For those who are wondering about the new STEM rules, and how the old rules will be stopped and the new rules will be implemented, keep reading.
If My Application Was Filed On Or Before May 9, 2016, Under Which Rules Will It Be Adjudicated?
USCIS will transition into the new rules as seamlessly as possible. First, all current and pending OPT requests will continue to be processed as 17 month extensions up until May 10, 2016 (so through May 9, 2016). Any 17 month extensions already granted, or granted from the date the new rule was published through May 9, 2016 will remain valid as of May 10, 2016 and beyond for their full term (i.e. until the date listed on the EAD). These 17 month EADs will not be affected by the new rules in any way.
However, any application for a 17 month extension filed before May 9, 2016 that remains pending as of May 10, 2016 (and, of course, any application filed on or after May 10, 2016) will fall under the new rules. In other words, filing the application before May 10, 2016 does not guarantee your application will fall outside the new rules. Any application pending on May 10, 2016 will be converted to a request for a 24 month extension, and, in due course, a Request for Evidence will be issued for the new I-983 training plan and other additional documentation needed to process a request for the 24 month extension
What If I File My Opt Request And Ask For 24 Months, But I File Prior To May 10, 2016?
If you file a request under the new rules, but send in the filing early, USCIS will automatically convert your request to a 17 month extension request. Of course, per the above, if that application remains pending on May 10, 2016, it will be converted back into a 24 month request.
If I Have A 17 Month Opt Card Can I File An Extension To Get The Extra 7 Months?
Yes. Those who received 17 months of OPT, if you qualify for the 24 months under the new rules, can file a request to extend their OPT for the extra 7 months. You will need to file the extension request with all the required documents for a normal 24 months OPT request, including the training plan, etc. This is not an automatic extension, you must file for the extension and be approved under the new rules. This is important to remember especially in context of deciding whether to withdraw a current OPT request so that you fall under the new rules.
There are many inherent dangers to withdrawing an OPT request, especially in terms of the strict timelines in which to file the OPT request (which are not reset if you withdraw your initial request) and you should discuss this with your school and immigration attorney before making a decision. In most cases, just continuing on with the current application and filing a request down the road may be the safest, and only, option.