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#STEMOPT Transition Plan

Peter F. Asaad

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued the following transition plan regarding the new STEM OPT extension rule:

The new STEM OPT extension is a 24-month period of temporary training that directly relates to an F-1 student’s program of study in an approved STEM field, and effectively replaces the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to certain STEM F-1 students.

The 17-month STEM OPT regulations remain in effect through May 9, 2016. The 2016 final rule’s STEM OPT 24-month extension is effective beginning on May 10, 2016.

DHS will continue to adjudicate 17-month STEM OPT extension applications until that date. Any 17-month STEM OPT EAD that is issued before May 10, 2016, will remain valid until the EAD expires, is terminated or revoked.

Consequently, if a student submits a Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization” requesting a 24-month STEM OPT extension and such application is adjudicated before May 10, 2016, then the student’s Form I-765 will be treated as a 17-month extension request and will be adjudicated in accordance with the 17-month STEM OPT regulations.

Thus, an F-1 student who has a Form I-765 filed and approved prior to May 10, 2016, will be issued an EAD that is valid for 17 months, even if he or she erroneously requested a 24-month STEM OPT extension.

Students with existing 17-month STEM OPT EADs on May 10, 2016, are not required to transition their extension by requesting an additional seven-month period. EADs indicating a 17-month OPT extension that have been issued and are valid prior to May 10, 2016, remain valid until expiration (unless terminated or revoked under 8 CFR 274a.14), and the student, the student’s employer and the student’s DSO must continue to abide by all the terms and conditions that were in effect when the EAD was issued.

Who the Transition Plan Covers

To ensure a smooth transition, DHS is providing basic transition information and will implement a transition plan that covers two categories of eligible F-1 students:

  • Students with 17-month STEM OPT applications pending on May 10, 2016.
  • Students with existing 17-month STEM OPT EADs on May 10, 2016.
  • Who the Transition Plan Does Not Cover

Students whose 17-month STEM OPT extension expires prior to May 10, 2016, or who have less than 150 days remaining on their 17-month STEM OPT extension EADs on the date that they are able to properly file their STEM OPT extension are not covered under the transition plan. These students are ineligible to benefit from the 24-month STEM extension for purposes of practical training associated with their most current degree and are therefore not covered under the transition plan.

To become eligible for the 24-month STEM extension, students who are not covered under the transition plan would first need to earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level.

Students whose 17-month STEM OPT extension EADs remain valid after May 10, 2016, and who are either ineligible or chose not to apply for the 24-month STEM OPT extension, must continue to follow all the terms and conditions that were in effect when their 17-month STEM OPT employment authorization was granted.

60-Day Grace Period

If a student anticipates that he or she will enter the 60-day grace period before May 10, 2016, the student should not wait to apply for STEM OPT.

Under both the 17-month STEM OPT regulations and the 24-month STEM OPT regulations, students may not apply for a STEM OPT extension after they have entered the 60-day grace period following the expiration of their period of post-completion OPT. Students interested in obtaining a STEM OPT extension should, therefore, apply for the 17-month STEM OPT extension before their initial period of post-completion OPT expires and follow the respective transition plan that applies to them.