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24-Month STEM OPT Application

PLEASE NOTE - USCIS IS CURRENTLY TAKING 3 TO 5 MONTHS TO PROCESS OPT APPLICATIONS, PLAN YOUR APPLICATION ACCORDINGLY

F-1 students with degrees in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) may apply for a 24-month extension of their current post-completion OPT status based on several requirements. The 24-month STEM OPT extension may not be divided and may be used twice in non-consecutive periods. Go to STEM OPT Hub for more information.

Eligibility

  • Applicant must currently be in a 12-month period of post-completion OPT.
  • Applicant has completed a degree in a current STEM eligible field from a current U.S. accredited institution with SEVP certification within the 10 years before the STEM OPT application date and has not already utilized this degree to apply for an STEM OPT extension.
  • Student must have at least 20 hours per week paid employment at a job in the U.S. directly related to their STEM degree.
  • The employer must be enrolled in USCIS’s E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.
  • The employer must provide the student with formal training and learning objectives. 

When to Apply

  • Students may apply for an extension up to 90 days before the end date of the current 12-month OPT.
  • The application must be received by USCIS before the end of your 12-month OPT.

Continuing Employment

  • Students who file in a timely manner will have their post-completion OPT automatically extended while the STEM OPT application is pending until a final decision on the STEM OPT request is processed or for 180 days, whichever is first.
    • Your Receipt Notice is proof of the timely filing. 

Important Information

  • Students may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment from the start date on their 12-month EAD card during their 12-month post-completion OPT or up to 150 days with a STEM OPT extension.
  • Although it is possible to change employers and/or have multiple employers during the STEM OPT extension period, all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
    • All employment must be paid and at least 20 hours per week.
  • If a student changes employers during the STEM OPT extension period, they must submit a new Form I-983 (Training Plan for STEM OPT Students) within 10 days of leaving the previous employer. If the time between employers is longer than 10 days, the student must report the loss of employment to the OISS advisor and submit the I-983 later.
  • International students are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes for the first 5 calendar years they hold F-1 status but are required to pay all federal and state taxes.
  • F-1 students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Form I-983 because F-1 students may not provide employer attestations on their own behalf.

Travel

We advise that you do not travel if your STEM OPT is pending and your 12-month OPT has ended. To return to the U.S. during STEM OPT, you’ll need the following documents:
  • STEM OPT I-20 signed for travel (valid for 6 months) on the 2nd page;
  • Valid visa (it is possible to renew a visa after STEM OPT approval but difficult with a pending application);
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months from the date you re-enter;
  • If your STEM OPT has not been approved - Form I-797C (Receipt Notice);
  • If your STEM OPT has been approved – STEM OPT EAD card and employment letter or contract;
    • If your STEM OPT is approved while you are out of the country, you will need to have your EAD card and an employment letter or contract in order to return;
  • Please note: re-entry after travel out of the country is never guaranteed. If your application is denied while you are out of the country, it may not be possible for you to return on the F-1 visa or to resume STEM OPT. 

Reporting Requirements

  • Employers are responsible for reporting the termination or departure of the student to the OISS within 5 business days after the student leaves employment. Employers must consider a worker to have departed when the employer knows the student has left employment or if the student has not reported to work for a period of 5 consecutive business days without the employer’s consent, whichever date is earlier.
  • EVERY 6 months starting from the date the STEM OPT extension starts and ending when the student’s F-1 status ends or the STEM OPT extension ends, whichever is first, students must submit the 24-Month STEM OPT Validation Report to OISS.
    • We highly recommend you add reminders to your calendar to remember to submit the validation reports.
    • This is also a good time to review the I-983 you submitted for your STEM OPT application to make sure all the information is still the same.
      • If anything has changed, upload a new completed I-983 with the appropriate signatures to the validation report.
  • You may use the SEVP Portal to report physical/mailing address and phone number updates and to view information regarding your STEM OPT, including reporting deadlines.
  • If your employment changes (add employer, change employers, stop/lose employment) during your STEM OPT, you  must report any employment changes to OISS within 10 days of the change by submitting the 24-Month STEM OPT Update Form and any required supporting documents.
    • If you have multiple employers, you must work at least 20 hours per week for EACH employer.
  • Students must complete the “Evaluation on Student Progress” portion of the Form I-983 within 12 months of the listed STEM OPT start date. At the end of the STEM OPT extension, student must complete the “Final Evaluation on Student Progress” assessment. Once the evaluations are complete, the student must collect signatures from their employer and submit the form to the OISS advisor.
    • If you change employers during STEM OPT, submit a final evaluation for that employer.
  • Both the student and employer are obligated to report to the OISS advisor any material changes to, or material deviations from, the student's formal training plan.
  • Go to Students: STEM OPT Reporting Requirements for detailed reporting requirements. 

