March 11, 2016 the USCIS published the rules of a new, expanded STEM Extension
OPT program. The new STEM Extension will go into effect Tuesday, May 10,
2016. Among other changes, the program extends the length of the STEM
Extension from 17 months to 24 months and that students are now permitted an
aggregate of 170 days of unemployment for OPT and the STEM Extension period. For more information, please visit https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/
new STEM Extension Program requires more from employers. To employ a student under the new STEM
Program, employers must:
an E-Verify employer. This remains
unchanged from the previous STEM Extension Program.
the student a wage commensurate to similarly situated US workers. The calculation of this wage should be
documented in the student’s employment record.
the OPT student for at least 20 hours per week in a position that is directly
related to the student’s degree.
any material changes in the student’s employment to the appropriate school
official. Material changes include: a
change in the student’s hours, compensation, worksite, supervisor, or changes
to the corporate structure. Employers
must also report a termination or resignation of employment to the school
official within 5 business days.
subject to site visits by USCIS Officers to verify the student’s employment.
and comply with a training plan for the student’s employment. See below for additional details about the
STEM Extension Training Plan has four components:
the student’s role. List specific tasks,
give time frames and goals, describe the phases of the student’s training.
the goals and objectives of the training.
State specific skills, techniques, or knowledge the student will gain
while employed and describe projects or assignments where the student will use
the employer’s oversight of the student.
State the frequency with which the student will meet with his/her
supervisor. Detail how the supervisor
will review or sign off on the student’s work and describe any existing
training programs in place.
the measures and assessments by which the student will be evaluated. Detail how the student’s progress will be
tested. Note any new technologies or
skills which will be learned and keep a journal of or regular reviews of
is directly related to the student’s degree and achieves the objectives of the
will receive supervision and training by experienced staff;
has sufficient resources and personnel to provide training to the student;
OPT student is not replacing a full- or part-time, temporary or permanent US
Worker. The terms and conditions of the
student’s employment are commensurate with similarly situated US Workers at the
training complies with all applicable federal and state requirements related to
are three primary groups of students impacted by the implementation of the new
STEM Extension Program:
on a 17 month STEM Extension.
students with 150 days of time left on their OPT can apply for an additional 7
months of OPT, giving them the full 24 months of STEM OPT.
7 month requests must be filed between May 10 and August 8. The request requires a new I-20, I-765, and
the student elects not to ask for the 7 month extension, the student completes
the STEM OPT Period under the old rules.
with a pending STEM Extension on May 10, 2016.
new rules apply to the STEM extension request.
These students should expect an RFE to be issued requesting a training
plan and other new requirements.
responding to the RFE the student amends the STEM OPT to the full 24 month
period without filing a new request.
on a 12 month OPT.
the OPT expires before May 10, the student should file for the 17 month STEM
Extension and expect an RFE (as outlined in #2 above).
the OPT expires after May 10, the student should file by June 1 under either
STEM Extension Program - the 17 month or 24 month.
the OPT expires after June 1, the student must file the STEM Extension under
the 24 month program.