On May 10, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final rule that expands and extends the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program for foreign students with U.S. undergraduate or graduate degrees in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Under the new rule, international students with STEM degrees from accredited U.S. universities are eligible for a 24-month extension beyond their initial 12-month OPT. This represents a 7 month increase over the previous STEM OPT rule, which allowed for a 17 month OPT extension. All international students are eligible for an initial 12 months of OPT, so those with STEM degrees may now qualify for a total of 36 months of OPT.
Students who obtained a 17-month STEM OPT extension before May 10, 2016, may either retain their current status and remain subject to the previous STEM OPT rules, or, in certain cases, may apply for a 7-month extension between May 10, 2016 and August 8, 2016, evidencing their eligibility for the extension.