How to Apply for A 24-month STEM OPT Extension

  • Make sure your employment, mailing and physical addresses, phone number, and email address are current and correct in the SEVP Portal.
  • If you can come to the OISS: schedule an appointment with an OISS advisor. Please bring items 1-3 in the checklist items and the items listed in section B to the appointment.
    • BEFORE coming in for your appointment: email the OISS advisor the completed I-983 and I-765 to review. DO NOT SEND YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER ON ANY OF THE DOCUMENTS.
      • Allow 5 business days to review your documents. It may take longer during peak times.
  • If you cannot come to the OISS: submit the checklist items below to an OISS advisor by fax or email, specify the OISS advisor the fax is being sent to. DO NOT SEND YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER ON ANY OF THE DOCUMENTS.
    • Allow 5 business days for the I-20 to be issued once all the required documents are received then follow the directions in section B below. It may take longer during peak times.
    • You do not need to schedule a phone or Skype appointment.

Checklist

Failure to read and follow form instructions will cause delays in OISS processing your STEM OPT request.
  1. Completed Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization). Please read Form I-765 instructions carefully:
    • We recommend you type your responses on the form to avoid any handwriting confusion. If you cannot type any responses, you may handwrite them in black ink.
    • Go to Sample STEM OPT I-765 for help completing the I-765.
      • You should be able to receive mail at the mailing address you enter on the I-765 for up to 6 months after USCIS receives your application. If you change your address while your application is pending, you will have to update it directly with USCIS. We advise against this because the address change might cause problems with receiving mail from USCIS.
  2. Completed Form I-983 (Training Plan for STEM OPT Students). Read and follow the I-983 instructions carefully for detailed information on how to complete each section.
    • Student must complete Section 1 and work with their employer to complete Sections 2-6.
      • Make sure there are no "+" signs in any of the completed boxes.
    • Section 1:
      • The SEVIS School Code is in the “School Information” on your most recent I-20.
      • Enter the DSO’s (OISS advisor) full contact information as the instructions state: name, address (1664 N. Virginia St., MS 0074, Reno, NV 89557), phone, email.
      • The STEM OPT requested date should start on the date right after your current 12-month OPT ends and end 2 years later.
      • Major and CIP Code: Enter the major as shown on your diploma or transcript and CIP code as found on your I-20.
      • Enter the qualifying degree level only i.e., Doctorate, Master’s, Bachelor’s.
      • “Based on Prior Degree” - Check “Yes” if your STEM OPT participation is based on a previously‚Äźobtained STEM degree, and is not the same degree your current 12-month OPT is based on.
      • Enter the USCIS # on the EAD card for the “Employment Authorization Number”.
    • Section 3:
      • Enter the date your STEM OPT training period will start for “Start Date of Employment”, not a past date.
    • Section 5:
      • Make sure to provide all the specified information in each question.
    • The self-evaluations are not to be completed until within 12 months after the listed STEM OPT start date and at the end of the STEM OPT extension with that employer or when you change your status.
      • Submit the blank pages.
  3. Copy of your current EAD card (front and back).
  4. If you do not live in the area: Shipping Request Form OR Authorization to Release Information.
 
