We wrote earlier about the F-1 Visa OPT extension proposal. We are happy to report that the OMB review has been complete and that the rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register during the week of April 7, 2008, at which time of publication the rule becomes effective. The new OPT rule brings great relief to many students or OPT holders who are in a difficult position because of the timing of the H-1B filing season and the expiration of their OPT.
We have obtained an advance copy of the DHS rule and we are providing a PDF of the rule as well as detailed analysis below.
Summary and Analysis of the New OPT Rule
29 Month OPT for STEM Students. The 12 month limit on F-1 OPT is extended by 17 months for a total of 29 months for holders of degrees in certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) areas. Eligible degrees are:
- Actuarial Science. NCES CIP Code 52.1304
- Computer Science: NCES CIP Codes 1 1 .xxxx (except Data Entry/Microcomputer Applications, NCES CIP Codes 11.06xx)
- Engineering: NCES CIP Codes 14.xxxx
- Engineering Technologies: NCES CIP Codes 15.xxxx
- Biological and Biomedical Sciences: NCES CIP Codes 26.xxxx
- Mathematics and Statistics: NCES CIP Codes 2 7 . m
- Military Technologies: NCES CIP Codes 29.xxxx
- Physical Sciences: NCES CIP Codes 4 0 . m
- Science Technologies: NCES CIP Codes 41 .xxxx
- Medical Scientist (MS, PhD): NCES CIP Code 51.1401
- Student must be currently participating in a 12-month OPT and must be working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study (which, of course, must be one of the areas listed above)
- Student must have successfully completed a bachelor’s, masters, or doctoral degree from a SEVIS-certified educational institution.
- The student has not previously received a 17-month OPT extension.
- The Designated School Official (DSO) must recommend the 17-month OPT extension after verifying that the student otherwise qualifies for the extension.
- Employer must be E-Verify registered.
- Employer must agree to report the termination/departure of the student to the DSO.
Application. Students who qualify and wish to extend their OPT by 17 months must file form I-765 and attach the applicable fee. Students who timely file their OPT extension application will be allowed to continue employment until the final decision of the I-765 form or 180 days, whichever comes first. Under the new rule, students can file his or her I-765 up to 90 days prior to his or her program end date, and up to 60 days after the program’s end date.
There is substantial relief for non-STEM degree students whose OPT are set to expire. Under the new rule, duration of status and work authorization will be extended for a student on OPT who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting an employment with starting date of October 1. This applies to all students, not just STEM students. This renewal terminates automatically upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition.