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STEM OPT Extension

Current F-1 Students

International students who hold degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) may be eligible to apply for an additional 24 months of optional practical training (OPT), for a total of 36 months of post-completion OPT. Only students who have completed degrees in a STEM-designated field qualify for this extension.

You can locate your field of study as listed on your Form I-20. If your field of study does not appear on this list, you are not eligible for a STEM extension. It might be possible to apply for the STEM extension based on a prior U.S. degree in a STEM field. That degree must have been conferred within the past 10 years by an SEVP-certified school that is currently accredited.

The Center for Global Education and Fellowships can help you determine if your degree is eligible for the STEM extension. In addition to having completed a degree in a STEM field of study, you must have a job offer or be working for an employer registered with E-Verify, a federal employment verification system, and you and your employer must complete Form I-983: Training plan for STEM OPT students.

Related resources:

STEM OPT extension criteria

Duration: 24 months

Application period: Applications may be submitted up to 90 days prior to the expiration of the initial 12-month OPT.

Second STEM extension: Regulations allow a total of two lifetime STEM extensions, the second after earning a new STEM-eligible degree at a higher level and obtaining a new, higher level of 12-month OPT

Previously earned degree: May be based on a previously earned STEM degree

Definition and CIP categories: Not all areas of study qualify for the 24-month STEM OPT extension. See the definition of STEM fields and eligible classification of instructional programs (CIP) codes.

Required training plan and Form I-983: Requires significant responsibility of the employer to provide a training plan related to the field of study, and attestations to wages and compensation being commensurate with "similarly situated U.S. workers."

Obligations for students, schools and employers: Six-month validation reports, annual evaluations and submission of a new Form I-983 in case of material changes to the original are required. Employers must agree to Department of Homeland Security site visits and provide attestations to wages and working conditions.

Types of employment allowed: STEM-eligible employers must have E-Verify and EIN numbers and you must have a bona fide employer-employee relationship. To establish a bona fide relationship, the employer may not be your "employer" in name only. Volunteer/unpaid positions and self-employment are not allowed.

Unemployment: Students with 24-month STEM OPT extensions may have up to 150 days of unemployment during the total OPT period, including the initial 12-month and 24-month STEM OPT extension period.

According to 2018 USCIS updates:

  • Under no circumstances would another F-1 student on OPT or a STEM OPT extension be qualified to train another F-1 student on a STEM OPT extension.
  • The employer that signs Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student.
  • The employer has sufficient resources and personnel available to provide appropriate training in connection with the STEM opportunity at the location(s) specified in Form I-983.
  • The "personnel" who provide/supervise the training experience may be employees of the employer, or contractors who the employer has directly retained to provide services to the employer. They may not be employees or contractors of the employer’s clients or customers.
  • DHS will review on a case-by-case basis whether the student will be a bona fide employee of the employer signing the training plan and verify that the employer that signs the training plan is the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.

Temp/staffing agencies, third-party work sites:

  • Staffing and temporary agencies may employ students under the STEM OPT extension program, but only if they will be the entity that provides the practical training experience and they have and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student.
  • STEM OPT participants may engage in a training experience that takes place at a site other than the employer's principal place of business as long as all training obligations are met, including that the employer has and maintains a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student.
  • A STEM OPT employer may not assign, or otherwise delegate, its training responsibilities to a non-employer third party (e.g., a client/customer of the employer, employees of the client/customer, or contractors of the client/customer).
  • According to prior guidance from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, if you use a temporary or staffing agency to place you in a training opportunity, the agency cannot complete and sign Form I-983. Only the E-Verified employer that provides the actual training relevant to your qualifying STEM degree is authorized to sign and complete the Form I-983.

About Form I-983

The rule that provides the 24-month STEM OPT regulations increases the educational benefits that F-1 students receive from their practical training experiences by requiring the submission of a formal training plan using Form I-983.

The formal training plan must clearly articulate your learning objectives and affirm the employer's commitment to helping you achieve those objectives. To fulfill this requirement, you and your employer must complete and sign Form I-983 and submit it to the Center for Global Education and Fellowships. By signing Form I-983, students and their employers agree that they understand their obligations during the STEM employment.

STEM OPT students and their employers are subject to the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, effective as of the employment start date requested for the associated STEM OPT period as indicated on Form I-983.

STEM OPT students may participate in entrepreneurial ventures where the student is an employee. However, they may not act as their own employer or as the signatory for the employer for the purposes of the form.

Learn more: Guide to completing Form I-983.

When to apply

A STEM OPT application can take approximately 90-120 days to be processed. You can submit your STEM OPT application up to 90 days before your current OPT period expires, as noted on your EAD card. Submit your application no later than two weeks before the end of your current OPT. Your request will be denied if USCIS receives your application on or after the end date of your current OPT.

How to apply

Step 1: STEM OPT request form and Form I-983 training plan

Complete and submit the following to iss@salve.edu or drop off at the Center for Global Education and Fellowships.

