Western Kentucky University

International Student Office - STEM OPT Extension

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STEM OPT Extension

STEM Designated Degree Programs

How to Apply for the STEM OPT Extension

TO QUALIFY FOR STEM OPT 17-MONTH EXTENSION

  • Student must be currently participating in a period of standard OPT based on a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List and working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to student's major area of study. (Public Health and Business fields do NOT qualify for the STEM extension)
  • Student must have a job offer from an employer registered with the           E-Verify employment verification system.
  • The student has not previously received a 17-month OPT extension after earning a STEM degree.
  • The DSO must recommend the 17-month OPT extension in SEVIS, after verifying the student's eligibility, certifying that the student's degree is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, and ensuring that the student is aware of his or her responsibilities for maintaining status while on OPT. 

REQUIREMENTS FOR STUDENTS ON STEM 17-MONTH EXTENDED OPT
The employment authorization period for the 17-month OPT extension begins on the day after the expiration of the initial standard OPT, and ends 17 months later, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved.

Students pursuing a period of STEM Extension OPT must:

  • Work in a paid position for an E-Verify employer at least 20 hours per week.
  • Work in a position related to the STEM degree.
  • Report to their DSO within 10 days of:
    • Legal name changes
    • A change in residential or mailing address
    • Changes in employer, giving the employer name and employer address
    • Loss of employment
  • Complete the Required STEM OPT Reporting Form on iStart every 6 months starting from the date the STEM extension starts and ending when the student's F-1 status ends or the STEM extension ends, whichever is first. DSO is responsible for updating this information in SEVIS within 21 days after student's report.

Students pursuing a period of STEM extension OPT must NOT:

  • Work in a paid position for any employer that is not an E-Verify employer
  • Have more than 120 days of unemployment time during the entire period of post-completion OPT (regular post-completion OPT and STEM extension OPT) or risk losing his/her F-1 status.

TO APPLY FOR THE STEM OPT EXTENSION

  1. Complete the request for your STEM OPT I-20 through iStart.(If you cannot access iStart, please email your ISO advisor directly.)
  2. Once you have your STEM OPT I-20, mail the following documents to USCIS:
  • FORM I-765 – Please use BLUE INK for this form and be sure to complete #17!
  • $380 USD filing fee (check or money order) to Form I-765 payable to "Department of Homeland Security"
  • (2) passport style photos with applicant name on back of both
  • Copy of applicant's STEM OPT I-20
  • Copy of I-94 card (front & back) from last entry to US
  • Copy of passport ID pages with expiration date circled
  • Verification of previous employment authorization – copy of first OPT I-20, copy of first OPT SRC Receipt Notice, and copy of previous OPT card
  • Verification of successful completion of Bachelor's Master's or Doctoral degree in DHS Designated STEM field (for example: copy of your diploma and/or academic transcript showing graduation date)

You can print a copy of the Index Filing Sheet to use as a cover sheet for your application.

WHERE TO FILE 

USCIS Q & A on the New OPT Rule and H-1B Cap Gap

Information for Employers on the Cap-Gap Extension of Optional Practical Training - Fact Sheet

FAQ

When to file for the extension?

The student must ensure the Form I-765, the supporting evidence, and the fee payment reaches the proper USCIS Service Center before his or her current OPT expires. USCIS recommends students file within 90 and 120 days of expiration date of the current OPT.

Can the student work with an expired employment authorization document while a STEM extension is pending?

Yes. 8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(C) and 8 CFR 247a(12)(c)(6)(iv) automatically extends the student’s work authorization for up to 180 days while the student’s STEM extension application is pending.

Can the student change employers while the STEM extension application is pending?

Yes. However, if the STEM extension period has started, the employer must also be an E-Verify employer. The student must report the change in employment to his or her DSO.

Can the student travel outside of the United States if his or her employment authorization document expires and the OPT extension request is pending?

No. The student must wait to receive the new employment authorization document.

How do employers report to a DSO when a STEM extension OPT student is no longer employed?

The school may provide the student with information on how to report the end of the student’s employment. The student must provide this information to the employer. If the school does not provide alternative instructions the employer may send the report to the school address listed on the student’s Form I-20. The employer should provide the student’s name, SEVIS ID number (if available), and the date the student’s employment ended.

 Last Modified 6/30/14