OPT STEM Extension


For the lastest information about how COVID-19 might impact your employment opportunity, please read our ISS COVID-19 FAQ found at http://iss.tamu.edu/current-students/iss-covid-19-updates.

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 Post-Completion 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 (DHS Form I-983 Instructions and Resources for Employers and the 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 28c 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.

An F-1 student authorized by USCIS to engage in the 24-month STEM extension of optional practical training (OPT) is required to report any employment, change of name, or change of address for the duration of the authorized training. STEM OPT students have access to report changes to address, telephone, and/or employment information through the SEVP Portal, which launched in March of 2018. However, ISS requires students who are currently authorized for STEM OPT to report their address, telephone, and/or employment information and all related changes directly to ISS by using this Employment Reporting Form. At this time, ISS does not recommend that F-1 students on STEM OPT report information through the SEVP Portal.
 
The purpose of this STEM OPT Employment Reporting Form is (1) to comply with all 24-month STEM OPT reporting responsibilities, as outlined below and (2) to indicate whether you would like to receive an updated Form I-20 from ISS.
 
Deadlines: U.S. federal regulations require individuals on F-1 status to report any change of employment, change of address, or loss of employment within 5 business days to the school that recommended the STEM OPT. Your STEM OPT reporting requirement starts from the start date on your STEM Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. ISS processing times are 5 to 10 business days from the time the student’s request is complete depending on urgency and peak times that may occur during the year.
 
Required Documents: (1) Completed STEM OPT Employment Reporting Form and (2) Additional documentation may be required and will be specified in the relevant sections of the STEM OPT Employment Reporting Form. If you have not already provided a copy of the front and back of your STEM EAD to ISS, please include a copy with this form.
 
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.eduwith 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 STEM 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 STEM 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.
  • Other Changes in Employment: Other changes to your employment may require an updated Form I-983 as well. Please refer to Section 3 of the STEM OPT Employment Reporting Form for guidelines on what types of changes need to be reported to ISS.
    • 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
E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee's Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.

More than 409,000 employers, large and small, across the United States use E-Verify to check the employment eligibility of their employees, with about 1,300 new businesses signing up each week.

USCIS provides lists that include employers and federal contractors enrolled in the E-Verify system. You can access this list using the E-Verify Employers Search Tool which allows you to search for a businesses by name, state, ZIP code, and city. 

Detailed information about the E-Verify system can be found at https://www.e-verify.gov/about-e-verify
 
Please be aware that there are some limitations with these search engines and ISS recommends that if you are applying for a STEM 24 month extension that you verify with the employer their E-Verify status.
International Student Services has recently started offering a 24 Month STEM Extension webinar for students to learn about the following items:
  1. What is the 24 Month STEM Extension
  2. Who is eligible
  3. How to apply with ISS
  4. How to apply with USICS
  5. Reporting requirements while on STEM OPT
You can view the webinar using the embeded video frame below or by navigating to http://tx.ag/OPTSTEMWebinarRecording 


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about STEM OPT

ISS recently hosted a STEM OPT FAQ webinar. You can access the recording by navigating to http://tx.ag/STEMOPTFAQWebinarRecording. Alternatively, you can see our detailed FAQ about STEM OPT below. 

How can I check if my major is STEM OPT eligible?
First, verify that the Major CIP Code on your I-20 is correct. You can locate the CIP Code on the first page of your Form I-20 under “Major 1.” Texas A&M major CIP codes can be found by searching Public Universities, then either Texas A&M University or Texas A&M University at Galveston, at http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/apps/programinventory/ProgSearchForm.cfm

If you’re your CIP Code is incorrect, please email a Program Information Update request to iss@tamu.edu. Once you’ve confirmed that your CIP Code is correct, then check the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List available at https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/eligible-cip-codes-for-the-stem-opt-extension to see if your Major CIP Code is included in the list of STEM-eligible majors.
 

Can I apply for STEM OPT if I have already exceeded the 90 days of unemployment on my initial 12-months of Post-Completion OPT?

If you have already exceeded the 90 days of unemployment permitted during Post-Completion OPT, 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 who have exceeded the 90 days of unemployment may be denied future benefits. ISS does not recommend that you apply for STEM OPT until first discussing your case with a competent immigration attorney.
 

If my current major is not STEM-eligible but I completed a prior degree in the U.S. that is STEM-eligible, can I apply for STEM OPT based on that prior degree?

Maybe. You can apply for STEM OPT based upon a prior degree IF you meet all eligibility criteria explained at https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students-determining-stem-opt-extension-eligibility.
 
Do I have to submit any original documents, or documents with original signatures, to ISS when I apply for a STEM OPT recommendation?

No. Everything can be emailed to iss@tamu.edu.


Can I travel outside of the U.S. while my STEM OPT application is pending with USCIS?

You may travel outside the United States if your current Post-Completion EAD card is valid and will remain valid until you re-enter the U.S.  If your Post-Completion EAD card has already expired and your application for STEM OPT is still pending with USCIS, you should not depart the United States. Once your STEM OPT has been approved, if you need to travel internationally 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 upon your re-entry to the U.S.
 
Can I continue working after my Post-Completion EAD card has expired if my STEM OPT application is still pending with USCIS?

Yes. If your STEM OPT application is received and accepted by USCIS on or prior to your Post-Completion OPT EAD card end date, you are eligible to continue working for up to 180 days beyond the expiration date of your Post-Completion OPT EAD card. All employment that occurs after the expiration of your Post-Completion OPT EAD card must comply with all STEM OPT employment rules, even if you are still waiting to receive the STEM OPT EAD card.


Can I have multiple STEM OPT employers?

Yes, you may have multiple employers during the STEM OPT Extension if you are working at least 20 hours per week with each employer, if all employers are registered with E-Verify, and if all positions comply with all requirements for Form I-983. You can have multiple employers at the same time. You can also change employers during the STEM OPT authorization period.


If I want to change employers during my STEM OPT authorization period, what am I required to do?
You are required to comply with all reporting requirements applicable “At the termination of any employment” as well as all reporting requirements applicable “At the start of any new employment.” Each of these scenarios is described in detail in the Reporting Requirements section above. To summarize, you will need to take the following actions:
  1. Submit the “Final Evaluation of Student Progress” on Form I-983 (page 5) signed by Employer A
  2. Submit an ISS End of Employment Form, completed by Employer A
  3. Submit the ISS STEM OPT Employment Reporting Form indicating that your STEM OPT employment has ended with Employer A
  4. Update your Student Local Physical U.S. address in the Howdy Portal, if necessary
  5. Submit a new Form I-983 completed by Employer B
  6. Submit an ISS STEM OPT Employment Reporting Form indicating that you are now employed with Employer B

Can I be employed in an unpaid and/or volunteer position during STEM OPT?

No. All STEM OPT employment must include some form of pay or compensation. This must be indicated on Form I-983.

Can I work for a start-up while on STEM OPT?
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 U.S .workers; and
  • The start-up has the resource availability to comply with the proposed training plan.

May I take classes while on STEM OPT?

Beginning a new course of study will automatically cancel your STEM 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.
 


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:​


Official Government Resources:
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