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STEM Application Pending on May 10, 2016

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 2008 interim final rule through May 9, 2016.

The STEM OPT 24-month extension rule is effective beginning on May 10, 2016. This page outlines the transition plan for those applicants who have a pending Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization,” as of May 10, 2016.

Applying 24-Month STEM Extension Requirements

DHS will apply the requirements of the 24-month STEM extension to pending 17-month STEM applications. 

Beginning May 10, 2016, USCIS will issue Requests for Evidence (RFEs) to students whose 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. 

Applying 24-Month STEM Extension Requirements

DHS will apply the requirements of the 24-month STEM extension to pending 17-month STEM applications. 

Beginning May 10, 2016, USCIS will issue Requests for Evidence (RFEs) to students whose 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. 

Requests for Evidence

USCIS will issue RFEs requesting documentation that will enable DHS to determine whether the student is eligible for a 24-month STEM OPT extension.

RFEs will, generally, ask that students submit a new Form I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status," that was endorsed on or after May 10, 2016. This endorsement indicates that the DSO recommends the student for a 24-month STEM OPT extension and that the student has returned a completed and signed Form I-983 to the DSO

Newly Certified Forms I-20 in the RFE Process

During the transition process, Forms I-20 certified by DSOs after the initial submission of the STEM OPT extension request will be considered valid if the Form I-20 is submitted in response to a transition period RFE.

Generally, a student must initiate the OPT application process by requesting a recommendation for OPT from their DSO. Thus, a DSO’s recommendation for OPT on a Form I-20 is generally not recognized as valid if such endorsement is issued after the Form I-765 is filed with USCIS. However, given the special circumstances applied to the transitional period for the new STEM OPT extension, DHS will consider Forms I-20 endorsed on or after May 10, 2016, as valid for students with pending applications on that date.

Withdrawing and Reapplying for STEM OPT

DHS recognizes that following this rule’s effective date, some students may prefer to withdraw their pending application for a 17-month STEM OPT extension and file a new application for a 24-month STEM OPT extension.

Before a student decides to do so, the student should understand the applicable filing deadlines and ensure that they do not lose F-1 status. Importantly, a student may file for a STEM OPT extension only if the student is in a valid period of post-completion OPT at the time of filing. If a student withdraws an application for a STEM OPT extension after their period of post-completion OPT has ended, the student will no longer be eligible to file for a STEM OPT extension.

However, if a student’s post-completion OPT expires while their STEM OPT application is pending, the student will receive an automatic extension of employment authorization of up to 180 days upon the expiration of the current employment authorization (as students have received under the 17-month extension).