Ready or otherwise, the brand new STEM OPT rule is within play!

[co-athor: Karlie Dunksky]

As greater education institutions with worldwide students should be aware, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) lately printed a brand new regulation that gives qualified F-1 graduates from STEM programs within the U . s . States by having an additional 24 several weeks of labor authorization with the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. The rule grew to become effective on May 10, 2016, changing the last rule supplying for just a 17-month OPT extension.  Concurrently, DHS has passed some transition methods for college students with:

1) An approved 17-month extension request, who may seek an additional 7 months of work authorization;

2) A pending 17-month extension request as of May 10, 2016;

The advantages provided by these transitional methods are extremely time-sensitive, which is crucial that both worldwide student services offices and worldwide students themselves seriously consider their needs to be able to maintain and extend their status and work authorization with the OPT program. Here is a brief FAQ outlining the most crucial and time-sensitive facets of this rule.

1. Should a University that does not offer STEM degrees be concerned about the new rule?

Generally, the reply is no. However, the brand new rule enables students having a pre-existing STEM degree from the U.S. institution to request the STEM OPT extension, even when his/her newest degree isn’t inside a STEM field, under certain conditions. First, a student mustn’t have formerly asked for a STEM OPT extension in line with the prior STEM degree. Second, the student’s OPT employment must advance the student’s learning the last STEM field.

In cases like this, the worldwide student services office at most recent greater education institution accounts for verifying compliance using the needs from the new rule and giving an I-20 recommending STEM OPT.

2. What happens to a 17-month STEM OPT that a student may have received prior to May 10, 2016?

The rule permits students with 17-month STEM extension to continue using their EADs until expiration, termination, or revocation.

3. Can these students apply for an extension and get the full 24-month period?

Yes. The rule creates a transitional period that began on May 10, 2016, and ends on August 8, 2016, wherein students with the 17-month EADs will be able to apply for an additional 7-month extension, to bring them to the new 24-month maxout..  Students must meet several requirements to qualify, including:

  • The I-765 request to renew the EAD must be filedat least 150 calendar days before the student’s 17-month OPT period ends; AND
  • The student must meet all requirements for the 24-month STEM rule.

4. What procedures must be followed to apply for the extension?

The student must apply for the extension during the transition period  (before 8/8/16) and must have a recommendation in SEVIS from their most recent alma mater’s designated school official (DSO). The student must  submit an I-20 from the DSO within 60 days of the date that the DSO enters a recommendation for a 24-month STEM OPT extension into the student’s SEVIS record.

5. What happens to STEM extension requests that were filed prior to May 10, 2016?

The 17-month rule remained effective through May 9, 2016. An application filed before May 10, 2016, will be adjudicated under the rules in effect on the date of adjudication. If the application is adjudicated on or after May 10, 2016, it will be adjudicated under the 24-month rule.

USCIS will issue a request for evidence (RFE) to collect evidence to determine whether a STEM extension request filed under the 17-month rule is eligible under the 24-month rule. USCIS will also ask the student to provide a new I-20 endorsed with the 24-month STEM extension recommendation.

6. Can students with pending STEM extension requests withdraw earlier-filed STEM requests and file new ones meeting the 24-month guidelines?

This really is strongly frustrated. Students should be inside a valid duration of publish-completion Choose to request the extension. USCIS has cautioned inside a FAQ that it’ll deny demands from students who withdraw a pending request after which re-file a brand new request after publish-completion OPT period has expired.

Underneath the OPT rules, students having a pending STEM OPT extension request whose publish-completion OPT card expires will get a car-extension of the card for 180 days as the card remains pending. This remains the case with both 17- and 24-month extensions.