New Rule Has Important Provisions for F-1 / OPT Students with Pending H-1B Visa Petitions.
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. There are 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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).