  • Completed STEM extension checklist
  • Completed STEM extension request form
  • Completed Form I-983 training plan (See Form I-983 instructions for details)
    • SEVIS school code can be found on page 1 of your I-20. Salve Regina's school code is BOS214F20107000.
    • Designated school official is the Center for Global Education and Fellowships advisor who issued and signed your most recent I-20.
    • CIP code is the number found on page 1 of your I-20 near your major.
    • Employment authorization number is the USCIS number on your EAD card.
  • Completed Form I-765 (be sure you are using the most recent version)
  • Summary of all previous (including current) employment during post-completion OPT, including:
    • Employer's name and complete address, including postal code
    • Employment start and end date
    • Position title and brief description of responsibilities
    • Number of hours worked per week
    • Supervisor’s name and contact information (phone and email)
  • Copy of current EAD/OPT card (front and back)

Important: If you have not already done so, you must report your post-completion OPT employment information before submitting your STEM extension request. Please complete the OPT update form for all employment during your OPT period. Failure to report your OPT employment will delay the processing of your STEM request.

Step 2: Receive new STEM OPT I-20

The Center for Global Education and Fellowships will issue a new I-20 with a STEM OPT extension recommendation. Please allow 2-4 weeks for processing. If you are no longer living in the Newport area, we can mail the new document to you. Please provide your preferred mailing address on the STEM OPT request form.

Your STEM OPT packet will include detailed instructions on how to finalize your application for mailing as well as instructions on where and how to mail the application to USCIS.

Step 3: Assemble your application packet

  • Two official U.S. passport photographs with your full legal name and SEVIS number written on the back of each photo.
  • $410 check from a U.S. bank account or money order payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security."
  • Completed Form G-1145 (typed)
  • Completed Form I-765 (typed)
    • STEM extension eligibility category: (c)(3)(C)
  • Copies of:
    • STEM I-20 (pages 1 and 2 only)
    • All previous I-20s (recommended)
    • Valid passport ID page(s)
    • Most recent F-1 visa
    • I-94 record or copy of your I-94 card (front and back)
    • Copy of current EAD card (front and back)
    • Copy of official final transcript with degree awarded (available from the Salve Regina registrar)
    • Copy of diploma (8.5x11, black and white)

Important: Your STEM OPT application must be received by USCIS within 60 days of the issue date on your STEM extension I-20 but no later than the expiration of your current OPT period as noted on your EAD.

Step 4: Mail your complete application with supporting documents to USCIS.

Please visit the USCIS website for the USCIS mailing address.

Step 5: Receive receipt, approval notice and STEM EAD

The Form I-797 "notice of action" (receipt) will be mailed to the address you provide on Form I-765. This receipt indicates the date your application was received by USCIS and includes a receipt number that allows you to track the status of your application.

Applicants who anticipate changing addresses should note that USCIS mail will not be forwarded by the U.S. Postal Service. Please update the Center for Global Education and Fellowships and USCIS with any address changes.

The evidence that you have been approved for the STEM extension is a new employment authorization document (EAD) and Form I-797 approval notice, which you should receive within 90-120 days (normal processing time) of the receipt date listed on the receipt notice. If you have not received the EAD within the normal processing time, you may follow up with USCIS by telephoning the number listed on your receipt notice.

Please provide the Center for Global Education and Fellowships with a copy of your EAD once you have received it.

Using a prior degree for STEM extension

If you are on post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree, you may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree earned from a U.S. institution of higher education to apply for a STEM OPT extension. For example, if you are currently participating in OPT based on a master's degree in business administration but you previously received a bachelor's degree in biology, you may be able to apply for a STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor's degree as long as it is from an accredited U.S. college or university and the OPT employment opportunity is directly related to your bachelor's degree, if:

  • The prior degree was conferred no more than 10 years prior to submission of the extension application.
  • The prior degree was conferred prior to the degree that provided the basis for your current period of standard post-completion OPT.
  • The prior degree was conferred by a U.S. educational institution that is accredited and SEVP-certified at the time your designated school official recommends you for the 24-month OPT extension.
  • The prior degree is in a category included on the STEM-designated degree list at the time of the recommendation.
  • The prospective employment that is the basis for the 24-month STEM OPT extension must directly relate to the prior degree.

You must submit an official transcript and a copy of the I-20 that identifies the prior degree. If you do not have the I-20, you can provide documentation from your previous school that confirms the degree that was conferred as well as the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code that was assigned to you. USCIS may or may not accept such documentation. You can find the major and CIP code in the "Program of Study" section of I-20s issued after July 2015. For forms issued before July 2015, the major will be listed under item 5. There will be no CIP code.

Student responsibilities while on STEM OPT

Students who are granted a STEM OPT extension have additional federal reporting requirements. Failure to satisfy these requirements will automatically invalidate your F-1 status.

