STEM 24 Month OPT Extension
- Student Requirements
- Employer Requirements
- Requesting STEM Extension I-20
- Submitting your STEM Extension Application
- Responsibilities While on a STEM 24 Month OPT Extension
- STEM & Cap Gap Relief Resources
On April 8, 2008, DHS published an interim final rule that changed several key aspects of the F-1 optional practical training (OPT) regulations including the addition of a provision that allows for the granting of a one time in a lifetime 24 month STEM OPT employment authorization extension for qualifying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree graduates.
- A student is NOT eligible to receive an extension more than once, regardless of degree level.
- The extension can only be granted in one 24 month period.
- The period cannot be “split” into 2 periods.
- The employment start date on the new EAD card will be the day immediately following the expiration of the initial OPT employment authorization period.
- Completed a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a qualifying STEM degree program.
The STEM Designated Degree Program List consists of Classification of Instructional Programs codes that have been designated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) degrees that qualify for the STEM extension if all other eligibility requirements are fulfilled. A student’s degree program CIP code will appear in the upper left hand corner of page 3 of any I-20 issued after April 8, 2008. Please check the STEM Designated Degree Program List to see if you have a qualifying CIP code.
- Currently approved for and engaging in post-completion OPT based on completion of a designated STEM degree program. Students authorized for Pre-Completion OPT are not eligible for a STEM extension.
- Employed by an employer who is currently registered and in good standing with the USCIS E-Verify program. A list of employers and federal contractors enrolled in E-Verify is available on the USCIS website.
- Maintained Valid F-1 status. Student has reported all employers (name and address), any changes of personal name, address (US, residential, mailing, foreign), and interruptions of employment within 10 days of change to the Office of International Education via email to OIE@esf.edu.
- Has not accrued more than 90 days of unemployment while authorized for the initial OPT period.
Each day (including weekends) during the period when OPT authorization begins and ends that the student does not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment. OPT authorization begins on the employment start date shown on the student’s EAD.
- The only exception is that periods of up to 10 days between the end of one job and the beginning of the next job are not included in the calculation of time spent unemployed. This 10 day exception also applies to the first 10 days from the start date on the student’s EAD.
- Has not been approved for a STEM Extension previously.
- Submit a timely STEM Extension application to USCIS. Application must be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date indicated on the Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card), preferably 90 days prior to the EAD expiration date. Students who timely file their STEM extension applications with USCIS will receive an automatic extension of employment authorization after their current employment authorization expires while the application is pending until adjudication or for 180 days, whatever occurs first.
- Must be registered for E-Verify, the internet-based system operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). E-verify is currently free to employers and is available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Employer must provide E-Verify Company/Client Identification Number to applicant as it must be entered onto the I-765 Application for Employment Authorization.
- As a participant in E-Verify, employers are required to verify all newly hired employees, both U.S. citizens and non-citizen
- Employer must agree to report termination or departure of OPT employee to the Office of International Education in a written letter or email (OIE@esf.edu).
If you meet all of the eligibility criteria indicated above, please submit the documents noted below in pdf format via email to OIE@esf.edu with the subject line, “Attn: STEM Extension Application.”
- Completed STEM Extension Request Form with Student Responsibility Checklist (Page 2). Be sure to include mailing address.
- Completed and signed I-765: Application for Employment Authorization
- G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (if you wish to receive an email and/or text message informing you that USCIS has accepted your application or petition.)
- Completed and signed Form I-983
- Completed OPT/STEM OPT Reporting Form
- Diploma or transcript (must indicate your degree program)
- EAD card (front & back)
- Scanned copies of all of your previous I-20's including the I-20 recommending OPT
- Scanned copy of your passport
- Scanned copy of your visa
- Scanned copy of your I-94 Card (front & back)
- Recommended, but not required: Statement from your employer indicating how your employment relates to the STEM field indicated on your I-20.
After reviewing your materials and verifying that you have a qualifying STEM code, the Office of International Education will issue an I-20 recommending the 24 month OPT extension and mail it the address noted on your STEM Extension Request Form. A copy of this I-20 must be included in your STEM Extension application to USCIS. The I-20 issuance does not guarantee that USCIS will approve your request.
