F-1 STEM OPT Extension
What is the STEM Extension?
It is an additional 24 months of OPT, for a total of 36 months for certain STEM degree holders. Not all students who graduate with STEM degrees with approved OPT authorization are eligible. The employer must be registered in E-Verify for students 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.
How to Apply for the STEM Extension
To apply, you must follow similar procedures as when you applied for OPT. You must submit the I-765, STEM Extension Request Form and I-983 to receive the I-20 with the STEM Extension endorsement. 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:
- Student Checklist for OPT 24-month STEM extension (PDF)
- STEM I-765 (PDF)
- Instructions for I-765 (PDF)
- STEM Extension Request Form (PDF)
- Form I-983
- Instructions for Form I-983
What are the STEM fields?
S = Science T = Technology E = Engineering M = Mathematics
STEM Fields include:
- Actuarial Science
- Computer Science Applications
- 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 (PDF).
Additional Requirements for 24-Month STEM OPT Extension
Besides having to be enrolled in a “STEM” field of study, there are many additional requirements for the STEM OPT 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 from 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.
- Students are eligible for two STEM OPT extensions in their lifetime if they complete two STEM degrees at different academic levels. However, they are only eligible for one STEM OPT extension per STEM degree level.
- You must apply for the extension through UAF IPI. The International Student Adviser 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.
- You will apply 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 your current place of residence.
- You must file the extension application in a timely manner, generally 90 days before the current OPT end date. Students filing 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.
- Your employer must agree to report your departure or termination to UAF IPI.
- Form I-983 (Training Plan) must be must be submitted with your STEM OPT request. The Form I-983 evaluation must be completed within 12 months of the STEM OPT authorization start date, and again when STEM is completed and/or when employment and/or employer changes. You are responsible for updating and submitting the revised/updated I-983 to IPI when changes occur.
- You must agree to report the following information to IPI using the OPT Update Form (PDF).
Change of name
Change of residential and/or mailing address(es)
Change of phone number
Change of email address
Change in the name or address of employer
Any employment changes or termination
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.