Highlights of interim final rule on OPT extension

The new Interim Final Rule that will extend the Post-Completion Optional Practical Training for F-1 students will came into effect on April 8, 2008. The Department of Homeland Security has used this rule to make significant changes. The DHS is currently inviting comments from the public and interested readers may do so at http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocumentDetail&o=09000064804b55f1. The last date of submitting comments is June 9, 2008.  To mail your comments see bottom of the page for address.

OPT Extension up to 29 Months

  • OPT Extension up to 29 months for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) students. Previously optional practical training periods were up to on 12 months.
  • OPT Extension only benefits F1 students with STEM degrees in the following fields:
    • Actuarial Science
    • Biological & Biomedical Sciences
    • Computer Sciences (except Data Entry/Microcomputer Applications)
    • Engineering
    • Engineering Technologies
    • Mathematics & Statistics
    • Medical Scientist (MS, PhD)
    • Military Technologies
    • Physical Sciences
    • Science Technologies
  • OPT Extension only benefits F1 students who are already serving heir 12 month OPT period and is also employed under a U.S. employer in a job that is directly related to his or her field of study (See list above)
  • Students need to have completed either a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in one of the field listed above
  • Students must have either a job offer or employment with an employer registered with the E-Verify program
  • Students who have already gotten a 17-month OPT extension cannot qualify

H1B Cap Gap Relief

  • Students on OPT and with a pending or approved H1B will be able extend their Duration of status and work authorization the H1B employment start date of October 1. Previously, students often faced cap gap dilemma where their OPT period ended before either their H1B petition was adjudicated or their H1B work date started, leaving the student out of status and with no option of staying on.
  • This rule applies to all students on OPT ad with a pending H1B, not just STEM students. This extension of duration of status and work authorization is automatically terminated if the student’s H1B is not approved.

File for OPT 90 Days Ahead

  • Students can now file their Form I–765 for pre-completion OPT up to 90 days before the end date noted on their I-20 and up to 60 days after their program end date, provided that the period of employment will not start prior to the completion of the full academic year.

Reporting Requirements

  • Employers of F–1 students with OPT extension is required to report to the student’s designated school official (DSO) within 48 hours after the OPT student has been terminated from, or otherwise leaves, his or her employment with that employer prior to end of the authorized period of OPT
  • All students on OPT are require to report to the DSO of:
    • any change in name and/or address (home or in the United States)
    • any change in employment information or any interruption to that employment
  • All students with approved 17 month extensions must report to the DSO within 10 days any change of
    • legal name
    • residential or mailing address
    • employer name and address
    • loss of employment
  • All students with approved 17 month extensions must make a validation report of the above to the DSO every 6 months starting from the date the extension begins and till-
    • The student’s F-1 status ends
    • The student changes educational levels
    • The student transfers to another school
    • The extension ends
      Whichever comes first.

Unemployment During OPT

  • Students on OPT can afford only a small amount of time to be unemployed in order to maintain F1 status. This clause is still under clarification.
    • Students on 12 month OPT period cannot accrue more than a total of 90 days of unemployment.
    • Students on 17 month OPT extension cannot accrue more than a total of 120 days of unemployment

Employment Authorization Duration

  • Employment authorization will begin on the date requested or the date the employment authorization is adjudicated – whichever is later.
  • The 17-month OPT extension period will begin the day after the expiration of the initial OPT authorization and will end 17 months later – regardless of when the extension was approved.

Interim Rule Open to Comment

The DHS is currently inviting comments from the public. The last date of submitting comments is June 9, 2008.  You may submit comments by using one of the following methods:

  • Online: httu://www.rermlations.~ov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • Mail:
    Office of Policy,
    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
    Department of Homeland Security
    425 I Street NW
    Room 7257
    Washington, DC 20536.
  • Hand Delivery / Courier: The address for sending comments by hand delivery or courier is the same as that for submitting comments by mail. Contact telephone number is (202) 5 14-8693.

Source: NAFSA, DHS