homeland Security information see: