17-Month OPT Stem Extension
F-1 students approved for standard post-completion optional practical training based on a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field that appears on the DHS STEM-Designated Degree Program List at http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/stem-list.pdf can apply to USCIS for a one-time 17-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 29 months). To be eligible for the extension, the student's employer must be registered in E-Verify and must agree to report to the DSO when the student is terminated or leaves employment. The student must apply for the STEM OPT extension before their standard period of post-completion OPT expires, and must also agree to make periodic reports to the DSO.
To apply for the 17-Month OPT STEM Extension, students must complete the application and submit to the ISSO along with supporting documents.
- The regulations state that "The employment authorization period for the 17-month OPT extension begins on the day after the expiration of the initial post-completion OPT employment authorization and ends 17 months thereafter, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved."
- A student who has applied for a STEM extension can continue working for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of the prior post-completion OPT EAD while the STEM extension application is pending.
- To be eligible for a STEM OPT extension, the student's employer must be "registered in the E-Verify program" and be "a participant in good standing in the E-Verify program, as determined by USCIS."
- An individual is eligible for only one 17-month STEM OPT extension. According to SEVP, this is a lifetime limit.
- A student may change employers during the 17-month period, but all employers that a student will work for during the STEM extension period must be registered in the DHS E-Verify program, and the student must report the change in employment to his or her DSO.
Special reporting requirements during STEM OPT Extension
In addition to the regular OPT reporting requirements, there are enhanced reporting requirements for students approved for a 17-month STEM OPT extension.
- During the 17-month STEM OPT extension, the student must report to his or her DSO within 10 days of any change of the following. The DSO must then update SEVIS within 21 days of receiving notification of the change from the student
- STEM OPT recipients must also make a "validation report" to the DSO every six months starting from the date the 17-month extension begins and ending when the student's F-1 status ends, the student changes educational levels at the same school, the student transfers to another school, or the 17-month OPT extension ends, whichever is first.
Employers of students granted the 17-month STEM OPT extension must also agree to report within 48 hours the termination or departure of a student if the termination or departure is prior to the end of the authorized period of OPT. The employer must make this report "to the DSO at the student's school or through any other means or process identified by DHS."
For a student who is on a 17-month extension, this employment may include
- Multiple employers. A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to his or her degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
- Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. The company for whom the student is providing services must be registered with E-Verify. If requested by DHS, the student must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract period and the name and address of the contracting company.
- Self-employed business owner. A student on a 17-month extension can start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must register his or her business with E-Verify and work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program.
- Employment through an agency or consulting firm. Students on a STEM extension may be employed by an employment agency or consulting firm. The employment agency or consulting firm must be registered with E-Verify, but the third parties contracting with the agency or firm (for which the student is providing services) need not be."
For more information, refer to USCIS web site “Regulations Relating to Practical Training” at: http://www.uscis.gov/RegulationsToOpt