OPT STEM Extension


The 24-Month STEM extension of OPT is a temporary employment authorization available to eligible F-1 students whose degree is on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Designated Degree Programs list following Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT).
 
  • Eligible students will receive a 24-month extension of OPT for a maximum of 36 total months of OPT authorization.
  • A student who has been granted a 24-month extension of OPT cannot accrue more than 150 days of unemployment.
    • Students must not exceed 90 days of unemployment time before applying for the 24-month STEM extension.
    • Students that applied for a 7-month extension of a 17-month STEM period must not have exceeded 120 days of unemployment time before applying for the 7-month STEM extension.  Once approved for the 7-month STEM extension, the student is then eligible for the full 150 days of unemployment.
  • 24-month extension of OPT employment can only be with an E-Verified employer.
  • The following types of employment can no longer be counted as fulfilling employment requirements during the 24-month extension of OPT:
    • Part-time employment under 20 hours per week;
    • Volunteering;
    • Self-Employment or sole proprietorships;
    • "Start-Up" businesses that do not adhere to regulatory requirements as outlined in Form I-983;
    • Employment through "temp" agencies, consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire; and
    • Other employment situations that do not constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship.

Please refer to the links below of information regarding the 24-month STEM Extension:

Applicants whose degree is on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Designated Degree Programs lists, available for review at https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2016/stem-list.pdf. The degrees are listed using Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes developed by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. ISS has no role in determining which CIP code corresponds to each major or which majors are eligible for the 24-month extension of OPT.
  • Applicants must have been granted Post-Completion OPT and must be in legal immigration status.
  • Applicants who have accrued less than 90 days of unemployment during their initial Post-Completion OPT.
  • Applicants who will be employed in a position directly related to their field of study and commensurate with their education level.
  • Applicants who will be working for an employer that is enrolled in E-Verify. For more information on E-Verify, please visit http://www.uscis.gov.
  • Applicants who have not received more than two previous STEM extensions of OPT.
  • Applicants who have previously earned a STEM degree at an SEVP-approved institution and have not yet participated in a STEM Extension for that degree.
  • Students must not exceed 90 days of unemployment time before applying for the 24-month STEM extension.
The applicant must apply before the current period of Post-Completion OPT authorization expires.

The applicant can submit the 24-month extension of OPT application up to 90 days before the expiration date of the current Post-Completion OPT authorization. USCIS must receive the STEM OPT application prior to the expiration date on the current OPT authorization or USCIS will deny the application.
The 24-Month STEM extension of OPT is a temporary employment authorization available to eligible F-1 students who degree is on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Designated Degree Programs list following Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT).
  • Eligible students will receive a 24-month extension of OPT for a maximum of 36 total months of OPT authorization.
  • A student who has been granted a 24-month extension of OPT cannot accrue more than 150 days of unemployment.
  • Employment during the STEM Extension of OPT can only be with an E-Verified employer.
  • The following types of employment can no longer be counted as fulfilling employment requirements during a STEM extension of OPT:
    • Part-time employment under 20 hours per week;
    • Volunteering;
    • Self-Employment or sole proprietorships;
    • “Start Up” businesses that do not adhere to regulatory requirements as outlined in Form I-983;
    • Employment through “temp” agencies, consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire; and
    • Other employment situations that do not constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship. 

  • Review the USCIS STEM webpage to determine if you are eligible for a STEM Extension.
  • ISS must have a copy of your OPT EAD card (front and back) on file.
  • You must have kept your OPT employment information updated with ISS by completing the OPT Employment Reporting Form, for each employer while on OPT. You should also report any periods of unemployment to ISS with this form.
  • You must have updated your local address through the Howdy Portal, "My Record" tab or "Former Student" tab.
  • You must submit copies of the required documents listed in the next section by one of the following methods:
    • Email: iss@tamu.edu ("24-month extension of OPT" in the subject line)
    • Dropped off at the front counter of the ISS office
Required Documents for the 24-Month STEM Extension:
  1. 24-Month STEM Extension Form
  2. DHS Form I-983
  3. Copies of the F-1 student’s most recent I-20 and I-94 record 
  4. A legible copy of the applicant's current EAD card (front and back) clearly depicting the OPT start and end dates
Once the ISS recommendation is on the I-20, the student should mail a complete application to the appropriate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Center

For details about what to mail and how to mail this application, please visit the I-765 Application and Mailing Instructions page of the ISS website.

USCIS will review the STEM extension of OPT application (this can take several months). If the application is approved, USCIS will issue a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Advice:
  • Make sure that under Question 17 of the I-765 form, you indicate the EMPLOYER's E-Verify number, (not your employee E-Verify number!).
  • Requests with invalid employer E-Verify information will be denied, and you will have to reapply with the correct Employer E-Verify information.
  • Retain copies of all information that you send to USCIS. It is good practice to use a mailing method that provides delivery confirmation.
  • It is recommended to send a copy of the Form I-983 along with your USCIS STEM application, even though it is not required by USCIS at this time.

While you are on the STEM extension of OPT, you will need to abide by the STEM OPT Reporting Requirements as listed below:
  • General Reporting: Update ISS with any changes to your legal name, address, and phone number within 10 days of a change.  You can update your address and phone number in the Howdy Portal. All other updates can be completed by sending an email to ISS@tamu.edu with all of the necessary information and required supporting documentation.
 
