Eligibility for STEM OPT Extension
- Applicant must be an F-1 student who is currently engaged in post completion OPT with a job or job offer from a participating E-Verify employer in a position directly related to the major field of study.
- Applicant must have completed a degree in a designated STEM field from a U.S. accredited institution with SEVP certification within the last 10 years and may not have already utilized this degree to apply for a STEM OPT extension.
- Applicant must be in an active period of post-completion OPT at the time of requesting the STEM OPT extension.
- Applicant must submit a completed I-983 with all attestations and supporting documentation to HFU International Affairs Office to request the 24-month STEM extension.
- Applicant files the I-765 with all required documentation and filing fee ($410), to USCIS to request the STEM OPT extension within the required filing timeline.
- Applicant must be working in a full-time (20+ hours per week) paid position for a participating E-Verified employer. The applicant cannot be self-employed.
- Applicant must have his/her application received by USCIS within 60 days of the HFU DSO’s STEM OPT Recommendation in SEVIS, or the application will be denied.
Important Conditions and Limitations to Remember
- The STEM OPT start date will begin the day after the post-completion OPT ends. You do not choose the dates.
- Only Two STEM OPT Extensions are allowed per lifetime, the second must be after the completion of a higher educational level.
- A STEM OPT Extension can only be applied for while the applicant is in a valid period of post-completion OPT.
- If the application has been filed within the designated timeline, the applicant can continue to work while the application is being processed by USCIS for 180 days, even if the applicant does not receive the new EAD before the end of the 12 month period on post-completion OPT.
- The applicant is responsible for paying attention to and complying with all reporting requirements and deadlines. Failure to comply with reporting requirements will result in the loss of immigration status and employment authorization.
- Individuals engaged in a period of 24-month STEM OPT cannot be unemployed for an aggregate of more than 150 days.
Step 1: Obtain the IAO STEM authorization and a new I-20 no earlier than 90 days prior to end of OPT
- Complete and submit to IAO the STEM OPT Extension Request Form
- Complete with your employer and submit to IAO Form I-983 Mentoring and Training Plan (https://www.ice.gov/document/sevp-form-i-983-training-plan-stem-opt-students
- Complete and submit to IAO Form I-765 (https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-765.pdf )
- Complete and submit a signed STEM OPT Attestation form to IAO
- Submit a copy of your current EAD card front and back.
- Obtain an official transcript as proof of your STEM degree
- If you file your Stem OPT extension application and your OPT period expires while your extension application is pending, USCIS will automatically extend your employment authorization for 180 days. This automatic 180-days extension ceases once USCIS adjudicates your STEM OPT extension application.
Step 2: Gather and send all necessary application materials required by USCIS for STEM OPT.
- Fee of $410. Check or money order payable to “US Department of Homeland Security.”
- Form G-1145. Use this form if you wish to receive email or text confirmation of your receipt number from the Lockbox facility. Clip the form to the front of your application.
- Original I-765 form completed with your original signature (BLUE INK). Use the most current edition available (Bottom of pg. 2, 08/25/20). The address you use must be valid for at least 3 months from the time you send the application because the US Postal Service does not forward EAD cards. Enter the following information on the I-765
- Check third box: “I am applying for Renewal of my permission to accept employment.” Attach your previous employment authorization document.
- Enter the correct code on # 27 of the I-765: STEM OPT extension (c) (3) (C)
- Provide a cover letter indicating in order all the contents of your application package and that you are applying for STEM OPT extension.
- Provide a photocopy of your signed new STEM OPT authorized I-20.
- Provide photocopies of all previously issued and signed I-20 documents dating back to beginning of F-1 status.
- Provide proof of degree: official transcript of STEM degree.
- I-94 record (Download from cbp.gov/i94 )
- Photocopy of your most recent ID page(s) of your passport (picture, number, expiration date)
- Photo copy of F-1 Visa ID page and most recent F-1 visa stamp.
- Two PASSPORT photos. In pencil, print your name and I-94 number on the back of each photo. NO GLASSES can be worn in the passport photos.
- Copy of any previously issued EAD card(s).
Step 3: Mail the Application Materials to USCIS
- Make a complete set pf photocopies for your files before sending the entire application. You must mail the application to the USCIS office that has jurisdiction over the address you have used on the I-765. Send the application via priority or express mail carrier to obtain a tracking number and signature proof of delivery.
- Mail the application within several days of receiving your STEM authorized I-20, since it must be received by USCIS within 60 days after it has been authorized by your IAO DSO and before the end of your current OPT period. Use the following USCIS lockbox address.
USCIS, PO Box 805373, Chicago, IL 60680
FedEx, UPS, DHL deliveries
USCIS, Attn: I-765 CO3, 131 South Dearborn 3rd Floor, Chicago, IL 60603-5517
Step 4: Wait for the EAD
- Within one month of sending the application to USCIS, you should get a standard receipt notice. The “Receipt Number” in the top left corner of your receipt notice can be used to track the status of your case on the USCIS website at uscis.gov or by calling the phone number indicated on the receipt. Keep in mind that this information is updated infrequently.
Other Important Information About STEM OPT Extension
Reporting Requirements and Limitations on Unemployment
- F-1 regulations REQUIRE you to report any change of your name, your address, your phone number, email address, your employer’s name or address, as well as any interruptions or loss of employment within 10 days to HFU International Affairs Office. This reporting may be done via email to email@example.com . The information will be reported to Homeland Security and updated on your SEVIS record.
- While on STEM OPT, you must report to the International Affairs Office every six months, within 10 business days to confirm that the employer information you submitted with your application is correct. After that, your report is due every six months until your STEM OPR ends, you change status, or leave the United States. All STEM reports and evaluations can be sent PDF to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- In case of any immigration regulations changes, the International Affairs Office must always have a current accurate email address in order to contact you quickly.
- Periods of unemployment are limited to 150 days while on STEM OPT. This dates back to the start of your initial 12-month OPT.
- Any change in status must be reported to the International Affairs Office while you are on OPT.
For example notify the office if
- If you apply for or are granted a change of a different immigration status
- If you left the U.S. and made a new entry in another status
- If you leave the U.S. permanently before the end date of your EAD card
- If you plan to return to HFU as a student or continue studies elsewhere after OPT
Authorization May Not be Rescinded
Once authorization to engage in OPT is granted, it may not be rescinded or canceled. This means that after OPT is authorized by USCIs, it is impossible to have it cancelled and restored at a later date. If you do not use the work authorization it will be forfeited.
Change of employer After OPT has been Authorized
You must report any change of employer or employer address within 10 days. Address changes can be reported to the International Affairs Office by emailing email@example.com . If you change your employer, you must request, complete, and submit to IAO a new STEM OPT Extension Form as well as a new I-983 Training Plan and the final evaluation report from your old I-983. SEVIS will be updated and you will receive a new I-20 from the International Affairs Office. Directives regarding pick-up of the new I-20 will be provided by the International Affairs Office.
Social Security and Other Taxes
In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. fewer than five tax years are “nonresidents for tax purposes” and are exempt from Social Security (FICA) and Medicare taxes. However, your earnings are subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes. Beginning in the sixth year, most students become “residents for tax purposes” and employers should withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes. Tax returns must be filed on or before April 15 each year for the previous calendar year, for both “nonresidents” and “residents.”
Traveling Outside of the U.S. While on OPT
Reentry provisions of the regulations require students who have graduated and are on authorized OPT to present the following documents to reenter the U.S.:
- STEM OPT I-20 signed on page 2 by the IAO DSO, within the last twelve months. Should you require an updated travel signature and are no longer in Philadelphia, email or phone the International Affairs Office for directives.
- Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
- A valid passport
- A valid F-1 visa stamp
- A job offer letter or proof of employment. F-1 regulations allow for travel and reentry in order to “resume employment.”
- Dependent Travel: Dependents do not receive an EAD. An F-2 dependent must carry copies of the F-1 student’s I-20 with OPT recommendation, EAD card and job offer letter, in addition to the F-1 I-20 when traveling.
- Travel during the “cap gap” period may not be possible if the EAD has expired.
- Travel while on OPT carries some risk. This risk increases for individuals on OPT if the F-1 visa has expired and a new one is required to reenter the U.S. or if the F-1 student has been unemployed for more than 150 days. Be sure to contact the IAO when considering travel outside the U.S. and reentry to continue OPT.
Employment Authorization with a Pending H-1B petition (“Cap Gap” employment authorization)
- All students on OPT who have a pending or approved H-1B petition with a request for change of status will have their F-1 status and OPT authorization automatically extended if the employer has filed a timely H-1B petition with a change of status request with a requested October 1 start date.
- If your employer requires a new Cap-Gap I-20, contact the International Affairs Office.
- The OPT employment authorization automatically ends if the H-1B petition is denied, rejected, or withdrawn (a student may continue working until the end date indicated on the OPT EAD. The F-1 has a 60 day grace period with no work authorization after the end of OPT.
Important Facts to Remember about STEM OPT Extension
- Students granted a 24-month OPT extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment dating back to the start of the initial post-completion OPT 12-month period.
- A student meeting the eligibility requirements for a 24-month extension may request an extension of employment by filing Form I-765 90 days prior to the expiration date of the student’s current OPT employment authorization.
- The student seeking the 24-month extension must properly file the I-765 with USCIS within 60 days of the date the DSO recommends OPT in the SEVIS system.
- Students may not be their own (sole) employer or provide employer attestations on their own behalf. Additionally, there must be an employer-employee relationship with the employer providing training on site, which means that the student is employed directly by the company, not employed by a third party or temporary employment agency. The government regulation states that “the employer that signs the I-983 Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.”
To qualify for STEM OPT Extension, the position must be full time (20+ hours per week). Employment with multiple employers is only possible if both positions will be more than 20 hours per week and if both employers comply with all of the STEM OPT regulations, including completing and signing the I-983 Training Plan.