On October 21, 2013, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted an interim memorandum for comment, entitled “17-Month Extension of Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students enrolled in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Degree Programs.” The memorandum is interim guidance and therefore effective immediately.
Under the OPT program, international students who graduate from colleges and universities in the United States are able to remain in the country and receive training through work experience for up to 12 months. Students who graduate from a designated STEM degree program can remain for an additional 17 months on an OPT “STEM extension.” The purpose of the interim USCIS memorandum is to clarify the requirements for such STEM extensions.
Specifically, the USCIS memorandum confirms that a 17-month STEM extension can be obtained, notwithstanding that the student has not yet completed the thesis requirement or equivalent of his or her STEM program. This interpretation is in line with the position taken by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) on this issue.