In the midst of May 2012, the 1-year OPT (Optional Practical Training) period for international students who graduated in May of 2011 is coming to an end. At the same time, due to the new policy launched in April 2008, B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. students in the STEM program (i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) are becoming eligible for another 17 month OPT extension, which can extend their OPT period for a total of up to 29 months.
The potential additional 17 months enables STEM students to legally stay and work in the US for a longer period of time. More importantly, since in certain cases a student may not receive an H-1B before the cap is reached during the Fiscal Year that they graduate, this additional time can enable a student to continue working until the next Fiscal Year.
International students can check whether their major qualifies under the STEM program at their International Student and Scholar Service/Office, or by using the following link:
Since the most recent update (Additions are in Bold), the STEM program covers about 400 majors.
Please note that STEM OPT extension is specifically an extension, which means that the applicant for such an extension must already have an approved, regular 1-year OPT. Then they may complete the STEM extension application, which can be submitted within 120 days before the existent approved OPT expires. The general procedures for applying for regular OPT are outlined below, and can usually be found on most ISSS/ISSO websites.
1. I-20: Complete required form to apply for a new I-20 from ISSS/ISSO.
2. EAD: Submit the following documents to USCIS to apply for an EAD card.
• A personal check or money order for $380 US dollars, payable to the Department of Homeland Security.
• 2 standard passport photos.
• Completed CIS Form I-765
• Copy of first page and third page of the new I-20
• Copy of double side of the I-94
• Copy of the identity page of the passport
3. Mail the package to the address designated in the I-765 instructions.
4. Processing time will be around 3 months.
The general procedures for STEM OPT extension are outlined below:
1. To be eligible:
• Have a prior, approved 12-month regular OPT
• Keep ISSS/ISSO posted with up-to-date residential address and employment address, throughout the regular OPT
• Have no more than 90 days of unemployment during the regular OPT
• Have obtained a B.S., M.S., or Ph.D. in the STEM program
• Currently be working for, or have received a job offer from, an employer who participates in the E-verify system
• Cannot previously have obtained a 17-month OPT extension
STEM OPT extension applications have to be submitted within 120 days before the current OPT expires. Once the application is received by USCIS, the applicant may legally stay and work for another 180 days, or until the decision is made.
3. The STEM OPT extension application requires almost all exactly the same documents and fees as regular OPT application. Additional concerns and documents are outlined below.
• Form I-765 Question 16: (c)(3)(c)
• Submit copy of both sides of EAD card and I-765 approval notice (I-797) from prior OPT
• Submit a STEM verification letter (request from ISSS/ISSO)
• Submit copy of prior regular OPT designated I-20
• Submit employment verification letter that includes commencing and ending time during the prior OPT period
Additionally, to maintain legal status during the extended OPT, the holder has to work at least 20 hours per week for the E-verify-participating employer. Additionally, the holder cannot remain unemployed for more than 120 days during the 17-month OPT period.
For more information on OPT and STEM extension, please refer to http://www.hooyou.com/news/news040708opt.html
Finally, we would also like to remind those who plan to apply for H-1B visas that as of May 11, 2012, according to USCIS, 36,700 out of the 65,000 regular H-1B cap slots for this Fiscal Year have already been used, and 14,800 out of the 20,000 slots for U.S. advanced degree holders have already been used.
If your employer is willing to sponsor your H-1B application, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will provide you with a free evaluation and help you file your H-1B as soon as possible.
Free Immigration Seminars in Three Cities on Friday May 25 and Saturday May 26
National immigration law firm Zhang & Attorneys, L.P., is offering free immigration seminars on Friday May 25 and Saturday May 26, 2012 in three cities’ offices respectively. Our senior attorneys will present the fundamentals of immigration law and discuss:
1. F-1 visa and related employment issues
2. H-1B visa, Quota and Strategies
3. National Interest Waiver Green Card – Even a Master degree can get approval
4. EB-1B and EB-1A Green Card for achieved scholars
5. Green Card strategic plans for students and scholars
Date and time of the seminars:
Time: 6:00pm ~ 8:00pm CDT, Fri. May 25, 2012
Presenter: Attorney Jane Xu
Address: 9999 Bellaire Blvd, Suite 920
Houston, TX 77036
Silicon Valley, CA
Time: 10:00am ~ 12:00pm PDT, Sat. May 26, 2012
Presenter: Attorney Jerry Zhang
Address: 2225 E. Bayshore Road Suite 200
Palo Alto, CA 94303
New York, NY
Time: 10:00am ~ 12:00pm EDT, Sat. May 26, 2012
Presenter: Attorney Joe Zhou
Address: 14 Penn Plaza
225 West 34th Street, Suite 1400
New York, NY 10122
The presentation will be conducted in English with an English PowerPoint slideshow. If you are interested in the seminar, you may register the seminar free of charge by clicking the following link: