OPT STEM EXTENSION
If you have completed a degree in one of the Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) fields of study listed here, you may be eligible to apply for an additional 24 months of optional practical training beyond your first year of OPT. The eligibility of your field of study is determined by the CIP code found on your form I-20 in the “Program of Study Section” under Major 1. It is a code number that is formatted like this: XX.XXXX. If that code is on the government’s list, and you meet the following requirements, you may apply for the extension:
- Currently be in a valid period of post-completion OPT
- Hold an appropriate degree in one of the DHS-approved STEM fields.
- Be employed by, or have a job offer from, an employer who is registered with the E-Verify employment verification system
- Have accrued less than 90 days of unemployment while on OPT
- Submit the OPT application to USCIS prior to the expiration of your current OPT authorization. The application must be received by USCIS before the expiration date on your EAD card. We recommend applying for the STEM extension when you are 90 days (approximately 3 months) before the end date of your regular OPT.
When should you apply?
If students meet basic STEM eligibility requirements and have 150 days remaining on the EAD card, they may be eligible to be approved for a 7-month extension. The deadline for your application to be received by USCIS is August 8, 2016.
If you do not have at least 150 days remaining on your 17-month extension, we are sorry, you are not eligible to apply for the additional 7 months according to the new STEM rule. However, your current EAD remains unchanged and you may continue to work until the end date listed on your EAD.
Please let us know if you have any questions about the new rules. However, first please check the official DHS information, since you can find answers there quickly.
How to apply for your STEM extension:
Good information about the 24-month extension of OPT for a STEM major can be found here:
Work with your employer to complete form I-983, Training Plan, pages 1 through 4.
You must provide a completed Form I-983 “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students” to ISSS with your iStart request for the STEM extension for us to be able to process your request and issue you the I-20 recommending the STEM extension. Please note -- you do not need to send the I-983 with your application to USCIS, but WKU is required to keep it on file with your records.
You must complete the form with your employer before submitting your request for an I-20 to ISSS. You can find helpful information and instructions on how to complete this form here. Then you will need to make a scan of the whole form. iStart will prompt you to upload the scan of the I-983 when you put in your request for the STEM extension.
The ISSS advisor will review the form I-983 and make sure that the form is properly completed and signed, that your employment is related to your major, and that you evidence an actual employer/employee relationship with the entity providing the training. (This is to prevent OPT employment by staffing agencies who farm their employees out to clients – and the clients actually provide the training).
Once the I-983 has been reviewed and approved, the ISSS advisor will issue a new form I-20 for the STEM extension request. You will use a photocopy of this new I-20 to send with your STEM application, per the procedures below.
Complete form I-765 “Application for Employment Authorization.”
(revised June 2018 for form expiring 31 May 2020)
Part 1 – Select 1.a. Initial permission to accept employment
Part 2 – Information About You
- Enter your complete legal name.
If not all of it will fit, enter as much as will type into the boxes provided.
If you only have one name, enter it in the 1.a. position
- Other names used
If you have used a different name inside the U.S. – for example, if you have gotten married and taken a spouse’s name, or if you have consistently used an English-language name instead of your passport name, please enter it in the spaces provided.
- Your U.S. Mailing Address –
Be sure to use the most current mailing address, and be sure that it is consistent with the mailing address you have on record with SEVIS through the portal.
- If this address is the same as where you actually live, then mark “Yes”
- U.S. Physical Address -- Be sure to enter the address where you actually live (if it is different from your mailing address)
- Alien Registration Number – You would only have one of these if you have applied for lawful permanent residency (green card). If you do not have one, leave this item blank.
- USCIS Online account number – You would only have this if you have a long-standing case with the USCIS that requires you to log-in to their web site regularly. Most students do not have this. If you do not have a USCIS account, leave this blank.
- Gender – select as appropriate
- Marital status – select appropriate status
- Have you previously filed form I-765? “Yes”
13.a. Do you have a Social Security number? “Yes”
(Note: At this time you should have a Social Security Number because you have been employed in the U.S.)
13.b. Enter your Social Security Number.
- Answer “No”
Skip to item 18 Country or Countries of Citizenship
18.a. Enter your primary country of citizenship, or passport you used to enter the United States.
18.b. Enter any other country in which you are a citizen.
Place of Birth
19.a. Enter your city/town/village of where you were born
19.b. Enter the state or province in which the city/town/village in 19.a. is located
19.c. Enter the country of your birth.
- Enter your birthdate. Remember to use numbers for the month/day/year.
Information about your most recent arrival to the U.S.
You will need your most recent form I-94 (you get a new one every time you arrive into the U.S.). However, it is often not given to you, but recorded electronically on a web site. To obtain a copy needed for this application, please visit this web site: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home. Be sure to print a copy. We recommend that you also print a copy of your Travel History available on the same web site.
21.a. Enter the number from the I-94 “Admission (I-94) Record Number:”
21.b. Passport number from your current/valid passport
21.c. If you are in F-1 status, you probably did not use a “Travel Document.” If you think you may have, please contact ISSS and visit with an adviser to be sure.
21.d. Country that issued this passport
- Date of your most recent arrival to the United States from your I-94 “Most recent date of entry:”
- Place of your last arrival – what this means -- On your most recent return trip entering the United States, at which airport, land crossing or seaport did our Customs and Border Protection of ICE officers inspect your entry documents (Passport and I-20)? If you have printed your Travel History, as recommended above, this will be easy.
- Immigration status at your most recent arrival – should be F-1 unless you changed status inside the United States
- Your current immigration status is F-1
- Enter your SEVIS ID number from your most current, active I-20
- Enter C 3 C in the parentheses
- Enter the abbreviation for your degree (Bachelor of Science = BS, Master of Science = MS or MSci). If there is enough space, you can try to add the actual program, but there are only about 16 character spaces allowed. (For example MS in CS would be good. Otherwise only “MS in Computer S” will fit for computer science masters degrees).
28.b. Employers name as listed in e-Verify
28.c. Employer’s e-Verify number
- Leave blank or write N/A
- Leave blank or write N/A
- Leave blank
Applicant’s statement – Tick or Check item 1.a. as appropriate.
Fill out your contact information
Don’t forget to sign item 7.a. in black ink.
Gather your other documentation.
Once you have applied for the STEM extension in iStart, you will receive a new form I-20 with the recommendation for the extension on it. You will include a copy of this new I-20 with your application, including the following:
- Copy of your most recent electronic I-94 record
- Copy of your passport identification page(s) (and any renewal pages)
- Copy of your most recent F-1 visa
- Copy of the front and back of your current OPT card (EAD)
- Evidence of STEM degree (an official transcript from the Registrar’s Office at WKU or a copy of your diploma- we recommend both)
- 2 passport-style photos. Lightly write your name in pencil on the back of each photo.
- Form I-765 filing fee paid by money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you pay by check or money order, you must make it payable to the “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” Do not sign the back of the check.
- Completed G-1145 Form (optional; it signs you up for email/text message notification of your application’s arrival at USCIS)
Compile your application packet for mailing.
Once you have gathered all the necessary documents, the USCIS prefers you to put them into the application packet in a certain order. This will help speed up processing of your application. Starting at the bottom of the stack of documents, stack them in order as follows:
Evidence of STEM degree (Transcript and/or copy of your Diploma)- (bottom of stack)
Print out of I-94
Print out of I-94 travel history
Copy of most recent entry stamp in passport
Copy of student visa
Copy of passport identification page
Photocopy of the new I -20 with the recommendation for STEM OPT, signed by both DSO and you
Copies of your current OPT card (EAD) front and back
Form I-765 (be sure you sign it!)
Passport-style Photos taken within last 30 days
Check or money order for the I-765 fee- (top of stack)
Use a binder clip or paper clip to hold the packet together.
The first thing that the USCIS adjudicating officer should see is the check or money order, then photos, the G-1145, then I-765, etc.
Send your application packet to USCIS.
We recommend you use a courier service such as FedEx, or registered first-class U.S. mail service to have your packet delivered. These methods will provide you with information about when the packet was delivered to USCIS, which you should keep for your records.
You should mail your packet to the USCIS address based upon where you currently live. You can determine which lockbox to use and find the proper mailing addresses HERE.
Some notes about STEM OPT Employers
As with all OPT, the emphasis is on “Training.” Since you are still in F-1 student status, your full-time work takes the place of full-time enrollment. While voluntary work or unpaid internships are grudgingly acceptable for regular OPT, they are not permittedat all under STEM OPT.
Staffing agencies and “consultancies” can be used for initial placement, but you must exercise caution that your I-983 training plan should be completed and signed by the people or company who will actually be giving you the training. You must have an actual employer/employee relationship with the people providing the training.
Do not travel outside the United States while your application for the extension is pending.
While on STEM OPT our government requires you to report your progress and any changes in your training plan. Our government requires you to submit an evaluation on page 5 of the I-983 every six months. You can do this by using the STEM OPT request link in iStart. You may submit just page 5 of the I-983 to fulfill this requirement.
If you change jobs or employers, you need to submit a new I-983 signed by the new employer. You must submit a final evaluation from the previous employer using the STEM OPT Request link iStart. Then you will need to submit a new I-983 for the new employer, also using the STEM OPT Request iStart link. Please keep in mind that as a STEM OPT student you are permitted no more than 150 days of unemployment.
If your employer wishes to keep you longer, they may want to sponsor you for a change in your status to H-1B (Temporary Worker in a Specialty Occupation). Since this is not a “student” status, our office does not help with this procedure. Most employers have immigration lawyers or experienced Human Resource professionals who can handle these applications.
Currently, most private-sector employers must submit petitions for H-1B applicants around the 1st of April, for jobs that begin October 1st.
If your OPT has not yet expired when your application for the H-1B is received, you may be eligible for an extension of your OPT work authorization until the status of your application is decided, or until 30 September. This is called the “cap-gap” extension of OPT. It is usually done automatically by the SEVIS system when the system is made aware of the H-1B application.
However, if your OPT expires before the H-1 application date, but you are still within the 60-day grace period, you must stop working, but you can remain in the U.S until your H-1B is decided.
NOTE: If your OPT expires, and your 60-day grace period runs out before the H-1B reaches the USCIS, then your SEVIS record will automatically “Complete” and you will need to leave the U.S.
Please note that we are unable to check the progress of an H-1B application in SEVIS since SEVIS is only designed for F, M and J visa classifications.
Frequently Asked Questions
You may apply for your 24-month STEM OPT extension 120 days prior to your 12-month OPT expiration date through the OPT expiration date (printed on your EAD card).
See Step 5 above—you can request your new I-20 in iStart in the “Request for STEM OPT Extension I-20” e-form. Then, we will mail your new I-20 to the address you indicate in the e-form.
We do not recommend that you travel outside the U.S. while your STEM extension application is pending.
Like on regular OPT, you must report any changes in employment in iStart so that we can keep your SEVIS record accurate by completing the OPT Employment Report e-form. Additionally, during your STEM extension period, we will email you every 6 months to prompt you to update your employment information, in accordance with the OPT STEM extension regulations. You will be required to submit updates to your I-983 Training Plan at the 12 month mark of your STEM OPT period and again at the conclusion of your STEM OPT period.
If you switch employers during your 24-Month OPT period, you will need to submit a new Form I-983 Training Plan to ISSS.