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24-Month STEM OPT Application

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

USCIS MAY BE CHANGING THE I-765 FORM EDITION AND FILING FEE AT ANY TIME. IT IS UP TO YOU TO ENSURE YOU ARE USING THE CORRECT FORM AND FILING FEE. IF YOU DO NOT, YOUR APPLICATION WILL BE DENIED

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.
  • Students must be physically present in the U.S. when USCIS receives the application.

When to Apply

  • Students may apply for an extension up to 90 days before the expiration date of their current 12-month OPT EAD card.
  • 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.
  • Students cannot be enrolled in a degree-seeking program or take class toward a degree-seeking program while on STEM OPT.
    • Students may engage in incidental studies.
  • 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.
  • F-1 students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions if they are self-employed. Students must 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.
  • 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.
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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. 
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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), you change your status during your STEM OPT authorized period, or you end your STEM OPT early, you must report any 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. 
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How to Apply for A 24-Month STEM OPT Extension

  • Go to STEM eligible field to verify that your major is STEM OPT eligible using the CIP Code.
  • 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. Complete the checklist and bring the items listed in section B to the appointment.
  • If you cannot come to the OISS: compete the checklist items below.
    • Allow 5 business days for the I-20 to be issued once all the correctly completed required documents are received then follow the directions in section B below. It may take longer during peak times.
    • The I-765 and I-983 do not need to be signed until the OISS advisor notifies you that they have been completed correctly.
    • You do not need to schedule an appointment to review your documents. Any needed corrections will be emailed.

Checklist

Failure to read and follow form instructions will cause delays in OISS processing your STEM OPT request.
  1. Complete and submit the STEM OPT Application form.
    • If you are requesting for more than one employer, submit an application for each employer.
      • New STEM OPT Application - DO NOT create a new application if you already started another application that you have not submitted.
        • Login using the email address you have in the SEVP Portal with the NON-UNR LOGIN, even if you have a NetID. If you cannot login, contact oiss@unr.edu to request a login reset.
      • Existing STEM OPT Application - Login to continue an existing application.
  2. Upload the following documents to the STEM OPT Application.
    • Completed Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) - all 7 pages. Read and follow the I-765 instructions carefully.
      • Make sure you are using the correct edition and including the correct filing fee otherwise USCIS will reject your application. Check for any alerts and "Edition Date" at Form I-765.
      • Print single-sided.
      • We recommend you type your responses on the form to avoid any handwriting confusion.
        • If any response does not fit when typed, you may type in what will fit then type it fully on page 7 or handwrite it clearly in black ink.
      • Instructions state if a question does not apply to you, type or print (handwrite) “N/A” unless otherwise directed. If your answer to a numeric response is zero or none, type or print “None” unless otherwise directed.
        • Some browsers will not let you type “N/A” or “None” so type as much information as you can then print the form and handwrite legibly in black ink.
      • Signatures must be original or may be reproduced original signatures. "This means that a document may be scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced provided that the copy must be of an original document containing an original handwritten signature, unless otherwise specified" (https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-announces-flexibility-in-submitting-required-signatures-during-covid-19-national-emergency).
      • 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.
    • Completed Form I-983 (Training Plan for STEM OPT Students) - all 5 pages. Read and follow the I-983 instructions carefully for detailed information on how to complete each section.
      • We recommend you type your responses on the form to avoid any handwriting confusion.
        • If any response does not fit when typed, you may handwrite it clearly in black ink.
      • Signatures must be original or may be reproduced original signatures. "This means that a document may be scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced provided that the copy must be of an original document containing an original handwritten signature, unless otherwise specified" (https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-announces-flexibility-in-submitting-required-signatures-during-covid-19-national-emergency).
      • Student must complete Section 1 and work with their employer to complete Sections 2-6.
        • Make sure all the text is visible, there should be 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.
          • If the STEM OPT extension is not based on your current 12-month post-completion OPT, submit 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.
        • 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.
    • Copy of your current EAD card (front and back).
 
  1. The OISS advisor will review your STEM OPT Application and recommend the extension in SEVIS if all requirements are completed. You will receive a new I-20 with the STEM OPT extension recommendation on page 2.
    • If you cannot come to the OISS, the OISS advisor will use the option you select in the STEM OPT Application to get the I-20(s) to you.
  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.
      • Make sure you are using the correct edition at "Edition Date" at Form G-1145.
    • *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 Filing Fee at Form I-765 for the fee.
      • Form G-1450: Make sure you are using the correct edition otherwise USCIS will reject your application. Check "Edition Date" at Form G-1450.
      • 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:

  • USE USCIS FORMS WITH THE CORRECT EDITION DATE AND CORRECT FILING FEE AMOUNT

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

  • BE RECEIVED BY USCIS WITHIN 60 DAYS OF THE I-20 ISSUE DATE LISTED ON THE 1ST PAGE OF YOUR I-20 OR BEFORE THE END OF YOUR CURRENT 12-MONTH OPT, WHICHEVER COMES FIRST


Note:
  • In 2 to 4 weeks USCIS will mail Form I-797C, Notice of Action (Receipt Notice) with a Receipt Number and Received Date confirming that they have received your STEM OPT application. This does not indicate STEM OPT approval.
    • Note: USCIS is currently taking longer than 2 to 4 weeks to send Receipt Notices.
    • 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

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Options After STEM OPT End Date or Ending Your STEM OPT Early

If you do not use more than the allowed 150 days of unemployment for the 36 months of OPT (12 months OPT and 24 months STEM OPT), you are allowed a 60-day grace period following your STEM OPT EAD card expiration date to:
  • leave the United States;
  • change your status
    • if you have a pending or approved change of status to H-1B, you may be eligible for a Cap-Gap Extension I-20. Please consult with the immigration legal counsel working on your case;
  • start a new program at UNR
    • you must be admitted and the I-20 issued by the end of your grace period;
  • transfer your SEVIS record to a new school
    • you must be admitted and transferred by the end of your grace period
    • the new program must begin at the next available term or within 5 months of the expiration date on your EAD card, whichever is earlier
    • submit the F-1 Request to Transfer Out to request that your SEVIS record be released
      • your STEM OPT automatically ends on the SEVIS release date if you select a release date before your EAD card expiration date
      • you may request a future SEVIS release date within your grace period.
In some cases, you may want to start the process of pursuing these options before the end of your STEM OPT. If you remain in the United States past the end of your 60-day grace period without pursuing any of the above options, you may begin accruing days of Unlawful Presence, which has serious consequences depending on the length of the overstay. Review Reporting Requirements for information you need to report when your STEM OPT ends or if you end it early.

If you use more than 150 days of unemployment for the 36 months of OPT, you do not have a grace period. Please consult with an OISS advisor.
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