F-1 students with degrees in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) may be eligible for an extension of their Post-Completion OPT work permission. Please review the resources listed below for complete STEM Extension application details.
The F-1 student must:
UPDATE: STEM Employment must be at least 21 hours per week to be eligible to apply for the STEM extension.
The employer must:
If you enroll in a new academic program in the U.S. in the future and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level, you may be eligible for a second period of 24-month STEM OPT (i.e. two 24 month STEM OPT extensions may be permitted).
Example: If you receive a 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor’s degree in computer science, and you later earn a master’s degree in computer science or another STEM eligible field, you may apply for Post-Completion OPT and then the additional 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your master’s degree.
If you are currently in a degree field (or on Post-Completion OPT from that degree) that is not identified as STEM eligible, but have previously earned a STEM eligible degree from an accredited U.S. higher education institution, you may be eligible to apply for a STEM OPT extension under certain conditions:
Example: If you are currently participating in Post-Completion OPT based on a master’s degree in business and management, but you previously received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, you may be able to apply for a STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor’s degree in mathematics as long as meets the other criteria above.
A qualifying STEM degree holder will be able to file the OPT STEM Extension application up to 90 days before the current OPT end date. The OPT STEM Extension application must be submitted to USCIS within 60 days of the date on which ISSS issues an OPT STEM Extension I-20, but not after the end date of your current 12-month OPT.
The student who timely files a non-frivolous application for the 24-month OPT extension will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending, until a final decision on the I-765 or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
Request an I-20 recommending STEM Extension OPT from ISSS. You must provide the following documents:
The purpose of the Form I-983, a new requirement for 24-month extension, is to ensure that students continue a rigorous training program that builds on the skills obtained as a full time student. The student and their supervisor must agree on the components of the plan as follows: the role of the student in the work place, the goals and objectives of the proposed training, how the employer will provide oversight of the plan, and what set of measures and assessments will be used. Both student and supervisor must sign this form and send it to the ISSS adviser for review.
A full overview of the application requirements can be found on the Study in the States Hub, the SEVIS student instructions website.
Upon verifying the student’s eligibility and determining whether the student’s degree is on the STEM Designated Degree Program list, an ISSS adviser will prepare an I-20 recommending STEM Extension OPT on the employment page.
Depending on the option you chose in your OPT Extension Request form, you will either receive your new I-20 via the shipment method you choose, or you can pick it up from the ISSS office after five to seven business days once all application documents in step one were submitted; you will receive an email once your documents are ready.
Follow the Checklist that will be attached to your OPT I-20; be sure to read carefully.
Checking the Progress of Your OPT Application. Within 2 - 3 weeks, USCIS will send you a receipt notice (Form I-797). This is proof that USCIS has received your application. Make sure to check the spelling of your name. If you notice an error, contact the National Customer Service Center number which is located on your receipt. The receipt will also have your case number printed on it (EAC##########), with which you can track the progress of your application on the USCIS website.
Request for Additional Documentation. Occasionally, a student will receive a Request for Further Evidence (RFE) from USCIS. These requests are typically because the application is missing a document or new photographs are required. If you receive such a request (normally a yellow sheet of paper) reply immediately to USCIS with the requested documents, including the original yellow sheet placed on top. If you do not understand the USCIS request, contact ISSS. Be sure to make copies of your materials before you mail them, and send the reply by courier mail.
EAD Delays. If you have applied to USCIS for your 24-month STEM extension and you have not received your new EAD by the end of your Post-Completion OPT, you may continue to work for up to 180 days after the end of your Post-Completion OPT. You should receive your new EAD before you reach 180 days.
Receiving Your EAD Card. Upon receiving your EAD card in the mail, you should immediately scan and email a copy of your card to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will then send you a new I-20 showing that your OPT has been approved. You can pick up the updated I-20 in the ISSS Office or you can receive your new I-20 via the shipment method.
Changing employers while your STEM Extension is pending is not advisable, but the process is outlined below. Please note that a change can/will delay the application process and there is no fee associated.
In order to process a change of employers while your STEM Extension application is pending with USCIS, you will need to do the following:
The ISSS Office will then produce a new I-20 for you reflecting the updated information. You will need to pay for the shipping of the form, or pick it up in the ISSS Office. NOTE: “friends” are no longer able to pick up immigration documents.
Once you receive the new documentation, you are required to send the following documentation to the USCIS Office where you sent your original STEM application. The address can be found on the I-797 Receipt Notice. You must indicate the I-797 receipt number on top of each document:
- A brief letter explaining your situation and why you changed employers during the processing period;
- Copy of the USCIS receipt notice you received when you submitted your first STEM Extension documentation;
- New Form I-765, being sure to provide your new employer’s E-Verify number (not the EIN number); AND
- Copy of new I-20 with new employer listed on it (be sure to sign I-20)
Students must submit to ISSS self-evaluations via the I-983 during the first 12 months on the STEM OPT extension and at the completion of the 24-month extension period or at the conclusion of employment, whichever comes first. Evaluations should be submitted within 10 days of the required date.
Student and employers must report to ISSS within 10 days of a change in any of the following via the I-983:
Students are required to report to ISSS within 10 days of a change in the following via the OPT Reporting Form:
Students are required to report to ISSS every 6 months - regardless if there is a change or not - the following via the OPT Reporting Form:
Students on the 17 month OPT STEM extension must still report to ISSS within 10 days any change in legal name, residential address, employer name and address, or a change in status. Students must also continue to report to ISSS every 6 months, regardless if there is a change or not, their legal name, residential address, employer name and address, and the status of their current employment.
Keep records of your employment history for your personal file, to present as evidence of maintaining lawful status should you apply for future immigration benefits.
Examples of records to keep:
While on STEM OPT, you are required to show your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) along with your other immigration documents (see list below) in order to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status. In many cases, students will also need to apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate for a new F-1 visa before returning to the U.S.
If you need to leave the U.S. before you receive your EAD card, speak with an ISSS adviser.
If your employer has filed for H-1B on your behalf, check with your employer about any travel plans as leaving the U.S. while an H-1B application is pending may jeopardize your application.
Required documents to re-enter the U.S. while on STEM OPT Extension
For additional information concerning travel and re-entry, visit the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s travel information website.
Revised July 28, 2017