STEM OPT Extension
The STEM OPT extension extends the initial 12 months of post-completion OPT an additional 24 months (for a total eligibility of up to 36 months) for students majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The extension can only be granted in a 24-month period; the period cannot be “split” into multiple periods.
- KU STEM Degree List (pdf) - as of September 2020
- Be maintaining F-1 status.
- Currently be on an approved period of post-completion optional practical training (OPT).
- Students on pre-completion OPT are not eligible for the extension.
- Apply for the STEM extension based on study in a field on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List.
- See above for a list of KU Degrees that are on the DHS STEM List.
- The degree used for the current post-completion OPT does NOT have to be in a STEM field.
- You can apply for the STEM extension based on a prior STEM degree obtained within the last 10 years from a US, SEVP-approved, accredited school.
- The degree must be at the bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral level.
- If you are currently on OPT based on completion of required lecture courses with only thesis, dissertation or equivalent left in a STEM field, you can apply for the STEM extension even if you have not yet completed the degree.
- Work for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to your major area of study in the STEM field.
- Have a job offer from an employer registered with the E-Verify employment verification system. (IMPORTANT: Employment through “temp” agencies or consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire [even though registered with E-Verify] DO NOT qualify for the STEM OPT extension.)
- Not have previously received the STEM OPT extension twice before.
- For a second extension, your second STEM degree must be at a higher level than the previous STEM degree used for your first STEM OPT extension.
- Complete, along with your employer, a Training Plan on form I-983.
- Be paid and work at least 20 hours a week.
- The wages must be commensurate with other employees doing the same job.
Google “EVerify Employer List”. Select the uscis.gov website.
At time of publication of this website, the USCIS website is called E-Verify Employers Search Tool
- Must work in a paid position at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify employer in a position directly related to the student’s STEM degree.
- Must have specific training goals and objectives outlined in the Training Plan, Form I-983.
- May work multiple jobs, but all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify and complete an I-983.
- Must do annual self-evaluations and have the employer sign off on the self-evaluations.
- Cannot be self-employed (you cannot sign your own I-983 as an employer).
- Cannot be employed through “temp” agencies or consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, or any other relationship that does not constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship.
Applications for the STEM OPT extension can be filed up to 90 days prior to the end of the regular period of post-completion OPT, but USCIS must receive and receipt the application before the current OPT expires.
ISS recommends you apply as early as possible (within the required timeframe described above) to avoid driver’s license renewal issues.
If the STEM application is receipted BEFORE the current OPT expiration date, the student can continue working until a decision is made (up to 180 days from the end of the current OPT expiration).
RECEIVING OPT CARD – NEW PROCESS REQUIRING SIGNATURE AND PHOTO ID
USCIS is the agency who issues the Employment Authorization Cards. They announced April 30, 2018, they have begun phasing in use of the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) Signature Confirmation & Restricted Delivery services. The first phase will only affect EADs returned as undeliverable, but in the future all EADS will be delivered under this system. They have not announced when delivery will be expanded to all EADs. As part of the new delivery method, you must present identification to sign for your EAD upon delivery. You also have the option to:
- designate an agent to sign on your behalf by
- completing the USPS’s PS Form 3801, Standing Delivery Order
- OR completing USPS’s PS Form 3801-A, Agreement by a Hotel, Apartment House, or the Like
- AND sign up for USPS Informed Delivery to receive delivery status notifications
- OR arrange for pickup at a post office at a convenient date and time by going to the USPS website and selecting "Hold Mail" This will stop delivery of all your mail.
- Students who have properly filed Form I-765 (for STEM OPT extension) prior to the end date of his/her current post-completion OPT, will be able to continue employment while their extension application is pending, until a final decision is made on the I-765 or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
- The employment authorization period for the STEM OPT extension begins on the day after the expiration of the initial post-completion OPT employment authorization, and ends 24 months later, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved.
- You can Check your Case Status on the USCIS website by entering your receipt number (ex. PSCxxxxxxxxxx).
- When you receive the STEM OPT EAD, upload a copy to iHawk.
- If your ADDRESS CHANGES while your STEM OPT application is pending, the post office will not forward EADs even if you filed a mail-forwarding request with the US Postal Service so you must:
Student Reporting Requirements During STEM OPT
To maintain legal F-1 status during your approved STEM OPT extension period, you must comply with the reporting requirements outlined in the table below, WITHIN 10 DAYS of any change, or due every 6 months from the start of your stem period even without any changes.
The SEVP Portal is OPTIONAL. ISS recommends:
- You use the SEVP Portal only for VIEWING accuracy of data.
- You report all changes through iHawk.
- You should NOT report changes in both iHawk and the SEVP Portal.
Why report through iHawk?
- ISS reviews information for compliance before submitting to SEVIS.
- ISS automatically issues a new I-20 when appropriate.
F-1 Practical Training
iHawk OPT Reporting e-forms
Mandated Reports (even without any change) - more details below
Due every 6 months from start of STEM
- 6 months from STEM start: validation report
- 12 months from STEM start: self-evaluation (I-983 p.5) & validation report
- 18 months from STEM start: validation report
- 24 months from STEM start: self-evaluation (I-983 p.5) & validation report
Reports Based on Change
Due within 10 days of change/end/departure
- Upload STEM OPT EAD
- Email & Phone Number Update
- U.S. residential or mailing address*
- Material Changes to Existing I-983 Training Plan - more details below
- Loss or termination of STEM employment – requires a completed and signed I-983 p.5 self-evaluation
- New (change of) STEM employer – requires new completed and signed I-983 Training Plan & STEM Employer Verifications Form from new employer
- Change immigration status classification (ex. F-1 to H-1B)
- Leaving the U.S. and forfeiting the remainder of OPT
- Passport Name
Validation Reports (1 due every 6 months)
- Submit a Validation Report confirming:
- No change in legal name
- Residential and mailing addresses
- Whether still employed, and if so,
- Employer Name
- Employer Address
Self-Evaluations (1 due every 12 months)
- First One – Due within 12 months of STEM OPT Start Date
- Complete and sign a self-evaluation on Form I-983
- Obtain employer’s signature verifying accuracy of self-evaluation
- Second One - Due upon completing STEM OPT period
- Should recap all the training and knowledge acquired during the entire training period
- Complete and sign a self-evaluation on Form I-983
- Obtain employer’s signature verifying accuracy of self-evaluation
- Exception: Additionally, a completed and signed I-983 self-evaluation is due any time you terminate a STEM job, at the time of termination.
Material Changes to the Existing Training Plan Form I-983 (due within 10 days of the change)
- Material changes include, but are not limited to:
- Change in job title or supervisor;
- Significant decrease in compensation or work hours;
- Changes to the employer’s commitments or your learning objectives;
- Change in employer’s EIN (Employer Identification Number)
- Change in employee (trainee) worksite - Section 5
*ADDRESS CHANGES:If my STEM OPT application is still pending, I must report address changes in 3 places (even if I request the post office to forward all my mail):
- iHawk or SEVP Portal AND
- USCIS at http://www.uscis.gov/addresschange AND
- Call USCIS customer service 1-800-375-5283
Employer Reporting Requirements During STEM OPT
- The employer MUST complete and sign the Training Plan on Form I-983 along with the student.
- Employers must complete Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6.
- The employer is required to report to ISS any job termination or early departure within five business days.
- The employer must consider a worker to have departed when the employer knows the student has left employment or if the student has not reported for work for a period of five consecutive business days without the employer’s consent.
- The employer must review the student’s annual self-evaluation and sign it verifying its accuracy.
- Employers must report to ISS any material changes or material deviations from the Training Plan (Form I-983). Material changes include but are not limited to:
- Change in Employer Identification Number (from a corporate restructure)
- Reduction in student compensation not tied to a reduction in hours.
- Significant decrease in hours per week
- Changes to employer’s commitments or student’s learning objectives.
Employers should report the termination or departure of an employee who is on the STEM OPT extension by emailing ISS@ku.edu. Provide the following in the email:
- Subject: “STEM OPT Employment Termination"
- Body of email: Employee’s full name, date of birth and SEVIS ID Number. Date of termination. Employer’s contact name, title, department, and phone number. Company name.
- Know and comply with your reporting responsibilities (see above)
- Since F-1 status is dependent on employment, you cannot accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during the total 36-month OPT period. If unemployment exceeds the limits, DHS may deny future immigration benefits and/or may terminate your SEVIS record.
- You may change employers during the STEM OPT extension, however, the new employer must also be an E-Verify employer, the job must be directly related to your STEM major and you must submit to ISS within 10 days a new, completed and signed I-983 for the new employer.
- You are allowed 60 days after the expiration of the OPT EAD to remain in the U.S. for the purpose of preparing for departure, to change education levels at the same school, to transfer to another school, or apply for a change of status.
- Your duration of status and possibly also work authorization may automatically be extended if you are a beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition and change of status request. See more details on H-1B Cap-Gap OPT Extension
See Travel Outside the U.S., section on “Students on Post-Completion OPT”.
The STEM OPT Extension ends when you:
- reach the end of the authorized STEM OPT Extension period (as indicated on your EAD card)
- accrue an aggregate of 150 days of unemployment during the entire 36-month post-completion OPT period
- transfer to another school (release your SEVIS record), or begin study at another education level (this automatically terminates any remaining portion of OPT)
- change your status to another immigration status, or adjust to U.S. permanent resident
- depart the U.S. permanently (not for temporary visit/vacation) and report forfeiting the remainder of OPT
The Federal government has put together a STEM OPT Hub with detailed information on such topics as:
- eligibility requirements
- reporting responsibilities
- Form I-983
- employer responsibilities
- eligible STEM fields