OPT STEM Extension
Visit the Department of Homeland Security: Study in the States - STEM OPT Hub website for up to date information on STEM OPT. Learn more about the following:
- Determining eligibility and extension qualifications
- STEM OPT reporting requirements
- Transition plan overview for STEM OPT
- Step-by-step guide for completing the Training Plan Form I-983
- and more!
Eligibility and Submission Deadline
- Applicant must be working on post-completion OPT.
- Applicant must be working for an E-Verify employer. USCIS has created an online E-Verify Employer Search Tool.
- The primary major CIP code, found on page 2 of the I-20, must appear on this list of approved codes.
- In some cases a prior degree that is on the list may be used.
- Deadline: USCIS must receive the application no later than the expiration date of the original OPT.
- Once an application is submitted, applicants may work up to 180 days beyond the expiration date of their EAD while the STEM application is pending with USCIS.
USCIS processing times may take two to six months to process STEM OPT applications.
You will need to submit the following documents to the International Office for initial processing of your new OPT-STEM Extension I-20.
• Statement of Responsibility
Application Packet Checklist to USCIS - Please put in the following order from top to bottom
• Completed Form I‐765 signed with original signature
o Download and complete Form I-765 (https://www.uscis.gov/i-765)
o DO NOT leave any questions blank, write “None” or “N/A” (Not Applicable) as needed
o Item 3: Use your own address OR (if you are moving) you may use the International Office address for the return address: Written as: 601 University Dr., Thornton Int’l House | San Marcos| TX | 78666
o Item 18: Entry visa status: (example: F-1 Student or H-4 Dependent)
o Item 19: F-1 Student
o Item 20: should be: “(c) (3) (C)” code for requesting OPT STEM-Extension
o Item 21: student's degree and the employer's name and E-Verify ID number
• Staple the following to the top of your I-765 packet:
o Check or money order for $410.00 made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”
o 2 passport‐style photos taken within 30 days. Write your name and I‐94 number in pencil on the back of the photos. See photo guidelines: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/passports/picture-perfect-passport.html
• Form G‐1145, E‐Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance https://www.uscis.gov/g-1145
• Copy of OPT Extension I-20 with proper signatures from DSO and student
• Copy of your degree (transcript or diploma) in a STEM field on the DHS STEM‐designated program list
• Copies of the following:
o Passport, visa, and most recent I‐94 (https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home)
o Approved OPT I‐20 issued to you during the initial OPT period
o Current OPT EAD Card
1. An F-1 student who has properly filed Form I-765 prior to the end date of the 12-month OPT is allowed to maintain continuous employment for up to 180 days while USCIS adjudicates the OPT-STEM extension request.
2. USCIS will notify the applicant of the decision and if denied the applicant may not appeal the decision.
3. The 24-month OPT-STEM work authorization begins on the day after the expiration of the initial post-completion OPT work authorization and ends 24 months thereafter, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved.
4. Employment must be traditional paid employment for at least 20 hours per week.
5. Must work in a paid position for only an E-Verified employer.
6. May not accrue more than 120 days of unemployment during the total period of OPT authorization or 36 months.
7. If the student mails the OPT STEM application directly to USCIS, the student is responsible for filing Form AR-11 (https://www.uscis.gov/ar-11), Alien's Change of Address Card in order to notify Department of Homeland Security of any address change, especially if one occurs while the OPT-24 application is pending. Failure to do so may result in a delay in receiving the OPT-STEM Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
8. Complying with Reporting Requirements is mandatory in order to maintain lawful F-1 status.
10-Day Reporting Requirements
Within 10 days of any change in personal or employment information the student must report changes in the SEVP Portal (http://www.international.txstate.edu/optandstemextension/SEVP-Portal.html)
• Full legal name, Current mailing and Residential address, Phone number and Email
• Employer name, Employer address, Loss of employment, Date you began working for the current employer
6-Month Reporting Requirements
Every 6 months students will receive an automatic email from the International Office requiring a Validation Report regarding employment. Regardless of when you last updated your employment information in the SEVP Portal, students are required to reply to the International Office email. The report is due within 10 business days of when it is requested.
