DHS Issues New Rule on Extending OPT

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.
  • 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.

5. References: