Requirements for
OPT STEM 17- Month Extension

  1. Currently in 12-month period of approved post-completion OPT
  2. The degree that is the basis of the current OPT must be at least a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM), which include:
    • Computer Science Applications
    • Actuarial Science
    • Engineering or Engineering Technologies
    • Life Sciences
    • Math
    • Military Technologies
    • Physical sciences

    Major and Minor Fields of Study

    • An F-1 student cannot qualify for the STEM OPT extension based on the student’s minor.
    • If the student has a dual major, and one of the degree is STEM-designated, and the job is directly related to the student’s STEM degree, the student is eligible for the STEM extension.
  3. Working for US employer in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study
  4. Be working for, or accepted employment with, employer enrolled in USCIS’s E-Verify program
  5. Report to the DSO regarding changes in the program or address
  6. Properly maintain status in the US
  7. Cannot obtain more than one OPT STEM extension

Bachelor’s & Graduate Degrees under STEM

An F-1 student who received a bachelor’s STEM degree, but whose graduate degree is in a non-STEM field and whose current OPT is based on that graduate degree, is not eligible for the STEM extension

Major and Minor Fields of Study

An F-1 student cannot qualify for the STEM OPT extension based on the student’s minor.

If the student has a dual major, and one of the degree is STEM-designated, and the job is directly related to the student’s STEM degree, the student is eligible for the STEM extension.

When to Apply for OPT STEM Extension

  • Must apply before the current post-completion OPT expires
  • If a student timely files the I-765, but the OPT expires prior to the decision, the student’s OPT is extended automatically.
  • May apply during the cap-gap extension period

Requirements for Post Extension Approval

The student must report to the DSO by email, within 10 days, any change in:

  • Legal name
  • Residential and mailing address
  • E-mail address
  • Employer name
  • Employer address
  • Job title or position
  • Supervisor name and contact information
  • Employment start date
  • Employment end date

The student must report to the DSO every 6 months by email confirming the information (even if no changes).

The requirement to report continues even past the 17-month OPT extension if the student’s OPT is further extended by the cap-gap extension.

E-Verify

  • Free, internet-based system operated by the Social Security Administration and USCIS that allows employers to determine employment eligibility of newly-hired employees
  • Electronically compares information on the Form I-9 (employment eligibility verification form) with records in the SSA and DHS databases
  • It is a flawed system with false positives for US citizens.
  • Approximately 33,000 employers (or 1% of all employers) are currently enrolled.

Types of Employment During OPT STEM Extension

  • Must work at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify-enrolled employer in a position directly related to the student’s STEM degree
  • May work at multiple jobs, but all the employers must enroll in E-Verify

Hidden “Stick” in New OPT
Rules: Limits on Periods of Unemployment

The F-1 student may not aggregate more than 90 days of unemployment during the first 12 months in OPT.

The F-1 student may not aggregate more than 120 days of unemployment during the entire 29-month, extended OPT period.

Students whose OPT has been extended due to the cap-gap provisions continue to be subject to the 90-day limitation on unemployment.

The unemployment limits do not apply before April 8, 2008.

For each new period of post-completion OPT, the student will have a 90-day period of unemployment.

Each day that the F-1 student is unemployed during OPT counts as a day of unemployment.  Exception: up to 10 days between the end of one job and the beginning of the next job.

An F-1 student whose post-completion OPT has begun and who travels abroad while unemployed will have all days outside the US counted toward the unemployment limits.

If the student travels while employed (or on an authorized leave of absence), time spent outside the US does not count as unemployment.

Petitions Exempt from the H-1B Cap

Certain employers and petitions
are not subject to the visa cap.

If not subject to the cap then the H-1B petition can be filed and the employment may commence at any time during the year.  The cap exempt petitions include:

  • Any alien counted against the cap within the past six years, unless the alien would be eligible for a new full
    six years of H-1B status:
    • out of the country for a year;
    • seasonal & intermittent worker; or
    • in the US less than six months per year
  • J-1 who has obtained a waiver
    through the State 30 program
  • Institutions of higher education
  • Nonprofit entities affiliated with institutions of higher education
  • Nonprofit or governmental
    research organizations
  • An alien changing H-1B employers, as long as she was not working at a cap-exempt institution previously
  • Extensions of H-1B status