OPT Employment: STEM Extension
In addition to the STEM degree requirement, students must have active or been offered employment with an E-Verify employer in a field directly related to the STEM degree.
- A student may qualify for up to two STEM OPT extensions in their lifetime. Each extension must be based on a separate period of post-completion OPT, and the second STEM OPT extension must be based on a higher earned degree level than the first STEM OPT extension.
- If your current OPT is based on a non-STEM degree, but you have an offer to work in a job related to a prior qualifying STEM degree, you may be eligible to obtain a STEM OPT extension off the prior earned degree.
- You cannot choose your 24-month OPT extension dates – the extension begins the day after your current OPT ends.
- Your STEM OPT extension must be based on current or future employment with a qualifying employer in a job directly related to your STEM degree.
- Your STEM OPT extension qualifying employer must be enrolled in E-Verify, have an EIN number, and agree to certain requirements laid out in an I-983 Training Plan.
- You may not engage in unpaid internships or self-employment during the STEM OPT extension period.
- You are allowed an aggregate of 150 days of unemployment time while on the STEM OPT extension, including any employment time accrued during standard post-completion OPT. If you accrue more than the allowed unemployment time, your F-1 status may be no longer valid.
STEM employment with a staffing agency is permitted, however, the company that you are contracted to work for/at must be E-Verified and also must complete the I-983.
Steps for STEM OPT Extension
- You may apply up to 90 days before your current post-completion OPT EAD end date. Please contact an advisor in ISSO to schedule an appointment for document review once you have gathered all of your application materials. At the appointment, the advisor will create your new STEM OPT I-20.
- In order to continue your employment without interruption, your STEM OPT application MUST be received at USCIS prior to your current OPT ending. Processing of STEM OPT applications can take 60 to 90 days, similar to regular OPT.
- If your application is still pending approval when your current OPT expires, you may work for the STEM extension qualifying employer for up to 180 days while awaiting a decision from USCIS on your application.
- New STEM OPT I-20 (issued at advising appointment)
- Form I-765 - Application for Employment Authorization
- On question 20, please note “C 3 C” for eligibility.
- Completed Form I-983 – Training Plan for STEM OPT Students [PDF]
- Only pages 1-4 must be completed for your initial application. Please refer to the I-983 Instructions [PDF] for tips on completing the form.
- In the “DSO Name and Contact Information” section, list your assigned ISSO advisor.
- Please make sure that ALL fields are complete.
- An official SEALED Suffolk transcript showing degree completion.
- If STEM OPT Extension is not based on your Suffolk degree: Copy of STEM diploma from accredited U.S. university (conferred within last 10 years)
- Copy of all previous Employment Authorization Documents (EADs)
- Copies of all prior Form I-20s
- Copy of passport ID page
- Copy of visa page
- Print out of your I-94 Arrival Record
- Completed form G-1145 – e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
- Check for $410 payable to Department of Homeland Security
- Two new standard passport photos
- Employment verification letter
After meeting with your ISSO advisor, you will leave with a completed STEM application. Please mail the application within 24 hours of the appointment as this application is time-sensitive! You should receive an email and text message from USCIS within 15 business days confirming that your application has been received for processing. If you do not hear anything within 30 days, please contact an ISSO advisor.
- Receive I-797 (Receipt Notice): The USCIS Lockbox will forward your application to a USCIS Service Center for processing. Several weeks after receiving your application, USCIS should send you a Receipt Notice (I-797). This will list the Service Center where your application is being processed, the date your application was officially received, and a case number in reference to your application. Carefully review the notice to make sure your personal information is correct. If it is not, contact the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) number listed on your receipt notice, as well as your ISSO advisor, immediately.
- Receive I-797 (Approval Notice): If your STEM OPT application is approved, USCIS will send you an approval notice (I-797). This is a notification on your application status, NOT your actual work authorization/permission. USCIS processing time for OPT is up to 90 days (but may occasionally take longer).
- Receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD): You will receive an EAD separately in the mail from USCIS. This is your proof of employment authorization. Please make sure to present your updated card to your employer. Remember, EADs cannot be forwarded by the post office, so if you move or change your mailing address you MUST notify USCIS with the updated address for EAD mailing.
- Submit employment & personal residence information to ISSO online by going to our website: All students on OPT and STEM OPT Extension must report their current address, employer’s name and address and employment status to ISSO as soon as you receive your EAD, so that we can report the information in SEVIS.
- Submit Form I-983 Self-Evaluation Reports to ISSO: Current policy requires you and your employer to submit updates on your form I-983 at six-month intervals during your STEM OPT time. Please email those updates to ISSO and make sure your employer is also keeping copies. The first evaluation must be submitted with the 12-month validation report, and the final evaluation must be submitted at the 24-month validation report.
- Submit an updated Form I-983 whenever there are substantive changes to the terms of the employment originally listed on the form (i.e. hours of employment, site of employment, etc.), even if employer remains the same.
- Any changes in your employment status must be reported to ISSO within 10 days.
- Leaving employer (no new employment): Report the last day of your employment. Upload page 5, with completed Final Evaluation on Student Progress, signed by your employer to ISSO. This is required even if you did not work in your position for a full year. In addition, your employer is required to report to ISSO your termination or departure from employment within 5 days (they agree to this when completing Form I-983).
- Changing employer: Follow instructions above for “Leaving Employer”. In addition, report your new employer and employment start date through our website. Remember that your new employer must also meet all STEM OPT Extension requirements. Upload a new completed I-983, pages 1-4.
- Adding a second employer/multiple employers: Add the employer and employment start date through our website. Remember that your second employer must also meet all STEM OPT Extension requirements. Upload a new completed I-983, pages 1-4.
- If you change employers while OPT is pending: Complete above steps. ISSO will issue an updated Form I-20 and mail that to USCIS on your behalf. You do not have to mail any updated documents to USCIS. However, if you have lost your employment on which your STEM OPT application is based, and do not have an offer with a new qualifying employer, your STEM OPT application may be denied.