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
Eligibility
To be eligible, you must:
  • 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.
E-Verify Employer List

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

Employment Specifics
Students:
  • 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.
When to Apply

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).

How to Apply
Tips After Mailing STEM OPT Application
  • 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:
Reporting Requirements While on STEM OPT Extension

Student Reporting Requirements

There are 4 types of reports that are required during the STEM OPT extension. You will have a minimum of five required reports to submit. If there are reportable changes, there will be additional reports required in addition to the five mandated reports.

  1. Three Validation Reports (1 due every 6 months)
    • Submit a Validation Report confirming
      • No change in legal name
      • Residential and mailing addresses
      • If still employed and if so,
        • Employer Name
        • Employer Address
    • First One -Due within 10 days of 6 months from STEM OPT start date
    • Second One -Due within 10 days of 12 months from STEM OPT start date
    • Third One -Due within 10 days of 18 months from STEM OPT start date
  2. Two 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 job, at the time of termination.
  3. 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 employer’s EIN (Employer Identification Number)
      • Change in employee (trainee) worksite - Section 5
      • Reduction in your compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked
      • A significant decrease in hours worked per week
      • Change in job title or supervisor
      • Changes to the employer’s commitments or your learning objectives
  4. Other Reportable Changes (due within 10 days of the change)
    • Change of address (residential or mailing)*
    • Change of legal name
    • Loss of employment -->requires a completed and signed I-983 self-evaluation upon terminating employment 
    • Change in employers -->requires a new completed and signed I-983 Training Plan
    • Change of status (for example, change from F-1 to H-1B)
    • Depart U.S. and forfeit (abandon) remainder of OPT

      Summary of STEM OPT Student Reporting Requirements

5 Mandated Reports (even without any change) Which E-Form to submit in iHawk

Validation report due every 6 months from STEM OPT start date

(Three validation reports total) - within 10 days of each reporting date

STEM OPT Validation Report
Self-evaluation due 12 months from STEM OPT start date STEM OPT Self-Evaluation I-983

Self-evaluation due upon finishing STEM OPT period - 

  • Recap all training acquired during the entire training period
STEM OPT Self-Evaluation I-983

Example:   Approved STEM OPT dates – 4/2/17~4/1/19

  • 10/2/17 – validation report (due within 10 days)
  • 4/1/18 – self-evaluation via I-983 DUE; & validation report (due within 10 days)
  • 10/2/18 - validation report (due within 10 days)
  • 4/1/19 – self-evaluation via I-983 DUE
 
Changes you are required to report within 10 days of the change Which E-Form to submit in iHawk
Change U.S. residential or mailing address* Update U.S. Address
Material Changes to Existing I-983 Training Plan STEM OPT I-983 Material Changes

Loss or termination of employment –

  •  requires a completed and signed I-983 self-evaluation

STEM OPT Report Job Ended   AND

STEM OPT Self-Evaluation I-983

New (change of) STEM OPT employment –

  • Requires new completed and signed I-983 Training Plan from new employer
 STEM OPT Add New Employer & I-983
Change Immigration status classification (ex. F-1 to H-1B) Report Change of Status and Forfeit OPT
Departing the U.S. and forfeiting the remainder of OPT Report Leaving US and Forfeit OPT
Change Legal name (as it occurs in my passport) Report Passport Name Change

*ADDRESS CHANGES: If your OPT application is still pending, the post office will not forward EADs even if you filed a mail-forwarding request so you must

All reporting while on OPT must be done through the iHawk website (https://ihawk.ku.edu)

  1.  with your KU Online ID.
  2. Go to F-1 Practical Training and select “OPT Reporting”.
  3. Complete and submit the appropriate report. You can submit the same E-Form multiple times as needed.

ISS will report your information to the government. For your protection, please keep a record of all reports made to ISS.

Beginning in 2017, DHS plans to launch the first stage of a student portal in SEVIS which will eventually enable students to submit their Form I-983 electronically into SEVIS.

 

Employer Reporting Requirements

  • 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.
Maintaining Legal F-1 Status Once on STEM OPT Extension
  • 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
Travel Concerns
Do not travel outside the United States if your EAD is expired and the STEM extension request is pending.  Wait until you receive the new EAD. Otherwise, your application may be considered abandoned when you depart the U.S. and subsequently denied.

See Travel Outside the U.S., section on “Students on Post-Completion OPT”.​
How Does the STEM OPT Extension End?

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
Detailed Info on SEVP’s website

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

 

H-1B Cap Gap
OPT Extension
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OPT MAIN

 


Presidential Executive Order Update & Information
 
 


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