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).
Associates Degree level: STEM is not available at the Associates 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.)
For a complete list of STEM eligible majors, please visit the DHS website >> here.
How to Apply
1. Request OPT STEM I-20s from ISSS
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:
- Two (2) Payment Options
- Personal check or U.S. money order for $410 made payable to Department of Homeland Security
- By credit card. Submit completed form G-1450 (Authorization for Credit Card Transaction) with your application. For details, click >> here.
- 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 black ink). Make sure to include the proper STEM Code (c) (3) (C) in #27 of I-765 and to include the name of your degree in #28.a, 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.***
- eShipGlobal Service:
- Go to: https://study.eshipglobal.com to log-in or create a free account.
- Select “OPT Application” or “Send Documents to USCIS.”
- Enter mailing information and select the current USCIS location listed on the USCIS website.
- Select the carrier you wish to use, pay for shipping and print the label. Drop off your application at the nearest location for the specific carrier you selected.
- Self Service: Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization for Foreign Students can be found on the USCIS website.
- Limited Access to University Mail Service: ISSS cannot access campus mail services on Federal Holidays or University Closings. If you expect delivery of your OPT card during an extended closing, such as the annual winter break, you may want to consider using your personal address at your own risk.
ISSS strongly recommends you make copies of all documents you send USCIS for your records.
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.
Maintaining Status While on STEM
USCIS has revised its interpretation of STEM OPT employer-employee relationships concerning the requirements for 3rd party placements. F1 students participating in STEM OPT Extensions should be aware:
“The training experience must take place on-site at the employer's place of business or worksite(s) to which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has authority to conduct employer site visits to ensure that the employer is meeting program requirements. This means that ICE must always have access to a student's worksite; if the student is sent to different worksite locations as part of the training opportunity, ICE must be able to access such worksite locations. For instance, the training experience may not take place at the place of business or worksite of the employer's clients or customers because ICE would lack authority to visit such sites.”
- Increased site visits by USCIS to ensure employers are not placing OPT STEM employees at 3rd party work sites with no contractual relationships with the employer, specifically as contractors or employed through staffing agencies.
- Increased Requests for Evidence from USCIS questioning third party work site locations for STEM OPT students with pending H1B petitions.
Students on STEM Extension, please be aware both you and your employer should be prepared to justify your work site arrangements if you are working:
- at a site with a different company name than reported in SEVIS and the I-983.
- at a site with a different address than what is indicated on the I-983 or in SEVIS.
- at a site located in a state that is not where your U.S. residence is reported.
For more details about this update, please visit the following website: https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/students-and-exchange-visitors/students-and-employment/stem-opt
- 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.
- 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.
- Loss of Employment
- Change in residential or mailing address
- 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.
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 participant must submit 2 self-evaluations during the training experience.
- Due 12 months after the OPT STEM start date. Complete the "Evaluation On Student Progress" box on page 5 of section 6 of form I-983.
- Due 24 months after the OPT STEM start date at the end of the approval period. Complete the "Final Evaluation On Student Progress" box right below the 12 month evaluation above.
Submit the evaluations via iStart to ISSS. 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.
CAP: the annual limit or "cap" on the number of H1-B visas granted each year.
GAP: the period of time between the end of current status and approval for change of status (the gap), which includes work authorization.
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.