24-month STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT)
The STEM OPT extension allows some students with designated science, technology, engineering, or math degrees to apply to extend their post-completion OPT authorization. Students with STEM degrees and currently in their 12-month OPT period should review the eligibility requirements, application timeline, and instructions below.
Eligibility for STEM OPT:
- Applicant must be an F-1 student who is currently engaged in post-completion OPT with a job or job offer from a participating E-Verify employer in a position directly related to their major field of study.
- Applicant must have completed a degree in a designated STEM field from a U.S. accredited institution with SEVP certification within the last 10 years and may not have already utilized this degree to apply for a STEM OPT extension,
- Or applicant is in a period of post-completion OPT, is currently engaged in a designated STEM Master’s or PhD program, has completed all degree-required coursework and lacks only the thesis or dissertation to complete the degree.
- Applicant must be in an active period of post-completion OPT at the time of requesting the STEM OPT extension.
- Applicant must submit a completed I-983 with all attestations and supporting documentation to OIE to request the 24-month STEM extension.
- Applicant files the I-765, with all required documentation and filing fee, to USCIS to request the STEM OPT extension.
- Applicant must be working in a full-time (20+ hours per week) paid position for a participating E-Verified employer; cannot be self-employed.
USCIS must receive your STEM OPT application within the following timelines or the application will be denied.
- No more than 90 days before the end of your 12-month OPT end date.
- BEFORE the end of your 12-month OPT period.
- Within 60 days of the STEM OPT recommendation in SEVIS.
Conditionals and limitations:
- The STEM OPT start date will begin the day after the initial OPT ends. You do not choose the dates.
- TWO STEM OPT extensions are allowed per lifetime.
- A STEM OPT Extension can only be applied for while the applicant is in a valid period of post-completion OPT
- If the application has been timely filed, you can continue to work while the application is being processed for 180 days, even if you do not receive your new EAD before the end of your initial post-completion OPT period.
- You must pay close attention to and comply with reporting requirements and deadlines. Failure to comply with reporting requirements will result in the loss of your immigration status and employment authorization.
- Individuals engaged in a period of 24-month STEM OPT extension cannot be unemployed for an aggregate of more than 150 days (dating back to the start of your post-completion OPT period).
- Students may not be their own (sole) employer or provide the employer attestations on their own behalf. Additionally, there must be an employer/employee relationship with the employer providing training on site, which means that people will typically need to be employed directly by the company, not employed by a third party or temp. employment agency. The government guidance is that the “employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.”
- To qualify for the STEM OPT extension, the position must be full time (20+ hours per week). Employment with multiple employers is only possible if both positions will be more than 20 hours per week and if both employers comply with all of the STEM OPT regulations, including completing and signing the I-983 Training Plan.
You must submit a timely application to USCIS in order to continue working and obtain the STEM OPT extension. Follow these steps:
STEP 2: Obtain the OPT Recommendation and New I-20
To request the STEM OPT I-20 you MUST submit all of the following to IPO via email to email@example.com.
- A completed STEM OPT Extension Request Form & Attestation
- Copy of your 12-month EAD card
- Completed, signed Form I-983
Upon receiving your complete request, your STEM I-20 will be issued within 3 business days. When your I-20 is ready, you will receive an email with the next steps to collect your document.
STEP 3: Complete the USCIS Application Materials
Gather the following application materials and submit them in this order to USCIS:
- I-765 filing fee of $410. Check or money order payable to the “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
- Form G-1145. Use this form if you wish to receive email or text confirmation of your receipt number from USCIS.
- Form I-765 completed by you with your original signature (in blue ink).
- Photocopies of ALL previously issued and signed I-20 documents dating back to beginning of F-1 status. This includes a copy of your new STEM I-20!
- Proof of degree: official transcript is recommended. Alternatively, the applicant may choose to provide a copy of the diploma showing the level and program of study.
- I-94 record OR front and back of paper record (if applicable).
- Photocopy of your valid passport ID page(s)
- Photocopy of the most recent F-1 visa stamp (even if it is expired)
- Two U.S. passport-sized photos. In pencil, print your name and I-94 number on the back of each photo. No eyeglasses can be worn in passport photos. Passport photos can be obtained at some U.S. Post Offices, FedEx offices, and many retailers such as CVS.
- Copy of any previously-issued EAD card(s).
STEP 4: Mail the Application Materials to USCIS
- When you have completed the entire application, make a complete set of photocopies for your files, and send the entire application to USCIS.
- Mail the application to one of two USCIS lockboxes. You must mail the application to the USCIS office that has jurisdiction over the address you have used on #3 of the I-765 form. IPO recommends that you send the application via an express mail carrier so that you have a tracking number and signature noting proof of delivery.
- Mail the application so USCIS receives it within the application deadlines:
- No more than 90 days before the end of your initial 12-month OPT period.
- Before the end of your initial 12-month OPT period.
- Within 60 days of your STEM recommendation/issue date.
STEP 5: Wait for the EAD
Within one month of sending the application to the USCIS, you should get a standard receipt notice. If you do not get this notice within 6 weeks contact IPO for more information. The “Receipt Number” in the top left corner of this receipt notice can be used to check the status of your case on the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov or by calling the phone number indicated on the receipt. Keep in mind that this information is updated infrequently. As long as your STEM application is timely filed you may continue working for up to 180 days while waiting on your STEM EAD card.
Reporting Requirements and Limitations on Unemployment during STEM:
- F-1 regulations REQUIRE you to report any change of your name, your address, your employer’s name or your employer’s address, within 10 days.
- Report changes to IPO by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Updates will be reported in SEVIS.
- You must submit verification reports to IPO every 6 months, to confirm that the employer information you submitted with this request is still correct. The first report is due 6-months after the end of your 12-month OPT period. After that, the report is due every 6 months until your STEM OPT ends, or you change status or depart the U.S. Send STEM reports to email@example.com.
- You must submit 2 self-evaluations. One at the 12-month mark and a final evaluation, either at the 24-month mark or at the time you leave the company, whichever comes first. The evaluation can be found on page 5 of the I-983 form. Send STEM self-evaluations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Periods of “unemployment” are limited to 150 days while on STEM OPT. This dates back to the start of your initial post-completion OPT period.
- You must report status changes to IPO while you are on OPT. For instance, you must notify IPO if you:
- Apply for and are granted a change of status from F-1 (OPT) to H-1B or any other status.
- If you leave the U.S. and make a new entry in another status.
- If you leave the U.S. permanently before the end date of your EAD card.
- If you plan to return to YSU as a student or continue studies elsewhere after OPT.