New 36 (24+12) Month STEM OPT Extension Proposed Rule [Updated]

stem opt extension

There has been a lot of fuss over this new extension policy that was to take place supposedly increasing the extension period for the STEM students under OPT rule. The actual rule was formally published to the federal register for the comment period. From the points that were published in the PDF for the rule can be summarized into the rule as following points:

STEM OPT Extension rule by DHS in 2015

24 Month STEM OPT Extension: Originally, the rule for opt extension was for 17 months. Under the new month, the extension will be up to 24 months under this new rule.

E-Verify Requirement: Just like the old rule, it will be very much necessary to have an E-verified employer. Otherwise, the OPT STEM Extension won’t be applicable.

Addresses Court Ruling that vacated the 2008 rule: The new proposed rule also mentions that it addresses the court decision that vacated the original 2008 rule on procedural grounds.

Cap Gap: The Provision of the Cap Gap will still be available under this new extension rule. The students will be able to extend their F1 status till Oct 1st if they apply for H1B in the proposed time limit.

Screenshots From the Original PDF proposing the new rule: New OPT Extension

24 Months OPT Extension Rule



New STEM OPT Extension rule by DHS in 2016

STEM OPT is another name for permitted extended period including the original 12 months temporary work authorization.  This program allows for practical work experience in designated degree programs. The earlier rule allowed for a maximum of 29 months (12 months of “Regular” OPT plus a 17-month extension).

On March 11, 2016, the 17-month STEM OPT extension was replaced and  24 month extension was introduced fir STEM OPT students. The new OPT allows for maximum of 36 months (12 months of “Regular” OPT plus a 24-month extension). The rule will go on effect from May 10,2016.

To qualify for the 24-month STEM OPT extension, you must:

  • Be in F-1 status
  • Be currently working in a period of post-completion OPT
  • Have a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in an eligible STEM field
  • Have received your prior, qualifying STEM degree in the U.S. within 10 years of applying for the STEM OPT extension
  • The OPT job is with an employer enrolled in the USCIS E-Verify program.
  • The job offers at least 20 hours of work per week.
  • The job will provide formal training and learning objectives directly related to your qualifying STEM degree
  • Be able to complete the I-983 Training Plan with your employer

To apply for an extension, you must properly file:

  • Form I-765 with the application fee on or after May 10, 2016,
  • Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status, endorsed by your DSO on or after May 10, 2016, and
  • A copy of your STEM degree.

If you file your extension application on time and your OPT period expires while your extension application is pending, USCIS will extend your employment authorization for 180 days.


DHS allows STEM OPT students an additional 60 days of unemployment during the 24-month STEM OPT extension period.

Grace Period

If you are an F-1 student and have completed your study program, you have 60 days of grace period to leave the United States, apply for change of status, or transfer to another school. Note that this does NOT apply if you do not complete your program; if you leave without graduating, you do not receive a grace period.

A denial of the OPT application prior to the completion of study would normally allow the student to use the full 60-day grace period after the program completion date.

Once you are in the 60-day grace period following completion of OPT, you become ineligible to apply for a STEM extension of OPT.

 If USCIS denies the OPT application after the completion of study, but before the 60-day post completion period end date, the student would have a new period of 60 days in valid F-1 status from the date of the decision. However, if the initial OPT is denied after the regular 60-day grace period, there is no additional grace period.

Understanding when foreign national students are allowed to remain in the United States is beneficial in assisting students to change statuses, transfer to another program, or depart the United States while still in valid F-1 status.

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