F-1 students on 17-month STEM OPT and their employers should be mindful of the upcoming August 8, 2016 deadline for applying to extend their STEM OPT to the new 24-month maximum. The Department of Homeland Security's ("DHS") final STEM OPT rule, published in March, allows many F-1 students with STEM degrees to take advantage of a two-year extension to their Optional Practical Training ("OPT"). As stated in the new rule, any 17-month STEM OPT Employment Authorization Document ("EAD") issued on or before May 9, 2016 will remain valid until the EAD's expiration date. However, students should keep in mind DHS will not automatically convert 17-month STEM OPT EADs to 24-month EADs. Instead, F-1 students with at least 150 days of OPT remaining have until August 8, 2016 to apply for the additional 7 months of work authorization permitted under the new rule.
Eligible F-1 students, along with their employers, will need to complete and sign the new, required STEM OPT Training Plan when requesting the OPT extension from their schools' international student offices. Once students obtain the updated Form I-20 from their schools, they will then need to file a new Form I-765 with USCIS before the August 8, 2016 deadline.
Before signing the Training Plan, employers should be aware of the attestation and reporting requirements under the DHS's new rule. Please contact the attorneys at Iandoli Desai and Cronin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions regarding STEM OPT extension requests, the upcoming deadline, or the new employer reporting and attestation requirements.