When to file STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) OPT Extensions

Optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students is typically limited to twelve months and must be completed within fourteen months of the student’s graduation. However, some students may be eligible for an additional seventeen months of OPT following the initial twelve-month period based on a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) extension. To be eligible for a STEM extension, the student’s employer must be enrolled in E-Verify and must agree to report the student’s departure within forty-eight hours.
The STEM subject must be in the major or dual major of the student’s most recent degree received. It is also important to remember that the F-1 student may request a STEM extension up to 120 days before the end of their twelve-month OPT. Just by doing so, their employment authorization will be automatically extended for a period of 180 days. However, the application for employment authorization for the STEM extension must be received by immigration before the expiration of the current OPT period. Therefore, the USCIS has recommended that STEM extension applications be filed between 90 and 120 days before the end of the student’s current OPT.

For students who have recently found out that they were not accepted for the H-1B lottery, the STEM extension may need to quickly be filed to ensure that the student can continue remaining in the United States with work authorization. In fact, the STEM extension allows employers enough time to file H-1B petitions in two successive fiscal years.

In summary, to be eligible for the seventeen-month STEM extension of post-completion OPT, a student must 1) have a bachelors, masters or doctorate degree included in the STEM-designated degree program list; 2) currently be in an approved post-completion OPT period based on his or her designated STEM degree; 3) have an employer enrolled in E-Verify; 4) apply before their current twelve-month post-completion OPT expires.

Written by: Ashik Jahan, Esq.

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