Compile all of the application materials:
- Check or money order for $380 made out to the "Department of Homeland Security"
- Two 2 x 2 passport-style photographs taken within the past 30 days with your name and I-94 number written gently on the back of your photos;
- G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (optional);
- Completed and signed I-765: Application for Employment Authorization (original);
- Completed and signed Form I-983;
- Official transcripts or copy of your diploma indicating the program of study you completed your degree in;
- One clear photocopy of your current EAD card (front & back) and any previously issued EAD cards related to your current status;
- One clear photocopy of your current SEVIS I-20 (with recommended OPT Extension dates- see p. 3 of I-20);
- Clear photocopies of all of your previous SEVIS I-20's- include all page 1&3’s of I-20's;
- One clear photocopy of your visa;
- One clear photocopy of your passport (biographical information and expiration page);
- One clear photocopy of the front and the back of your I-94 card; and
- Recommended, but not Required: Statement from your employer indicating how your employment relates to the STEM field indicated on your I-20
You are responsible for mailing your completed application to the appropriate USICS Lockbox or Service Center that processes applications for your eligibility category or place of residence. Please note filing locations are subject to change; please confirm mailing address by checking the USCIS Website and the I-765 Instructions.
If approved, the employment start date on the new EAD card will be the day immediately following the expiration of the initial OPT employment authorization period.
- Submit a copy of your new EAD card to OIE@esf.edu with the subject line, “STEM EAD card copy”
- Abide by all regulatory reporting requirements. Report the following within 10 days of the change to OIE@esf.edu: legal name, residential or mailing address, email address, employer name, employer address. PLease report by filling out the OPT/STEM OPT Reporting Form.
- As per the revised OPT regulations, you are required to submit an OPT/STEM OPT Reporting Form to OIE every 6 months during your STEM OPT extension period (including Cap-Gap relief if applicable) confirming your :
- legal name;
- residential address;
- email address;
- employer name;
- employer address;
- your current position/title;
- your current supervisor;
- your supervisor’s contact information; and
- date you began your current employment
- Do not accrue an aggregate of 150 days of unemployment over the 36 month OPT authorization period; students who receive a 24-month STEM OPT extension are given an additional 60 days of unemployment for a total of 150 days over their entire post-completion OPT period.
- Students authorized for an OPT STEM extension must work at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify employer in a position directly related to their STEM degree program of study.
- SEVP recommends that students maintain evidence — for each job — of the position held, proof of the duration of that position, the job title, contact information for the student’s supervisor or manager and a description of the work.
- For students who are on a STEM extension, this employment may include:
- Paid employment. All employment during the STEM extension must be paid employment. Volunteer experience does not count as employment for the purpose of maintaining F-1 status during the STEM extension.
- Multiple employers. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to each individual student’s degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
- Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. The company for whom the student is providing services must be registered with E-Verify. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
- Self-employed business owner. Students on a STEM extension can start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must register his or her business with E-Verify and work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program.
- Employment through an agency or consulting firm. Students on a STEM extension may be employed by an employment agency or consulting firm. The employment agency or consulting firm must be registered with E-Verify, but the third parties contracting with the agency or firm (for which the student is providing services) need not be.
- Students on a STEM extension are allowed to volunteer, incidental to their status. This means that volunteer work is allowed but does not count as employment for the purpose of maintaining F-1 status.
- Do not engage in employment with a non-E-verify employer. You may change employers or be employed by multiple employers however during the STEM extension period all employment must be with an E-verify employer.
- USCIS and SEVP advise against changing employers while the I-765 is pending, since the I-765 names a specific employer. Students are advised to consult with an attorney regarding the effect of changing to an employer that is not the employer named on the I-765.
- Students who obtain a 24 month OPT extension may still benefit from the cap-gap relief provisions but must continue to maintain valid F-1 status and abide by all reporting requirements
- Training Plan Form I-983: You must submit a new training plan form I-983 every employer change or employer addition. Please also remember to submit your annual evaluation consistent with the form every 12 months.
- E-Verify Self Check
- SEVP OPT Policy Guidance (4/23/10)
- SEVP OPT Policy Guidance (4/10/09)
- SEVP OPT Policy Guidance (5/23/09)
- USCIS FAQ #2 On OPT Interim Final Rule (5/23/08)
- SEVP Policy Guidance (4/26/08)
- USCIS FAQ #1 On OPT Interim Final Rule (4/10/08)
- NAFSA's OPT Regulatory Update
- Interim Rule with NAFSA Annotations
- Federal Register (04/08/08)