F-1 OPT STEM Extension

Information and Forms for STEM Extension:

STEM Extension:  24 months, for a total of 36 months for certain STEM degree holders ONLY. Note: the employer must be registered in E-Verify for a student to qualify for the STEM extension. See below for information regarding E-Verify.  SEVP has created a STEM OPT resource page with information for schools, students and prospective employers. 
In order to apply for the extension, you must submit the I-765, STEM Extension Request Form and I-983 before the STEM Extension I-20 can be issued.  These can and should be scanned and emailed to the International Student Adviser (Reija) as soon as they are completed.  You need to plan ahead because the I-20 must be issued and shipped to you for signature and needs to be included in the application package along with the other documentation.  The package needs to be received by USCIS BEFORE your current OPT end date.  Be sure to review the Student Checklist so that you have everything you need to include in the application package.  The checklist includes the step-by-step process.

Forms you will need:
What is STEM?: S = Science T = Technology E = Engineering M = Mathematics
STEM Fields include:
  •     Actuarial Science
  •     Computer Science Applications
  •     Engineering
  •     Engineering Technologies
  •     Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  •     Mathematics and Statistics
  •     Military Technologies
  •     Physical Sciences
  •     Science Technologies
  •     Medical Scientist (MS, PhD)
Certain fields that many would regard as being part of science or engineering are not included in the STEM list. The allowable fields are designated by CIP (College Instructional Program) codes. Link to a complete list of STEM designated degree programs.

Additional Requirements for 24-Month Extension of OPT

Besides having to be enrolled in a “STEM” field of study, there are many additional requirements for the OPT STEM Extension:
The student must be currently authorized for a 12-month period of OPT and working for a US employer in a job directly related to the student’s field of study.
The student must have successfully completed a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in a field on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program list, from a SEVIS-certified US college or university.
At the time of application for the extension, the student must have a job-offer or be employed by an employer registered with the “E-Verify” federal employment verification system. For more information on “E-Verify,” see the next section.
The student must not have previously received an OPT STEM extension after earning a STEM degree.
The student must apply for the extension through their former school’s international student office. The school’s Designated School official must recommend the extension and issue a new I-20 with the recommendation noted.  The I-20 must be submitted with the I-765 and other required documents and fee.
The student applies for the extension using form I-765 with fee (currently $410.00 as of October, 2017) to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Processing Center having jurisdiction over the student’s current place of residence.

The student must file the extension application in a timely manner, generally 90 days before the current period of OPT expires. 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.

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.

The student must agree to report the following information to the International Student Office of the school that issued the OPT STEM I-20:
  •     Change of name
  •     Change of residential or mailing address
  •     Name and address of employer
  •     Change in the name or address of employer
  •     When employment changes or terminates
The student must also provide employment verification every six months to the International Student Office of his former school, along with annual evaluations completed by the student and employer.

What Is E-Verify?

E-Verify is an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration and allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees. E-Verify is free and voluntary. However, there are concerns whether employers will want to join E-Verify. Currently, less than one percent of all US employers are enrolled in E-Verify. If an employer joins, the employer will have to verify ALL new employees, including US citizens, in E-Verify.
There have been reports of significant discrepancies in the databases currently being used that result in verification errors, indicating that a worker is ineligible for employment when that is not accurate. Participating employers must permit visits by Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration to review their employment records and interview employees.
Remember that a F-1 student seeking to extend his or her for the OPT STEM can only do so if at the time of filing, the student is employed by, or has a job offer with, an E-Verify participating employer.  For more information on E-Verify visit E-Verify.
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