STEM OPT

Update:  In March 2016, DHS published a new rule effective May 10, 2016 extending the length of STEM OPT to 24 months along with other requirements that must now be met.  

Apply for 24- Month STEM OPT Extension

Eligibility

F-1 students whose OPT is based on a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctorate degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) field, as defined by DHS, may be eligible for a 24- month extension of OPT.

Eligibility:

  1. Currently on post completion OPT
  2. Hold an appropriate degree in one of the DHS-approved STEM fields (can be degree most recently received or a STEM degree that was received within the past ten years from an accredited institution).
  3. Must not have exceeded 90 days of unemployment in the 12 month regular OPT period
  4. Must submit STEM OPT application to USCIS prior to the expiration date of your current OPT*
  5. Employer:
    1. Needs to be registered as an E-verified employer
    2. Must provide the student with formal training and learning objectives by completing the FORM I-983 which must indicate how the training opportunity directly relates to the qualifying STEM degree
    3. That signs the FORM I-983 must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience

Application Process

  1. Check or money order for $410, payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”
  2. Completed and signed FORM I-983 (see here for Instructions for I-983)
    1. Example Form I-983 (can provide to your employer as an example of what to fill out for Section 5)
  3. Completed and signed  Form I-765(typed)
    1. For #3 please list the OISS address:
      • c/o OISS 2115 Summit Avenue, Mail #5014, St. Paul, MN 55105
    2. For #16 please list (c) (3) (C)
  4. Two NEW color, passport-style photographs - print your name and I-94 number on the back of each photo.
  5. Copies of passport, visa, I-94 (front and back)
  6. Copy of the front and back of your current and previous EAD’s
  7. Copy of previous OPT I-20’s
  8. Evidence that your degree meets the STEM degree/major requirements (include both)
    1. Official transcript from Registrar's office
    2. Copy of the diploma that shows your degree level and program of study
  9. Job offer letter (printed on letterhead) with a registered E-verify organization
  10. For the option of receiving an email and/or text message information that USCIS has accepted your application or petition, please complete G-1145

Additional Information

Reporting Requirements While on STEM OPT

You must notify OISS through this form within 10 days if any of the following changes occur:

  1. Legal Name
  2. Residential address (post office box not acceptable)
  3. New employer name and address
  4. Ending OPT early due to change of status (H-1B) or leaving the U.S.

In Addition to the above requirements, if you are approved for the 24 month STEM Extension you must also notify OISS of the following changes:

  1. Change in Employer EIN
  2. Reduction in student compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked
  3. Significant decrease in hours/week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity
  4. Changes to the employers' commitments or student's learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983.

Students on the 24 month extension must also submit an annual self evaluation about the progress of the training experience. More information regarding the self evaluation can be found here: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students-and-the-form-i-983

Travel While on STEM OPT

Bring the following documents with you when traveling outside the U.S. while on STEM OPT

  • Valid passport
  • Valid U.S. F-1 visa to re-enter the U.S.*
  • STEM OPT I-20 with a travel signature by an OISS advisor within the last 6 months
  • EAD and letter of employment

*A valid U.S. F-1 visa is not required to re-enter the U.S. if you travel to Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands for 30 days or less (excluding Cuba).  Citizens of Syria, Sudan and Iran must always have a valid visa.  Canadian citizens do not require a visa.

Time spent outside of the U.S. while employed does not count towards the unemployment limits below.

Unemployment Allowance While on STEM OPT

  • If you are on the 17- month STEM extension you are allowed a total of 120 days of unemployment between your 12- month OPT and 17- month extension.
  • If you are on the 24- month STEM extension you are allowed a total of 150 days of unemployment between your 12- month OPT and 24- month extension.

Taking Courses While on STEM OPT

You can take courses while on STEM OPT as long as you are part-time and are not seeking a degree.  If you are seeking a new degree, you will need to cancel your STEM OPT and receive a new I-20 to pursue full-time study in the new degree program.  In order to start a new degree, you will need to receive admission and contact OISS to transfer out your SEVIS record if the degree is at a new school.  On the transfer release date (new school) or the date a new I-20 is created (St. Thomas only), your STEM OPT will end regardless of if your EAD is valid into the future.  Students on STEM OPT who intend to continue in F-1 status must be admitted to a new academic program and obtain an I-20 before the 60th day following the end of your STEM OPT. Please note that if you transfer to a new school, you are allowed to remain in the U.S. for up to 5 months between the time your STEM OPT ends and the new program of studies is to begin as long as you have already received your new I-20; if the time period is greater than 5 months, you will be required to leave the U.S. and can only re-enter within 30 days of the start of your new program of study.