  1. The OISS advisor will review your request and recommend the extension in SEVIS if all requirements are completed. You will receive a new I-20 with the OPT extension recommendation on page 2. If you cannot come to the OISS, the OISS advisor will use the instructions on the Shipping Request Form or the Authorization to Release Information form to get you your I-20.
    • Please allow 5 business days to process your request. It may take longer during peak times.
  2. The mailing address listed on your Form I-765, determines where you file. Read the “Where to File” section of the I-765 Application page and mail the following documents in the order below to the appropriate address (Form I-983 is for OISS and not to be sent to USCIS). If you do not mail ALL the required documents, USCIS could deny your application:
    • We advise that you request tracking information for your mailing and make a copy of everything.
    • Optional: Students may attach Form G-1145 (E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance) as the 1st page of the application packet to request an e-Notification of the receipt of the application at the USCIS Lockbox facility. There is no filing fee for this service.
    • *Money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions in U.S. currency for the filing fee payment of $41000 (four hundred and ten). *Filing fee subject to change. Check Instructions for Form I-765 for the fee.
      • Make checks and money orders payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with “STEM OPT filing fee” in the memo line.
      • Sign the money order, personal check, or Form G-1450.
      • 2 identical passport photos (2” x 2”) taken within 30 days of filing your application with your name and I-94 number lightly written on the back of the photos in a small envelope; Go to Passport Photos for specifications.
      • Original Form I-765 completed and signed.
      • Copy of the 1st and 2nd pages of your new 24-month STEM OPT I-20 signed by the OISS advisor and you.
        • If I-20s are issued for dependents, do not send copies or originals to USCIS.
      • Copies of:
        • the bio page of your current passport (include extension page if applicable, do not include expired passports that are not current),
        • current visa (even if it is expired or in a passport that is not current), and
        • I-94 - go to I-94 Retrieval to print an electronic I-94.
      • Copy of the 1st and 2nd pages of your most recent 12-month OPT I-20.
      • Copy of your current EAD card (front and back).
      • Copy of the proof of your STEM degree and major (official or unofficial transcripts or diploma).
      • If the STEM OPT extension is not based on your current 12-month post-completion OPT, include a copy of the 1st and 2nd pages (or 1st and 3rd pages for I-20s issued before July 2015) of the I-20 for the STEM degree.
        • If the I-20 is not available, request a letter or a screenshot of your SEVIS record from the previous school.
      • If you previously had a STEM OPT extension, include a copy of the 1st and 2nd pages (or 1st and 3rd pages for I-20s issued before July 2015) of that I-20 and front and back of the EAD card.
      • Copies of any other supporting documents for information on Page 7 of the I-765.

TO REDUCE CHANCES OF YOUR APPLICATION BEING DENIED, THE APPLICATION PACKET MUST:

  • BE RECEIVED BY USCIS WITHIN 60 DAYS OF THE I-20 ISSUE DATE LISTED ON THE 1ST PAGE OF YOUR I-20

  • NOT BE RECEIVED MORE THAN 90 DAYS BEFORE THE END DATE OF YOUR CURRENT 12-MONTH OPT


Note:
  • In 2 to 4 weeks USCIS will mail Form I-797C, Notice of Action (Receipt Notice) with a Receipt Number confirming that they have received your OPT application. This does not indicate STEM OPT approval.
    • If you included Form G-1145 with your application packet, you will get an email and/or text message notification with your receipt number within 24 hours of USCIS accepting your application – you will still get a receipt notice in the mail.
  • Go to Check Case Status on the USCIS website to check the status of your application.
    • You may sign up for an account to receive email updates on your case.
    • After your Receipt Notice is mailed, the status message will remain the same unless USCIS requests more evidence/information or makes a decision on your application.
  • You should receive your EAD card within 90 days of the received date on the Receipt Notice if your application is approved.
    • Email the OISS advisor a copy of the front and back of your EAD card. 

IF YOU RECEIVE A REQUEST FOR EVIDENCE (RFE) OR REQUEST FOR INFORMATION (RFI) FROM USCIS, IMMEDIATELY CONTACT AN OISS ADVISOR BEFORE RESPONDING