DHS Issues New Rule on Extending OPT
1. Certain Students May Extend OPT for an Extra 17 Months
Students with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) degrees may apply for a 17 month extension of their OPT for a total of 29 months of OPT. Two principle requirements:
a. Degree must be in one of the following:
- Actuarial Science.
- Computer Science (except Data Entry/ Microcomputer Applications).
- Engineering Technologies.
- Biological and Biomedical Sciences.
- Mathematics and Statistics.
- Military Technologies.
- Physical Sciences.
- Science Technologies.
- Medical Scientist (MS, PhD).
b. Employer must also be enrolled in the E-Verify employment verification program.
Basic extension process:
- Student must apply for extension at least 90 days prior to expiration of current OPT.
- After obtaining an endorsed I-20 for the school, Form I-765 is used to request the extension. The filing fee for the I-765 is $380.
- Students who timely file their OPT extensions may continue working while the applications are ending for 180 days.
- The student must report changes in employment and address to the designated school official. Also must confirm employment and address every six months.
2. OPT Extension Authorized to Fill H-1B Cap Gap
- New rule for F-1 students who may face a gap in immigration status and employment authorization from the end of their OPT and 60 day grace period until the start date of their approved H-1B petition on October 1, 2008.
- USCIS will automatically extend the authorized period of stay and work authorization for all F-1 students who have filed an H-1B petition and change of status request for the 2009 fiscal year.
- If an individual’s H-1B petition is selected by the USCIS random selection process, he or she may remain in the U.S. and continue working until the October 1 H-1B start date.
- If the individual’s H-1B petition is not selected, then the automatic extension terminates when USCIS announces its completion of the random selection process.
3. Additional Changes to OPT Rules
- Students may now apply for OPT during their 60 day grace period.
- May only have 90 days total of unemployment while under 12-month OPT.
- May only have 120 days total of unemployment while under 29-month OPT.
- DHS Rule Extending OPT (April 8, 2008).
- DHS Notice OPT Extension (April 4, 2008).
- USCIS FAQ on New OPT Rule (April 4, 2008).