We wish to remind F-1 students that the Optional Practical Training (OPT) limited to 12 months must be completed within 14 months of graduation. Additionally, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) graduates, upon completion of their 12-month OPT, are eligible for 17-month OPT with an employer enrolled in E-Verify. As we previously reported in our article, Unpaid Employment for F-1 OPT’S, a student may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern where this practice does not violate any labor laws.
It is essential for a F-1 student filling STEM extension to send the form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization before the expiration of their current OPT period. STEM extensions can be requested as early as 120 days before the end of 12-month post-graduation OPT though USCIS recommends that students file the application between 90 to 120 days prior to the expiration of current OPT. A student who has timely filed STEM extension gets an automatic extension of employment authorization for 180 days.
A student is eligible to apply for 17-month OPT extension even during the ‘Cap-Gap’ period. However, it is important that in such a situation the pending or approved H-1B petition is timely withdrawn by the petitioner for USCIS to process the withdrawal before the H-1B start date of October 1st.
STEM OPT rules allow US businesses to attract and retain highly skilled students thereby giving a competitive advantage to US. We at Sharma Law Offices, LLC can provide representation and guidance if you have any doubts about your eligibility or the OPT Extension process.