STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities


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 17-month STEM extension must not exceed 120 days of unemployment time before applying for the 7-month STEM extension.  Once the student is 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.‚Äč
The applicant must apply before the current period of Post-Completion OPT authorization expires. USCIS will accept applications for STEM Extensions up to 90 days prior to the expiration date listed on the student’s current EAD card.
Students must complete a two-part application process in order to apply for a STEM OPT Extension, as outlined below.
 
  1. Obtain ISS Recommendation for STEM OPT Extension: Students must first apply for a STEM OPT Recommendation by submitting the following documents to ISS by email at ISS@tamu.edu or by dropping the paperwork off at the ISS office on the campus of Texas A&M University.
    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
 
  1. Mail the STEM Extension Application to the appropriate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Center: After receiving an updated I-20 from ISS with the appropriate STEM OPT Recommendation, students must then submit an OPT and EAD Card application to USCIS for processing.  USCIS will review the STEM extension of OPT application (this can take 2-3 months). If the application is approved, USCIS will issue a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
 
Advice:
  • Requests with invalid employer E-Verify information will be denied and, if time permits, the student will have to reapply with the correct Employer E-Verify information. Please make sure your student has the correct E-verify number to input on Form I-765 of the USCIS application packet.
  • ISS recommends that students retain copies of all information that are sent to USCIS. It is good practice to use a mailing method that provides delivery confirmation. If your employee asks, please advise them on U.S. mailing practices.
  • It is recommended that students send a copy of the Form I-983 along with the USCIS STEM application, even though it is not required by USCIS at this time, so this form should be completed in full and accurately.
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
  • OPT Employment Reporting Form
12 months Employment Reporting and Self Evaluation
  • OPT Employment Reporting
  • “Evaluation of Student Progress” from Form I-983 (page 5)
18 months Employment Reporting
  • OPT Employment Reporting Form
24 months
(end of STEM Extension)
Employment Reporting and Final Evaluation
  • OPT Employment Reporting
  • “Final Evaluation of Student Progress” from Form I-983 (page 5)
  • End of Employment Reporting Form, completed by your employer
 
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
  • Form I-983
  • OPT Employment Reporting Form
At the termination of any employment End of Employment Reporting
  • “Final Evaluation of Student Progress” from Form I-983 (page 5)
  • OPT Employment Reporting Form indicating that you are now unemployed.
  • End of Employment Form, completed by your employer
  • Update mailing address in the Howdy Portal, if necessary
At the start of any new employment Employment Reporting
  • Completed requirements for End of Employment Reporting (above)
  • Form I-983 for new employer
  • OPT Employment Reporting Form for new employer
  • Update mailing address in the Howdy Portal, if necessary
 



























 



Please refer to the links below if you have received a Request for Further Evidence (RFE) from USCIS for a previously filed 17-month STEM Extension:

Applicants that receive a Request for Further Evidence (RFE) from USCIS to convert their applications from a 17-month STEM period to the new 24-month STEM period should submit the following to ISS by emailing ISS@tamu.edu with the subject line “USCIS RFE for pending STEM application.”
  • STEM Extension RFE form
  • Form I-983
  • Copy of USCIS Request for Evidence
  • A legible copy of the applicant's current EAD card (front and back) clearly depicting the OPT start and end dates
  • Copies of the most recent I-20 and I-94 for the F-1 student
 
The student should not respond to the RFE before receiving a new 24-month I-20 from ISS.  Once the student receives the new I-20 with the 24-month OPT STEM extension recommendation all required documents listed in the Request for Evidence should be sent to the USCIS address listed on the RFE letter.
Refer to https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub for more information.



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:
 
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
 
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
 
Other Options
If you are ineligible for a 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