International Services
STEM OPT Extension

STEM OPT Extension – 2016 Amended Rule

The final 24 month STEM OPT rule was published in the Federal Register on Friday, March 11, 2016. 81 FR 13039.

See the STEM OPT Hub for more information.

FAST FACTS:

  • The new 24 month STEM OPT rule became effective Tuesday, May 10, 2016
  • Volunteer or unpaid positions will not qualify for the 24 month STEM OPT extension.
  • Self-employment does not qualify for the 24 month STEM OPT extension.
  • Cap-Gap is included in the amended rule.
  • Students may be able to use a previously obtained STEM degree to apply for 24 month STEM OPT extension.
  • There is an opportunity for a second period of STEM OPT after obtaining a degree at a higher level at an accredited, SEVIS-approved institution.

WHAT YOU NEED TO APPLY

  • Have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree at an accredited, SEVP-approved US institution in a major on the DHS Stem Designated Degree Program list and have been granted Standard OPT that is currently valid.
  • Work for an employer who meets all the requirements as indicated by the amended rule:
    • Enrolled in E-Verify
    • Agrees to DHS site visits and to report changes in employment within 5 days to a DSO at USF
    • Provides OPT with pay that is similar to US workers with the same duties and hours
    • Complete the Form I-983 to show the formal training plan between the employer and you for the period of the extension.
  • Complete the STEM OPT Application E-Form via iStart
    • Completed Form I-765
    • Provide information about the employer
    • Upload the completed Form I-983
    • If eligible, a DSO at USF will issue an updated I-20 with the recommendation with the recommendation for a STEM OPT Extension.
  • Send the updated I-20 with the following  to the USCIS Processing Center having jurisdiction over your current place of residence:
    • Completed Form I-765
    • Cashier's Check/ Money Order foir $410.00 made payable to US Department of Homeland Security
    • Two 2x2 passport photos (photo requirements)
    • A copy of your STEM degree in the form of either official transcripts (recommended), unofficial transcripts (recommended), or a copy of the diploma as long as it states the program of study
  • You may file the official application for the 24 month STEM OPT Extension to USCIS as early as 90 days before the end of your Standard OPT.

USING A PREVIOUSLY OBTAINED STEM DEGREE FOR 24 MONTH STEM OPT EXTENSION
Students on Standard OPT based on a non-STEM degree may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree earned from a US institution of higher learning to apply for the 24 month STEM OPT Extension if:

  • The prior degree was earned from a currently accredited and SEVP certified institution.
  • You did not already receive STEM OPT Extension for that prior degree.
  • It has been no more than 10 years before the DSO recommends a STEM OPT extension in SEVIS based on the prior degree;
  • The prior degree is in a degree program category included on the current STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time of the DSO recommendation;
  • The practical training opportunity that is the basis for the 24-month STEM OPT extension must directly relate to the prior degree;
  • The prior degree was actually conferred (i.e., a student who uses a prior degree cannot take advantage of the "all but thesis or dissertation" exception).

STEM I-20 Processing Note: Due to the volume of requests and limited time some of these cases have to submit to USCIS, our office is processing them in order of deadline. We thank you for your understanding and patience in this matter.

Upon review of your STEM I-20 request in iStart, our office will contact you if adjustments to your paperwork are needed. Otherwise, you will receive an email once your I-20 is ready for pickup/mailing.


Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can I continue to work after my OPT extension is filed with USCIS?
A: A student who files the application timely may continue employment while the extension application is pending, until a final decision is made, or for 180 days, whichever comes first.

Q: If I am approved for an extension, can I change employers?
A: A student may change employers during the STEM OPT extension. However, USCIS and SEVP advise against changing employers while the I-765 is pending, since the I-765 names a specific employer.  Note: 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.  The student must report the change in employer to the DSO and submit a new I-983.

Q: If I am approved for an extension, can I work for a non-E-verify employer while still employed by the E-Verify employer named on the I-765?
A: Students may NOT be concurrently employed at a non-E-verify employer. While on a STEM OPT extension, the student is only allowed to be employed by employers who are registered with E-verify.

Q: If my major is not listed on the DHS STEM Designated Program List can I apply for an extension of my OPT?
A:  At this time, the extension is only for F-1 students who have completed a program in a STEM major.

Q:  Are there special reporting requirements for F-1 students who receive a STEM OPT extension?
A:  Students with an approved STEM OPT extension must make a validation report every six months starting on the date the extension begins and ending when the OPT ends.  The validation is a confirmation that the student’s name and address, employer name and address, and /or loss of employment is current and accurate.   The student must follow all other current OPT reporting requirements. The employer must agree to report the termination or departure of the student to the International Student Office of the student’s former school, or through any other process chosen by the Department of Homeland Security.

Q: Can I work for multiple employers while on STEM OPT?
A: Yes, but you must provide a complete I-983 for each employer using the Report New OPT Employer E-Form.

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