STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) Extension

The 24-Month Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Extension allows certain F-1 students who are on post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) to apply for a 24-month extension of their one-year post-completion OPT. The STEM extensions can be issued based on your current degree or a previous degree that is a qualified STEM major.

Summary

Eligibility

Application Process

Reporting Requirements

Employers

Frequently Asked Questions


Summary

On March 11, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a final STEM OPT Rule that significantly expanded and changed the STEM OPT Extension. The 17-month STEM OPT regulations remained in force through May 9, 2016 and the new 24-month STEM OPT rule went into effect on May 10, 2016. 

The full ruling is available online.

Summary of the important changes in the final rule:

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Eligibility

Degree

To qualify, you must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in a STEM field. Note, not all STEM degrees are eligible. You can find out if your degree qualifies by checking the “CIP code” which is listed next to the program on your I-20 and then checking the STEM Designated Degree Program List with the DHS.

In some cases, an F-1 student who earned a STEM-eligible degree at a currently accredited SEVP certified school, may be able to obtain an extension based on that prior degree. To use a prior degree you must have graduated within the past 10 years and currently be in your OPT period. The degree must also be on the STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time the student submits their application.

Employer

In order to be eligible for the STEM Extension you must be currently working for an employer that is enrolled in the E-Verify Program with the U.S.. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). For more information on E-Verify or to find out if your employer is eligible, please visit www.uscis.gov/e-verify. Students must also select an employer that will guarantee a minimum of 20 hours per week.

Form I-983 Training Plan

The employer must complete the I-983 training plan with the student. For more information on employer requirements visit the DHS Study in the States STEM OPT Hub

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Application Process

In order to apply for the STEM extension, the student must first contact their International Student Advisor (ISA) to determine if they are eligible. The student may set up an in person appointment or a phone appointment by calling the front desk of the International Student Center (ISC) at 434-592-4118. Once determined that the student is eligible follow the steps below:

Step 1-  Prepare the following items:

  1. Form I-983 training plan
  2. Form I-765
  3. Original job offer letter
  4. Money Order for $410.00 made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  5. Two photographs (Must meet the USCIS Color Photograph Specifications). Quality photos must be less than 30 days old and can be taken at the local CVS, Walgreens or Wal-Mart.
  6. Final transcripts in a sealed official envelope from the Registrar’s Office (Do not open the transcripts package)
  7. Color copy of student’s current and all previously issued I-20s
  8. Color copy of student’s valid EAD card (front and back)
  9. Color copy of the student’s passport
  10. Color copy of the student’s I-94
  11. Color copy of the student’s visa (even if it has expired)
  12. 24-Month Extension Application

Step 2- Meet with your ISA or send all required documents to mystatus@liberty.edu.

Step 3- Send the completed OPT Extension Application Packet to the USCIS for approval. OPT application must be received by the USCIS within 30 days after the OPT I-20 is issued.             

If you live in:

Mail your application to:

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado,
Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana,
Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota,
Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada,
North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota,
Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming,
Guam, or the Northern Mariana Islands.

USCIS Phoenix Lockbox

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:

USCIS
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

For Express mail and courier deliveries:

USCIS
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware,
District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia,
Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland,
Massachusetts, Mississippi,
New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico,
New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania,
Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina,
Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont,
Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands,
or West Virginia

USCIS Dallas Lockbox

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries:

USCIS
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

For Express mail and courier deliveries:

USCIS
Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business
Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

Step 4-  Once you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), email a color copy to mystatus@liberty.edu. The USCIS requires that a copy of this document be kept on your file with the university.

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Reporting Requirements

F-1 Students applying for and engaged in STEM OPT will be subject to additional reporting and must submit extra documentation, including attestations from their employer. This includes:

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Frequently Asked Questions

Application Questions

What is the STEM OPT Extension?

How do I apply for the STEM OPT Extension?

What tools are available to help me apply for the STEM OPT Extension?

What are the eligible CIP Codes for the STEM OPT Extension?

How early can I apply for the STEM OPT Extension?

How soon must I submit the STEM OPT Extension application to USCIS after receiving my new I-20?

What is an E-verify number?


Employment Details Questions

Can I work after my original OPT period expires, if I have a pending application for STEM OPT Extension with the USCIS?

What is the minimum number of hours I can work each week?

Is it possible to work multiple jobs on STEM OPT Extension?

What types of work are NOT allowed on STEM Extension OPT?

  1. Volunteer/unpaid work
  2. Employment through employment agencies
  3. Self-employment

What about start-ups?

How does applying for STEM OPT Extension affect my travel plans?


Form I-983 Training Plan Questions

What is the form I-983 Training Plan and how do I complete it?

 What if I have changes to my training plan?

Will my training be evaluated during my STEM OPT Extension opportunity?


Unemployment Questions

How does the new STEM OPT Extension rule change the total number of unemployment days allowed?

What counts as time unemployed?


Reporting Requirements Questions

What are the reporting requirements for STEM OPT Extension students?

  1. Change of address, email and phone contact information
  2. Name of employer, and any change of name of employer
  3. Address of employer, and any change of address of employer
  4. Interruption of such employment
  5. Change of name
  6. Reporting Requirements
  7. Students must submit a validation report every 6 months

Processing Questions

I applied for the STEM OPT Extension and haven't received my I-797C (notice of receipt) from the USCIS.

My case status on the USCIS website hasn't updated in a long time. What do I do?


Other Related Questions

Why did DHS implement a new STEM OPT Extension rule effective May 10, 2016?

How do the changes to the STEM OPT rule benefit international students and schools?

As a STEM OPT Extension participant, am I required to pay Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes for Social Security and Medicare?

My employer has asked me to take a business trip outside the U.S. What do I report?

I have already completed one STEM Extension OPT, and I am now studying for a degree at a higher level. Is it possible to receive STEM Extension OPT again?

I just completed a non-STEM eligible degree and I am on OPT for that degree, but I previously earned a STEM eligible degree at a lower education level. Can I apply for the STEM OPT Extension based upon my previous degree?

What about the Cap-Gap extension?

Did the STEM OPT Extension change H-1B visa policies?

Is a STEM OPT extension a way to avoid the requirements of an H-1B visa?

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