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OPT STEM Extension

 

Students who graduate with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degree are eligible to remain in the United States for an additional 24 months on an optional practical training (OPT) STEM extension. You apply for this during your period of regular post-completion OPT.

Please see the USCIS STEM OPT Hub for more details for both you and your employer, including what type of employment is eligible.

Eligibility

  • Valid F-1 status
  • Currently on post-completion OPT
  • Within 90 days of your OPT expiration date
  • Graduated with a bachelor’s degree or higher on the STEM-Designated Degree Program List (your CIP/major code is on your I-20)
  • No previous STEM Extension (at the same education level). You are allowed a maximum of two lifetime STEM Extensions
  • Employer is enrolled in E-Verify
  • Employed in a paid position related to your STEM degree that is at least 20 hours/week
  • Be able to complete the I-983 training plan with your employer

*You may be eligible for the STEM extension even if your most recent degree is not STEM-related. To qualify you must have received your prior STEM degree from a SEVP-certified school within 10 years of applying for the STEM extension. The STEM degree must be on the STEM-Designated Degree Program list at the time you apply for the STEM extension. For additional information please see the USCIS website.

Maintaining Status on STEM Extension

  • Submit the STEM OPT Participation Report form every 6 months during STEM OPT
  • Update your information in the SEVP Portal within 10 days of any address change.  Employment changes cannot be made through the SEVP portal, as they require a new I-983 form and the STEM OPT Participation Report form
  • Notify International Student Services if you have decided not to participate in STEM OPT
  • Submit the Annual Self Evaluation after 12 months and 24 months of STEM OPT via the OPT Participation Report form
  • You can change employers, but you must submit an updated I-983 training plan (through the STEM OPT Participation Report form) and all new employers must also be registered with E-Verify before beginning work
  • You can have a maximum of 150 days of unemployment/no OPT activity during the entire period of OPT (90 days on post-completion OPT and 60 days on STEM Extension)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has indicated that OPT students who do not report their OPT participation may lose their F-1 status. Please complete the OPT Participation report when required so that we can update your SEVIS record appropriately.

Please see the STEM Hub for additional information, including your options if your employer is not complying with the I-983 training plan.

How to Apply

  •  Submit the STEM Extension I-20 Request Form. Please allow 5 business days for ISS to issue you an updated I-2
  • Complete the most recent version of the I-765 Application for Employment Authorization
    • Instructions for Form I-765
    • Select “Renewal of my permission to accept employment”
    • Item 9(a): Select “Yes” and then enter your SSN in Item 9(b)
    • Item 10: Select “No.”  Then move to Item 14 (no answers needed in Items 11-13)
    • Item 15: Have you ever before applied for employment authorization from USCIS?: Yes
      Which USCIS Office?: This is found on your EAD. Write the Center that is related to the code: EAC = Vermont, SRC = Texas, WAC = California, LIN = Nebraska, YSC = Potomac
      Dates: Write the start date of your OPT
      Results: Granted
    • Item 20: Use the applicable code (c) (3) (c)
    • Item 21: In Degree box, record your 6 digit CIP code (found in the MAJOR section on your I-20).  You will need your employer’s E-Verify number. An E-Verify ID has 6 digits
    • Items 22 & 23: Not applicable for STEM OPT
    • No part of your signature on the I-765 should be touching or outside the signature box, as this may cause your signature to be rejected.
    • Make sure the address that you use on your I-765 form is accurate and valid and will remain valid for the next few months while your application is being processed
  •  Review your application materials before mailing:
    • Application fee: $410 check or money order made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” (check for latest fee amounts before mailing)
    • Two passport photos (see photo specifications)
    • Completed Form 1-765
    • Photocopy of your new I-20 (endorsed by a Boise State DSO within the last 60 days)
    • Photocopy of your Form I-94 (in your passport, or retrieve it from the CBP website)
    • Copy of your current OPT/EAD card
    • Proof of STEM degree (copy of degree certificate or transcript)
    • Photocopy of your F-1 student visa
    • Photocopy of your passport identification page
    • Completed G-1145 form (optional – it signs you up for email/text notification of your application’s arrival at USCIS. Put it at the front of your package if you are using it)
  •  Mail your application to the appropriate USCIS lockbox. This depends on where you are living. See here for the correct mailing address. We recommend that you make a copy of your application file before mailing.  Your application must be received by USCIS the business day before your current OPT expires, and no later than 60 days after Boise State University issued your STEM OPT I-20 (issue date is by the DSO’s signature).

OPT Photo Specifications

  • Photos submitted for STEM OPT cannot be taken more than 30 days before you submit your application. Instructions for photos are on page 8 of the form 1-765 instructions
  • Photos must be in color with full face, frontal view on a white background
  • Photos must be unmounted, printed on thin paper, glossy and not retouched
  • Photos should be passport style; 2×2 inches, with the distance from the top of your head to just below your chin about 1 3/8 inches
  • Using a soft pencil or felt pen, lightly print your name on the back of each photo

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any types of work that don’t qualify for the STEM Extension?

Part-time employment

Unpaid/Volunteer employment

Self-employment (or where you are the sole-proprietor of the business)

Employment through temp agencies

Start-up businesses (if they don’t adhere to the I-983 training plan regulations)

You must be employed by the company that develops and supervises the I-983 training plan, and that must be the employer to which you are providing services.  Employment through consulting firms may not always meet the eligibility requirements for a STEM OPT extension.

Can I travel outside the US while my STEM OPT Application is pending?

No.  You will not be able to re-enter the US without your new EAD

Is my work authorization extended while my application is pending?

Yes, your work authorization is automatically extended for 180 days or until you receive the STEM OPT final decision (whichever is first)