USCIS Clarifies Eligibilty Requirements for 17-Month STEM OPT Extension

On October 21, 2013, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) released an interim policy memorandum, clarifying that the 17-month extension of post-completion Optional Practical Training (“OPT”) for F-1 students enrolled in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (“STEM”) degree programs is available even if the F-1 student has not yet completed the thesis requirement for his or her STEM degree. The F-1 student, though, must have completed all other course requirements to be eligible for the extension.

As background, OPT allows students in F-1 status to gain off-campus work experience in their field of study, before or after completion of studies, usually for a period of twelve months. F-1 students who receive a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a STEM field may apply for a single 17-month extension of their 12-month OPT period.

This policy memorandum is presently in effect until further notice from USCIS.