OPT STEM Extension

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

Optional Practical Training (OPT) that is associated with an approved STEM field of study can be extended an additional 24 months (effective May 10, 2016).

Eligibility

OPT STEM Extension is available if you meet the following requirements:
Associates Degree level: STEM is not available at this level, regardless of degree program.

  • Be in a current period of approved post-completion OPT (1st 12 month approval).
  • Have current or offer of employment from an E-Verify participating employer.
  • Be in a STEM approved major with corresponding CIP code at GSU as seen on page 1 of your I-20. Look for the 6-digit numerical code directly to the right of your major on your I-20.
  • Under certain circumstances, an F-1 student may use a prior STEM degree to meet eligibility requirements. The applicant must have received their most recent qualifying STEM degree within 10 years of applying for the STEM OPT extension, and it must appear on DHS's STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time the student submits their application for the STEM OPT extension, rather than at the time that the student received the degree.
  • NOTE: A STEM extension is based on the student's major, not degree concentration.)
Actuarial Science (52.1304)
Analytics (52.1399)
Astronomy (40.0201)
Biology/Biological Sciences (26.0101)
Business Analysis (14.3701)
Chemistry (40.0501)
Computer Science (11.0701)
Computer Information Systems (11.0101)
Decision Sciences (14.3701)
Educational Research (13.0603)
Geology/Earth Science (40.0601)
Geosciences (40.0699 and 45.0702)
Hydrogeology (40.0601)
Information Systems Audit & Control (11.1003)
Instructional Design & Technology / Instructional Technology (13.0501)
Library Media Technology (13.0501)
Mathematics (27.0101)
Mathematics & Statistics (27.9999)
Medical Technology (51.1005)
Neuroscience (26.1501)
Operations Research (14.3701)
Physics (40.0801)
Research Measurement & Statistics (13.0603)

For a complete list of STEM eligible majors, please visit the DHS website >> here.

How to Apply

Students must apply for the STEM extension before the expiration date listed on their current EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) issued by USCIS. Students may apply no more than 90 days prior to their EAD expiration date. ISSS recommends eligible students apply no later than one month prior to the EAD expiration date, to allow time for formal receipt processing at USCIS. Students with a pending STEM application (as evidenced by a receipt notice from USCIS) may continue working while the application is being processed (for up to 180 days).

1. Request OPT STEM I-20s from ISSS

Log-into iStart.
If you are unfamiliar with iStart, review the Welcome to iStart and intro video here.

Under "F-1 Practical Training," complete the Optional Practical Training (OPT) e-form. Applicant must submit both a completed Form I-983 and Form I-765 to ISSS.  Form I-983 must be completed by the student and his/her employer. For more information on how to complete this form, please review the instructions on the DHS OPT STEM Hub. (Please note: You are not required to submit this document to USCIS. However, ISSS must receive the completed Forms I-983 and I-765 in order to complete processing of your Form I-20, which is necessary for your application to USCIS). Your ISSS Advisor will review your forms I-983 and I-765 and prepare your new Form I-20 reflecting your STEM request (indicated on page 2). Always be sure to review your Form I-20 for accuracy before mailing it to USCIS.

 

2. Compile Documents for OPT STEM Application

Your OPT STEM application must include the following documents:

  • Check in U.S. funds from a U.S. bank, or U.S. money order for $410, payable to Department of Homeland Security.
  • Two (2) passport-style photos with I-94# lightly penciled on the back of photos. See http://travel.state.gov/ for specific details. Photos need to be within the last 30 days.
  • Completed Form I-765 (signed in blue ink). Make sure to include the proper STEM Code (c) (3) (C) in section #16 of I-765 and to include in section #17 the name of your degree, employer's name as listed in E-Verify, as well as your employer's E-Verify number. (Failure to include a valid company E-Verify number will result in delay or denial of application).
  • Original, signed copy of I-20 (print, sign, and date your I-20 on page 1 with blue ink).
  • Copy of passport biographical page.
  • Copy of Visa Stamp or Change of Status Approval Notice if you changed status in the U.S.
  • Copy of I-94 card.
  • Copy of EAD Card.
  • Georgia State University transcript, showing conferral of degree in one of the STEM categories listed above.
  • Copy of diploma conferring degree in one of the STEM categories listed above. Job offer letter (optional)

 

3. Mail Application to USCIS

***IMPORTANT: USCIS must receive the STEM application within 60 days of date on which the I-20 was signed by your International Student Advisor. Failure to submit within this time frame could result in the denial of your application.***

ISSS strongly recommends you make copies of all documents you send USCIS for your records. For mailing addresses for the STEM application, please see below.

USCIS Mailing Address:

 

For Regular U.S. Postal Delivery:

U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS)

P.O. Box 660867

Dallas, Texas 75266

 

For Express Mail Delivery (e.g. Federal Express, UPS, Express Mail):

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

ATTN: AOS

2501 S. State Highway 121 Business

Suite 400

Lewisville, Texas 75067

 

Dates of Approval:

Upon approval by USCIS, the STEM extension period will begin the day after the expiration of the first OPT period (as listed on the EAD card) and ends automatically at the end of the STEM extension period.

