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OIS News - 3/16/2016

Final Rule - New STEM OPT Extension

The Office of International Services (OIS) would like to make the UIC international community aware of recent and significant changes to F-1 employment regulations. 

On March 11th, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its final rule to strengthen and enhance the optional practical training (OPT) program for F-1 international students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Changes included in this final rule will affect how students, employers, and UIC administrators interact with the OPT STEM extension. Below is a list of the major highlights included in the final rule. Additionally, the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) has prepared valuable resources to assist with this transition, many of which are posted to the STEM OPT Hub website.

Highlights of the major changes found in the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension Final Rule

The new rule:

  • Lengthens the STEM OPT extension from 17 months to 24 months
  • Strengthens the educational component of the STEM OPT extension by requiring students and employers to complete an individualized training plan
  • Increases the number of times a student can participate in the STEM OPT extension from one to two over the course of the academic career
  • Expands eligibility for the STEM OPT extension, under certain circumstances, to students who hold a prior STEM-qualifying degree
  • Allows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to enforce the new rule through site visits to employers
  • Provides a transition plan for students who submitted or will submit a STEM OPT extension application prior to May 10, 2016
  • The 2016 STEM OPT 24-month extension final rule is effective beginning May 10, 2016. Previously used 17-month STEM OPT regulations remain in effect through May 9, 2016. For the complete text of DHS’s final rule, please see the federal register.

As always, OIS is available for advising on this and other immigration related issues. We have set up a frequently asked questions (FAQs) page on our website in order to address specific questions the UIC international community may have. The FAQs will continue to be updated as new questions and issues emerge so we encourage you to revisit this page frequently. However, if after reading through this message, the STEM OPT Hub, and our FAQs page you should have any questions, feel free to contact us at or 312-996-3121. Students may also visit us during Open Advising for an in-person consultation.


The Office of International Services