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STEM OPT Extension

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an off-campus training benefit available to F1 students after program completion. Students in eligible STEM programs can apply for a 24-month OPT extension.

Student Eligibility:
  • A student with a STEM-qualifying bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from an accredited, SEVIS-certified U.S. educational institution, who is in a valid period of standard post-completion OPT, has an offer of paid employment for more than 20 hours per week from an employer enrolled in E-Verify.
  • Applicant has completed a degree in a STEM-eligible field from a U.S. accredited institution with SEVP certification within the last 10 years and has not already utilized this degree to apply for an OPT STEM Extension.
Things to Remember:
  • You and your employer complete a Form I-983 Training Plan
    • Form I-983 instructions can be found HERE.
      • For STEM OPT applicants, your Alien Registration Number is the USCIS # listed on your post-completion EAD.
    • The STEM OPT start date is the day after your 12ÔÇÉmonth OPT ends. The end date is fixed at 24 months after the start date.
      • Ex. OPT ends 02/03/2019. STEM OPT dates are 02/04/2019 - 02/03/2021.
    • Concordia University, St. Paul’s school code is SPM214F00284000.
    • You must be working in a paid position for a participating E-Verified employer; cannot be self-employed, unpaid, or volunteer work.
    • The employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.
    • You may use a staffing agency to find a training opportunity.
      • The term "employer" is used differently in the context of human resources than it is for immigration purposes on the I-983. While staffing agencies may hire and place students at training sites, they may not complete the I-983. The I-983 must be completed by the direct site supervisor, and each site must be E-Verified. Please note that this has been verified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program – who manages the F-1 regulations and F-1 student visa program – time and again and is published guidance. In other words, SEVP confirms that students may use staffing agencies and consulting companies, but such entities cannot complete and sign an I-983 unless they are able to show an employer-employee relationship and oversight of the student's training.
      • Students 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 of the training obligations are met, including that the employer has and maintains a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. 
        • The employer that signs the Training Plan is the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.
  • You must submit a new Form I-983 if you change employers.
  • You may receive the STEM OPT I-20 as early as 90 days before the end of your 12-month OPT period.
  • Your DSO determines that the degree program that will serve as the basis of the STEM OPT extension is on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List.
  • The DSO updates the student's SEVIS record with a recommendation for a 24-month STEM OPT extension, and issues a new Form I-20 that reflects the STEM OPT extension recommendation.
  • File the STEM extension application with USCIS within 60 days of the DSO's recommendation in SEVIS and before the expiration of your post-completion OPT.
    • Contact ISS for a new I-20 if you cannot meet this deadline.
  • Watch for your receipt notice letter from USCIS. You can use the “Receipt Number” to check the status of your case at www.uscis.gov.
    • Please note this website is updated infrequently.
  • USCIS will issue an EAD reflecting the approved STEM OPT extension.
  • Throughout the STEM OPT extension period, the student, employer(s), and school comply with all reporting, training, supervision, evaluation, wage, documentation, and other obligations specified in the regulations and on Form I-983.
  • The STEM OPT Start Date is the day following the current post-completion OPT End Date.
  • The STEM OPT End Date is 24 months after the start date.
  • A student who has timely filed an application for a 24-month STEM OPT extension with USCIS may work for the STEM OPT employer while the STEM extension application is pending, for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of his or her prior post-completion OPT EAD.
    • Time spent during this 180-day period while the application is pending counts towards the 24-month extension.
  • If the STEM OPT application is still pending with USCIS beyond 180 days, the student must stop working until USCIS approves the STEM OPT application.
  • Students with 24-month STEM extensions may have up to 150 days of unemployment during the total OPT period including the initial 12-month (90 days) and 24-month (60 days) STEM OPT period.
  • Travel is allowed on STEM OPT. Be sure to travel with the following documents:
    • Passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of the re-entry to the U.S.)
    • Valid F-1 Visa that permits multiple entries
    • Form I-20 with valid travel signature and STEM OPT Recommendation (Travel signatures are valid for 6 months while on STEM OPT.)
    • Valid or Expired OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
    • Employment Verification Letter
    • I-797 Receipt Notice for STEM OPT Application (if application is still pending with USCIS)
  • Report changes in employment through the ISS Portal within 10 days (see below).
  • Report changes to personal information including address and phone number through the SEVP Portal within 10 days.
  • Complete required STEM OPT reporting as required (see below).
  • It is your responsibility to comply with and pay attention to reporting requirements and deadlines.
How to Apply for the STEM OPT Extension
Step 1:
Request your STEM OPT I-20. Click on the blue "Apply for STEM OPT Extension Here" button below and complete all items. (Please email ISS once you've submitted your request.)
Step 2: Prepare all USCIS application items (listed below in checklist).
Step 3: File all USCIS application items with USCIS within 60 days of requesting the STEM OPT I-20.

