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OPT STEM Extension

On May 10, 2016, the STEM Extension regulations will change. For information regarding the current regulations that expire on May 9, 2016, please visit our 17-month STEM Extension webpage. For information regarding the new regulations, please choose a scenario below to determine how this change will affect your situation:

Students with an approved 17-month STEM Extension on May 10, 2016

Overview

Any 17-month STEM OPT EAD that USCIS issued on or before May 9, 2016, will remain valid until the EAD expires, is terminated, or revoked. The new STEM Extension rule increases the duration period from 17 months to 24 months, but DHS will not automatically convert 17-month extensions into 24-month extensions.

As a transitional measure, from May 10, 2016, through August 8, 2016, students with 17-month EADs will have a limited window in which to apply for the additional seven months of OPT, effectively enabling them to benefit from a 24-month period of STEM OPT.

150 Calendar Days Remaining on EAD

To qualify for the seven-month extension, such students must have at least 150 calendar days remaining before the end of the student’s 17-month OPT period at the time the Form I-765 is filed, and they must otherwise meet all requirements of the 24-month STEM OPT extension.

This 150 day rule effectively eliminates the possibility of a seven-month extension for students whose 17-month EAD card expires on or before October 6, 2016. That is, only students with a 17-month EAD card end date of October 7, 2016 or later are eligible to apply for an extra seven months of OPT.

Timely Filing of the Seven-Month Extension

The STEM OPT student must properly file a Form I-765 with USCIS within the following time frame:

  • Application is received by USCIS between May 10, 2016 and August 8, 2016
  • Application is received at least 150 days before the current end date listed on the 17-month EAD
  • Application is received within 60 days of the date the DSO enters the recommendation for the 24-month STEM OPT extension into the student’s SEVIS record (the date printed on the I-20).

**Special Instructions for Students with STEM End Dates between 10/7/2016 – 10/20/2016**

Due to the sensitive time frame, USCIS is allowing special procedures for students whose current 17-month EAD card has an end date between October 7, 2016 and October 20, 2016.
Students should file the Form I-765 with USCIS without the Form I-20, but include a statement that indicates the following:

Due to new regulations, I must apply for the seven-month extension of my STEM OPT before SEVIS supports it. I will provide a Form I‑20 with the extension recommendation after USCIS requests it.

Note: These applications cannot arrive at USCIS before May 10, 2016. Please follow the application procedures outlined below, with the notable exception that the I-20 will not be included with the application. Also, students in this situation should not request an I-20 from the International or Center or send a photocopy of the Form I-20 to USCIS until after USCIS requests it.

Application Procedures for Students

  1. Submit electronic OPT STEM Extension I-20 Request Form on or after May 10, 2016. Please make sure to fill out all the fields and attach all the documents listed in the form. Incomplete requests cannot be processed.

    Note for applicants who are employed by U of M: once your OPT STEM Extension I-20 Request is received and approved by an IC advisor, the advisor will send an e-mail to your U of M supervisor with the university E-Verify number information. You will need this number for your OPT extension application with USCIS. Please ask your supervisor for the E-Verify number after you have been notified by an advisor that your request has been received.
  2. IC will prepare a new I-20 for you. In most cases your I-20 will be ready in 1-2 weeks. We will notify you via email once it is ready. If you are located close to U-M, you may come to the office to pick up your new I-20. If you are located far away from U-M, you may authorize a friend to pick up your I-20 or we can send it to you either via express mail (recommended) or via regular mail. Find more specific information and forms at Shipping Options.
  3. Checklist for mailing your application to USCIS
    Once you've requested a STEM recommendation through the U-M International Center and received your new I-20, you will need to prepare and submit an application packet to USCIS. Gather the following items in this order (from top to bottom):
    • Base Fee for I-765, payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Personal check, cashier’s check, or money order is acceptable. If you use a personal check, please be sure to wait for the check to be cashed before closing your bank account.
    • Two full-face passport-style photos. The photos must be identical, in color, and with a plain white or off-white background. They must be no more than 30 days old when the I-765 is filed at USCIS. Put photos in an envelope or small plastic sandwich bag. You should attach the fee and the photo envelope on top of the entire application (on the upper left-hand corner). Please do not staple the fee and the photos. Use a pencil to gently write your name and I-94 number on the back of your photo.
    • G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
    • Original USCIS Form I-765 (completed, signed, and dated legibly by you). Please download and follow carefully these Instructions for Filling out the I-765 for STEM Extensions.
    • Photocopy of all pages of your new I-20 endorsed for the additional 7-month OPT extension. (Do not send the original.) Make sure to sign your new I-20 before you make the photocopy.
    • Photocopy of the front and back of your current EAD card.
    • Photocopy of your U-M diploma or official U-M transcript.
    • Print-out of electronic Form I-94 or copy of paper I-94 (front and back).
    • Photocopy of the picture page/expiration date of your passport.
    • If you include the G-1145 form with your application, USCIS will send you an e-notification within 1-2 weeks from the date they receive your I-765 EAD (OPT) application. They will also mail you a paper receipt notice within 2-4 weeks. Once you have received your receipt number, you can track the status of your individual case using the case status search feature of the USCIS web site. You may elect to receive email alerts about your case status from this web site.
  4. Sending your application: We recommend using a trackable mail service such as FedEx or United Parcel Service (UPS). The address you use on the I-765 determines where you should send your application (see I-765 instructions).
  5. If your OPT extension is approved, you must send a photocopy of your new EAD card to the IC at icenter@umich.edu.

Approval

If an application for a seven-month extension is approved, USCIS will issue an EAD with a validity period that starts on the day after the expiration date stated in the 17-month STEM OPT EAD.

Students with a pending 17-month STEM Extension application on May 10, 2016

Overview

The 17-month STEM OPT regulations remain in effect through May 9, 2016. DHS will continue to accept and adjudicate applications for 17-month STEM OPT extensions under the original rules through May 9, 2016.

The STEM OPT 24-month extension rule is effective beginning on May 10, 2016.

Requests for Evidence

Beginning May 10, 2016, USCIS will issue Requests for Evidence (RFEs) to students whose 17- month STEM OPT applications are still pending on that date. The RFEs will allow students to effectively amend their application to demonstrate eligibility for a 24-month extension without incurring an additional fee or having to refile their EAD application.

RFEs will, generally, ask that students submit a new Form I-20 that was endorsed on or after May 10, 2016. This new I-20 will indicate a recommendation for a 24-month extension of OPT. Students should wait to request the new I-20 until after they receive the RFE.

New I-20

To request a new I-20 in response to an RFE received for the reason indicated in this section, students should submit the electronic OPT STEM Extension I-20 Request Form. Please make sure to fill out all the fields and attach all the documents listed in the form. Incomplete requests cannot be processed.

Students will be required to upload a completed I-983 form with their I-20 request. This is a new form that requires information from both the student and the employer. For more information, please see the Study in the States website.

Responding to the RFE

Follow the instructions listed on the RFE, providing all necessary documents to USCIS in a timely manner. After receiving the additional documents, USCIS should be able to review your complete application and, if approved, issue you an EAD card with a 24-month duration.

Students currently on post-completion OPT wishing to apply for the 24-month STEM Extension after May 10, 2016

Update Coming Soon!!

For more information:

Last reviewed: 04/16