(By Rahul Reddy & Rebecca Chen, Attorneys at Law)
If you are currently engaged in Optional Practical Training (OPT) after graduating with a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math, you may be eligible to apply for a 17-month OPT extension. In order to do so, it is crucial that you file for your extension before your current OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) expires. Otherwise, you will no longer be eligible to extend your OPT. In its 2010 memo titled “Policy Guidance 1004-03 – Update to Optional Practical Training”, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement states that in order to qualify for the 17-month extension, “The student must ensure that the Form I-765, supporting evidence and fee payment reach the proper USCIS Service Center before his or her current OPT expires. USCIS recommends that students file within 90 and 120 days of the expiration date of the current OPT.” The OPT STEM extension process requires approval from your school’s Designated School Official (DSO), so be sure to begin the process with your school early enough to obtain approval prior to submitting your Form I-765 to USCIS. As long as you properly file for your 17-month extension, your extension will start the day after your original OPT period expires. Additionally, once you properly file a request for extension, your work authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 days while the extension application is pending. Although you will not receive any updated documentation until your OPT extension is approved, a properly filed extension request allows you to work using your expired EAD until the request is approved or denied.
How Do I Know if I am Eligible to Apply for the 17-month OPT Extension?
- You are eligible to apply for a one-time 17-month OPT extension, beyond your initial 12 months of OPT, if:
- You are currently approved for post-completion OPT;
- You have completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a science, technology, engineering, or math field (see http://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2014/stem-list.pdf for a list of eligible degree fields);
- You have a job or job offer from an employer who is enrolled in the E-Verify program; and
- You have not previously received a 17-month OPT extension after earning a previous degree
Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Our experienced team of immigration lawyers in Houston & Dallas advises clients throughout the H-1B visa application process, including responding to various requests for evidence and consular processing issues. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.