In this short series on the new STEM OPT rules, Susan Cohen, Chair of Mintz Levin’s Immigration Section will examine the top takeaways for students and their employers. The first post will focus on the timing rules related to the new regulation.

Timing is Everything

If your 17-month STEM extension under the old rules is still pending on May 10, 2016, USCIS will send you a Request for Evidence (RFE) to give you a chance to request a 24-month extension instead

If your 17-month STEM OPT extension was already approved before May 10, 2016 you have 2 options:

  1. Continue in the 17-month period until it ends, without applying for an extension; or
  2. Request the balance for the extension (the additional 7 months), but only if
    • You properly file form I-765 between May 10, 2016 – August 8, 2016;
    • You have at least 150 calendar days remaining prior to the end of your 17-month OPT extension at the time you file Form I-765; AND
    • You meet all the requirements for the 24-month OPT extension, other than the requirement of being within the 12 month post-completion F-1 OPT period, which is waived for this purpose

If you will not have at least 150 days of your 17-month STEM OPT remaining at the time USCIS would receive the 7-month extension request, you are not eligible for the full 24-month period.

Make sure you apply for your STEM OPT extension while you are still in post-completion OPT status – do NOT wait until you are in your 60-day grace period to apply.

While you must apply for standard post completion OPT within 30 days of your DSO recommending this benefit in SEVIS, (under the new regulations effective May 10, 2016,) you may apply for your STEM OPT extension within 60 days of the DSO making the recommendation in SEVIS.

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