Example: Current EAD expires October 1. STEM extension begins October 2 the same year.

In order to be considered a valid application, a student must submit the OPT STEM application to USCIS prior to the end date of their current authorized period of Post-Completion OPT. Upon submitting a valid application, students are permitted to continue  working while their OPT STEM request is pending with USCIS (for up to 180 days).  Upon approval, USCIS will issue and mail  a new EAD card showing the extended dates, starting from the day after the end date of a student's Post-Completion OPT.

Maintaining Status While on STEM

Students on STEM OPT employment must work in a paid position for an E-Verify employer at least 20 hours per week. The position must be directly related to the student's STEM degree. A student must have a employment opportunity that meets that requirements at the time of filing the OPT STEM application. After this time, the student must report any of the following changes in employment:

  1. Change of Employer
    • When a STEM OPT student changes employers, the new employer must be enrolled in E-Verify before the student begins to work for pay. The student must also submit a new Form I-983 to their DSO within 10 days of starting the new practical training opportunity.
    • When a student begins a new practical training opportunity with a new employer less than 10 days after leaving the student’s prior employer, the student may fulfill all reporting obligations (loss of employment and new training plan) by submitting a new Form I-983.
  2. Material Change in Current Employment
    • Each STEM OPT student must report to their DSO any material changes to, or material deviations from, the student's formal training plan. In the event of a material change, the student must submit a new, updated I-983.
    • Material changes or deviations from the original Form I-983 may include, but are not limited to:
      • Any change of the employer’s EIN.
      • Any reduction in student compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked.
      • Any significant decrease in hours per week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity.
      • Changes to the employer’s commitments or student’s learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983.
  3. Loss of Employment
  4. Change in residential or mailing address
  5. Personal Changes (such as changes of name, citizenship, immigration status, etc.)

Student must report any of the changes listed above with 10 days of the change.

To Report, log-into iStart
If you are unfamiliar with iStart, review the Welcome to iStart and intro video here. Under "F-1 Practical Training," complete the OPT and OPT STEM Employment Reporting.

PLEASE NOTE: Any change of employer or material change in current employment requires that the student submit a new, updated I-983.

STEM OPT students must report the termination of their practical training experience within 10 days of the event.

Students who are granted a 24-month STEM OPT extension are allowed an additional 60 days of unemployment beyond the initial post-completion OPT limit. This means that students who obtain a 24-month STEM OPT extension will receive, for a total of 150 days of allowable unemployment, 90 days during the initial period of post-completion OPT plus an additional 60 days during the extension period.

Each STEM OPT student must submit an annual self-evaluation about the progress of the training experience. The self-evaluations are due 12 months after the OPT STEM start date and upon completion of the 24-month STEM period. Students must complete page 6 (for the 12 month evaluation) and page 7 (for the 24 month evaluation) of the I-983 and submit these documents to the ISSS to meet the reporting requirement. The document must be signed by both the student and the employer.

Every six months a student must confirm that the information in their SEVIS accurately reflects their current circumstances.

As part of this six-month reporting, STEM OPT students must confirm that their SEVIS information correctly identifies their:

  • Legal name.
  • Residential or mailing address.
  • Employer name and address.
  • Status of current employment.

Students will receive an e-mail from ISSS reminding them to submit the 6-month employment confirmation.

H1-B a temporary work visa.

CAP the annual limit on the number of H1-B visas that are granted.

GAP remaining in-status with work authorization during the change of status period (the gap).

All F-1 students who are currently on OPT, have timely filed for an H-1B, and have a USCIS issued I-797C receipt from immigration will automatically have their status and OPT work permission extended until the effective H1-B start date. No application is required. Contact an ISSS advisor for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions About STEM Extension

Students currently on Post-Completion OPT with a pending H-1B petition may want to apply for the STEM Extension (if eligible) in order to have a back up plan in case their H-1B petition is denied or not approved by the requested start date. Be aware that the STEM extension would be an extension of F-1 status, whereas the H-1B petition is a change of status. If both applications are approved, the student would change status to H-1B on the requested start date, and this would negate the STEM Extension. For more details, please see the USCIS website on this topic. 

No, you can only apply for the 24-month extension within the last 90 days of your current OPT.
An F-1 student may change their major and request a new I-20 from ISSS. However, please be aware this may cause delays in completing your degree. An F-1 student currently on OPT cannot change their major in order to be eligible for the extension.
E-Verify is a free internet-based system operated by United States Immigration and Citizenship Services in partnership with the Social Security Administration, which determines new employees' eligibility to work. Understand very few companies are currently participating in the E-Verify program.
Speak with your employer about enrolling in E-verify and direct them to the USCIS website for more information.
Students will have a 60 day grace period from the notification date of the denial to depart the United States, obtain admission to a new F-1 SEVIS-approved school, or file an application for a change of status.
Students will have 60 days after their OPT end date to either depart the United States, obtain admission to a new F-1 SEVIS-approved school, or file an application for a change of status.