  • Employment Reporting:
    • Validation Reporting: An employment validation report is required at 6, 12, and 18 months into the STEM OPT period that includes your name, address, employer name and address, and employment status. This can be completed by submitting the OPT Employment Reporting Form to ISS@tamu.edu.
    • Self-Evaluations: The self-evaluations on Form I-983 are due at 12 and 24 months from the start date of your STEM OPT period.  You can submit these self-evaluations by emailing the updated Form I-983 and the OPT Employment Reporting Form to ISS@tamu.edu.
    • Material Changes in Employment: If there are any of the following material changes in your employment, you are required to submit a modified Form I-983 to ISS as soon as you are able to do so:
      • Any change of the employer’s EIN resulting from a change in the employer’s ownership or structure, such as a corporate restructuring;
      • Any reduction in student compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked;
      • Any significant decrease in the number of hours of work per week that was specified on Form I-983;
      • Any decrease in the number of hours worked; and
      • Changes to the employer’s commitments or student’s learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983.
    • End of Employment Reporting: If your employment ends, the following must be submitted to ISS within 5 business days of the termination of your employment.
      • The Final Evaluation page of Form I-983 for that employer.
      • A copy of the OPT Employment Reporting Form that indicates you are now unemployed.
      • Your employer must submit a copy of the End of Employment Form to ISS@tamu.edu.
      • If you need to report new employment, you must also submit a completed Form I-983 for your new employer.


Timetable for Reporting Requirements
 
All items listed are due within 10 days of the required validation date per federal regulations unless indicated otherwise.
 
Time from STEM Extension EAD Card Start Date Reporting Requirements Documents to Submit to ISS
6 months Employment Reporting
12 months Employment Reporting and Self Evaluation
18 months Employment Reporting
24 months
(end of STEM Extension)
Employment Reporting and Final Evaluation
 

 
Event during STEM Extension Reporting Requirement Documents to Submit to ISS
Upon any general changes to your legal name, address, or phone number General Reporting
  • Update phone number and address in the Howdy Portal
  • Email ISS@tamu.edu for information regarding name changes, with copy of updated passport
Upon any material change in employment Material Change Reporting, including updated Training Plan
At the termination of any employment End of Employment Reporting
At the start of any new employment Employment Reporting
  

 
For detailed information on employer responsibilities for students on a STEM Extension of OPT, please go to the Employer Responsibilities page.

  • How can I check if my major is STEM OPT eligible?
Use the CIP Code on the first page of your Form I-20 under “Major 1” and cross reference the code with the DHS published STEM Designated Degree Program List below. Please note that the major name associated with your CIP code may differ slightly from the name of your major at Texas A&M.
Updated STEM CIP Codes
https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/eligible-cip-codes-for-the-stem-opt-extension

Texas A&M University/DARS CIP Code List
http://dars.tamu.edu/dars/files/77/77a0ed6d-2fa0-47ee-97ff-1036a069883c.pdf
 
  • Can I continue working while my STEM OPT application is pending?
Yes! Once your STEM OPT application has been received and accepted by USCIS, you are eligible to continue working on OPT until you receive your new STEM OPT EAD card or up to 180 days beyond the expiration date of your initial EAD card.
 
  • What if I have already exceeded the 90 days of unemployment on my initial 12-months of OPT?
If you have already exceeded the 90 days of unemployment, you may not be in a valid F-1 status. If you have exceeded the 90 days of unemployment, you are encouraged to depart the US as soon as possible or discuss your situation with an immigration attorney. Students that have exceeded the 90 days of unemployment may be denied future benefits.
 
  • Can I travel outside of the United States while my 24-Month STEM OPT application is pending?
You may travel outside the United States if your current EAD card is valid and will remain valid until you re-enter the United States.  If your EAD has already expired and your application is still pending, you should not depart the United States. You should take both EAD cards, your I-20 signed for travel within the last 6 months, recent employer letter, and a valid passport with unexpired F-1 visa with you to show at the Port of Entry.
 
  • Can I have multiple employers on a STEM Extension?
Yes, you may have multiple employers on a STEM Extension as long as you are working at least 20 hours per week with each employer AND the employer is registered with E-Verify and is in compliance with all requirements in Form I-983.
 
  • Can I be employed in an unpaid and/or volunteer position?
No. All STEM employment must be paid and commensurate to the provided to similarly situated US workers.
 
  • Can I work for a start-up while on my STEM Extension?
Start-up positions are acceptable only if there is a bona fide employer-employee relationship and all regulatory requirements are met by the employer, including:
- Training plan establishment as outlined in the Form I-983;
- E-verify standing is maintained and in good standing;
- The compensation for the STEM student employee is commensurate to that provided to similarly situated US workers;
- Resource availability to comply with the proposed training plan.
 
  • May I take classes while on OPT or a STEM Extension?Beginning a new course of study will automatically cancel your OPT. You may take recreational or avocational classes as long as they will not be applied to another degree program now or in the future. If you are considering taking classes, please make an appointment with an ISS advisor to discuss your options.For more Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and guidance on the OPT and STEM OPT process, please visit the following web documents:
STEM OPT Frequently Asked Questions (Study in the States)
OPT Policy Guidance 1004-03
SEVP Special Report: STEM OPT Frequently Asked Questions
 


You may have additional questions about whether or not you meet the eligibility requirements or want further details on the requirements; we recommend these resources for more information:‚Äč

Study in the States
https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub

NAFSA STEM OPT
http://www.nafsa.org/Find_Resources/Supporting_International_Students_And_Scholars/ISS_Issues/STEM_OPT_Rulemaking/

USCIS 24 Month Extension Guidance:
https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/students-and-exchange-visitors/students-and-employment/stem-opt

Other Options
If you are ineligible for STEM extension and are interested in continuing to work within the U.S., you might consider speaking to your employer about H1-B sponsorship. For more information on the H1-B visa program, please visit: 
https://www.uscis.gov/eir/visa-guide/h-1b-specialty-occupation/h-1b-visa