How to Update Your New STEM Employer
Step 1: 
Click on the blue "Apply for STEM OPT Extension Here" button below and complete all items. This allows ISS to update your current STEM Extension with your new employer's information. (Please email ISS once you've submitted your request.)
Step 2: ISS will process your request and print an updated I-20.

How to Update Your Personal Address or Phone Number
Step 1: Update your personal address or phone number in the SEVP Portal. ISS does not update these for STEM Extension students.


Note: If you have already started a request, do not start a new request. Please go to your User Home Page to continue working on your request.  

USCIS Application Items Checklist
  • Check, money order, or credit card payment to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" for the Form I-765 filing fee
    • See instructions for paying USCIS fees HERE
    • If paying by credit card, use Form G-1450
  • Form I-765 (Find form and follow all form instructions HERE)
    • Type or use black ink
    • Enter “N/A” or “none” in any blank fields
    • In the third box, check “Renewal of my permission to accept employment.”
    • Include your employer’s name as listed in E-Verify and E-Verify Company Identification Number or valid E-Verify Client Company Identification Number.
    • In item 20, enter (c)(3)(C) for STEM OPT extension.
    • Turn in ALL pages of the Form I-765 to USCIS even sections that may not apply to you.
  • Copy of signed I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation
    • You must file with USCIS within 60 days of the issue date
  • Official transcript (recommended) or copy of diploma as documentation of the STEM degree
  • Copy of your current EAD (front and back)
  • Two new passport photos (ie. Not the same as your current passport or visa.)
    • Print full name and I-94 number on back of each photo.
    • Put in envelope and staple to application.
  • Most recent I-94 card (can be found at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov)
  • Paperclip form G-1145 on top of stapled application materials (optional)
  • Note: the I-983 Training Plan does not need to be submitted to USCIS (unless USCIS requests a copy during STEM OPT extension processing).
    • You should keep a copy of the plan for your own records.
USCIS Filing Address
File your application with USCIS lockbox based on the state where your I-765 mailing address is located.
MN mailing addresses use (send by USPS certified mail):

USCIS
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

If your mailing address is outside of MN, find the correct USCIS address HERE

Complete Reporting Requirements in STEM OPT Extension
Requirement 1: Update your change of address or phone number in SEVP Portal. ISS does not update these for STEM Students.
Requirement 2: Submit a copy of your STEM OPT EAD.

Requirement 3: Submit Validation Reports at 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, and 24 months even if there have been no changes. SEVP Portal users will receive a reminder via email 30 days before any validation report is due. As part of this reporting, you will confirm the following information:
  • Legal name
  • Residential or mailing address
  • Employer name and address
  • Status of current employment




Requirement 4: Submit Self-Evaluation Reports at 12 months and 24 months. Students are required by law to submit a Self-Evaluation Report on the Form I-983 every 12 months starting from the date the 24-month extension begins and ending when the student’s F-1 status is completed or the 24-month extension ends, whichever is first. The Self-Evaluation Reports are found on page 5 of the Form I-983.


Requirement 5: Report change of STEM OPT employer to ISS. Students who have changed employers during the STEM OPT Extension period are required to submit a new request including Form I-983 at the time of the employment change. Click on “Apply for STEM OPT Extension” request above to submit new employer information and receive an updated I-20. You must also submit a final self-evaluation for your former employer, which must be signed by your former employer.
 
The information contained in this web site is not intended as, and does not serve as, legal advice. It is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Content is subject to change, and students are advised to consult an experienced U.S. immigration attorney for advice and further information. Neither Concordia University, St. Paul nor the Office of International Student Services is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.