STEM OPT training plan

  • You must report any changes to the Form I-983 training plan on file within 10 days. You are also required to report to the Center for Global Education and Fellowships if your employer is not abiding by the terms of the training plan.
  • Any new employment undertaken while on the STEM extension must meet the employment requirements detailed under "STEM extension employment requirements and employer relationship" in the training plan.
  • You must submit a fully completed training plan evaluation at the end of the first and second twelve-month periods of STEM OPT (found on page 5 of the Form I-983 training plan). Submit the form through the STEM OPT reporting form.

You must provide the following information to the Center for Global Education and Fellowships every six months and within 10 days of any change:

  • Legal name
  • Residential and mailing address
  • Email address
  • Telephone number
  • Employer name
  • Employer address
  • Employer EIN
  • Job title or position
  • Average number of hours worked per week (must be at least 20 hours)
  • Supervisor's name
  • Supervisor's telephone number
  • Supervisor's email
  • Employment start date
  • Employment end date

Change in employment

Students with a 24-month STEM extension cannot begin new employment or report a change to their employment without first following the applicable steps below:

  • For changes with your current employer, you must submit an updated Form I-983 training plan detailing the change (e.g., supervisor, new responsibility, change in location) to the Center for Global Education and Fellowships within 10 days of the changes being made. Please check with us if you are unsure if you need to submit an updated Form I-983 training plan. Submit the form through the STEM OPT reporting form.
  • If you are ending employment, you must submit a completed final employment evaluation from page 5 of the Form I-983 training plan to the Center for Global Education and Fellowships within 10 days of ending the employment. Submit the form through the STEM OPT reporting form.
  • To begin new employment, you must submit a new STEM extension request form and Form I-983 training plan. The new Form I-983 must be confirmed by the Center for Global Education and Fellowships as being complete and meeting all STEM program requirements before you can begin the new employment. Submit the form through the STEM OPT reporting form.

Ending STEM extension, departing the U.S. and changes of status

While on STEM OPT, you continue to hold F-1 status sponsored by Salve Regina and your F-1 record remains active in the government database SEVIS. It is extremely important that you notify the Center for Global Education and Fellowships of any changes to your immigration status.

  • If you leave the United States permanently, you must notify the Center for Global Education and Fellowships before you leave and submit a completed final employment evaluation from page 5 of Form I-983 within 10 days of ending your employment. Submit the form through the STEM OPT reporting form.
  • If you change to another visa status in the United States such as H-1B, E-3, G-4, TN, O-1, etc. or obtain permanent resident status, you must notify the Center for Global Education and Fellowships. To report this change, you will need to send evidence of your new status (e.g. copy of new I-94 arrival/departure record, I-797 or green card). You will also need to submit a completed final employment evaluation from page 5 of Form I-983 within 10 days of changing your status. Submit the form through the STEM OPT reporting form.

Employer responsibilities and obligations for STEM OPT

There are numerous employer requirements to which you must adhere. Some are enumerated here, but you should pay particular attention to the attestation on page 2 of the Form I-983 training plan and the employer information located in Study in the States. General employer requirements include being registered with the E-Verify program and ensuring that hiring an international student with STEM employment will not displace a U.S. worker.

Employers

  • Rules apply for all STEM OPT students
  • Must be E-Verify employer
  • Develop a training plan for the student
  • Complete Form I-983
  • Provide two evaluations for the student
  • Responsible for proving compliance during government site visits

F-1 students

  • Have a job offer related to your U.S. STEM-designated degree
  • Work for an E-Verify employer
  • Have a paid position in STEM field for at least 20 hours per week
  • Work with the Center for Global Education and Fellowships to complete a STEM OPT application and submit the application to USCIS
  • Complete the student portion of Form I-983
  • Submit the completed Form I-983 to the Center for Global Education and Fellowships
  • Responsible for completing validation reports every six months and submitting it to the Center for Global Education and Fellowships
  • Completing parts of evaluation

Center for Global Education and Fellowships

  • Review STEM OPT application
  • Issue STEM OPT recommendation on Form I-20
  • Maintain the completed Form I-983 in student’s file
  • Monitor student’s validation reports and evaluations

Six-month validation reports and evaluation

Validation reports and evaluations must be submitted in your STEM OPT reporting form. Be advised that your F-1 record may be terminated for failure to submit these required updates.

  • Every six months (from the start date of the STEM EAD), you must submit a "validation report" through the STEM OPT reporting form.
  • At 12 months, you must submit an annual evaluation signed by your current employer (top of page 5 of Form I-983). Submit the form through the STEM OPT reporting form.
  • At the end of each employment (if you stop working for an employer), you must submit a final evaluation (bottom of page 5 of Form I-983). Submit the form through the STEM OPT reporting form.
    • You will do this by adding an end to the previous employer.
  • At the end of the STEM OPT period, you must submit your 24-month validation report and upload your final evaluation (bottom of page 5 of Form I-983).
  • If you are on a regular 24-Month STEM extension, the six- and 12-month clock begins on the start date of your STEM EAD.
  • You should complete the validation report no more than 15 days before and no later than 10 days after it is due.