On April 8, 2008, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the interim final rule that changes several key aspects of F-1 optional practical training. One of the key changes impacts certain STEM degree holders. Effective April 8, 2008, the 12-month limit on F-1 OPT may be extended by 17 months, for a total of 29 months, for certain STEM degree holders (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)

Eligibility Requirements

Reporting Requirements While on OPT

STEM degree holders on the 17-month OPT extension are required to report to IPS within 10 days of any change of:

Students are also required to make a validation report to IPS every six months starting from the date the 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. The validation is a confirmation that the student's name and address, employer name and address, and/or loss of employment are current and accurate. This six-month validation report is due to IPS within 10 business days of each reporting date. Changes and validation reports should be made via email to mchaqra@indstate.edu

Limited Periods of Unemployment to Maintain Status

During post-completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment. STEM degree holders granted a 17-month OPT extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 120 days of unemployment during the total of 29-month OPT period.

OPT Filing Window

A qualifying STEM degree holder will be able to file the OPT application up to 90 days before the current OPT end date. However, the OPT application must be submitted to the USCIS within 30 days of the date on which IPS issues an OPT I-20. In general, expect that the OPT application will take three months to be approved.

Duration of OPT Employment Authorization

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 later, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved. For the 17-month STEM extension, employment must be traditional paid employment.

Application Process

Step One

Request an I-20 recommending OPT from IPS. You may request an OPT I-20 by seeing an IPS advisor with the following items, or by dropping off the following at the IPS reception desk:

If you are no longer in Terre Haute, you may scan and email (mchaqra@indstate.edu), or fax (812-237-3602) your STEM OPT Extension Request to IPS.

Upon verifying the student’s eligibility and determining whether the student’s degree is on the STEM Designated Degree Program list, a DSO will prepare an I-20 recommending OPT on the employment page.

Step Two

We will contact you to pick up the OPT I-20 at the IPS reception desk.

Step Three

Mail the following OPT application to the Service Center which has jurisdiction over the address listed on Form I-765:

Check all documents for completeness and accuracy. Be sure sign Forms I-20 and I-765. Make a complete copy of your application for your records.

We recommend that you mail your application by express mail or by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you will have a record of its delivery

Click here to download STEM application.