• Name and address of the current employer, State date you began working for the current employer, Your full legal name, Current mailing and residential address, Phone number, and non-Texas State email address
Form I-983 Training Plan
Student must complete and submit to the International Office an annual self-evaluation describing the progress of the training experience. The assessment must be submitted no later than 10 days following the conclusion of the training period. The student must submit the assessments for the stated periods:
• Initial: 12 months after the STEM OPT start date, and a
• Final assessment: that recaps the training and knowledge acquired during the complete, 24 month training period.
A student must complete an assessment at the conclusion of the training opportunity; usually this is a final assessment due at 24 months, but possible any time during the period of authorized employment when employment ends. This final assessment must be submitted within 10 days following the conclusion of this training opportunity.
OPT STEM Extension Form and I-983 Form
Input the following information in SECTION 1:
Name of School Recommending STEM OPT: Texas State University
Name of School Where STEM Degree Was Earned:Texas State University
SEVIS School Code of School Recommending STEM OPT (including 3-digit suffix):
Texas State University SNA214F00331000 San Marcos, TX Round Rock Higher Education Center SNA214F00331001 Round Rock, TX
Designated School Official (DSO) Name and Contact Information:
(THIS DEPENDS ON WHO CREATES AND SIGNS YOUR I-20)
Jon Ahlberg, PDSO, 512-245-7966
Jonathan Tyner, DSO, 512-245-7966
Student SEVIS ID No.: On your I-20
STEM OPT Requested Period: (mm-dd-yyyy) SECOND PAGE ON YOUR I-20
From: _______________ To: _______________
DHS grants STEM OPT extensions to eligible F-1 students who are currently in a period of post-completion OPT once per degree level (i.e., bachelor's, master's or doctorate). A student may participate twice in the STEM OPT extension over the course of their academic career. Students may not apply for STEM OPT extensions during the 60-day grace period following an initial (usually 12-month) period of post-completion OPT.
To participate twice in the STEM OPT extension, a student must earn a second qualifying degree at a higher education level and must be participating in an initial period of OPT at the time they apply to USCIS for their second STEM OPT extension. In some cases, students may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree to qualify for their second STEM OPT extension. More information about using a prior STEM degree to qualify for a 24-month STEM OPT extension is detailed in the “Degree” portion below.
Factor Condition Qualifying degree and school CIP code of degree's major field of study must appear on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List. Degree must be from an accredited, SEVP-certified, U.S. institution of higher education. Qualifying job Job must be a paid job, for at least 20 hours per week at each STEM employer Qualifying employer Employer must be enrolled in E-Verify and have an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN); DHS says that there must be a "bona fide employer-employee" relationship, and that student may not be self-employed Form I-983 training plan The student and employer must complete a Form I-983 Training Plan, and the student must present the completed I-983 to the DSO before the DSO recommends STEM OPT in SEVIS Filing deadlines USCIS must receive the student's STEM OPT application package before the expiration of the student's current post-completion OPT (standard post-completion or cap-gap), and no later than 30 days from the date the DSO recommended the benefit in SEVIS. The STEM OPT application package includes: Form I-765, I-765 filing fee, Form I-20 with the 24-month STEM OPT recommendation, and documentation of the qualifying STEM degree.
To qualify for the STEM OPT extension, an F-1 student must hold a bachelor's degree or a higher degree in an eligible STEM field from an SEVP-certified school that is accredited (by an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education) at the time the student submits their STEM OPT extension application to USCIS.
Under certain circumstances, an F-1 student may use a prior STEM degree from a currently accredited SEVP-certified school to fulfill this eligibility requirement. To use a prior degree to qualify for the STEM OPT extension, the F-1 student must:
- Have received their most recent degree (which does not need to be STEM-related) from a currently accredited Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school.
- Have received their prior, qualifying STEM degree* (at the bachelor's level or higher) within 10 years of applying for the STEM OPT extension with USCIS.
- The qualifying STEM degree needs to be on DHS's STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time the student submits their application for the STEM OPT extension, rather than at the time that the student received the degree.
For more information about which programs of study qualify for the STEM OPT extension, visit our eligible classification of instructional programs codes resource page.
In order to receive the STEM OPT extension, a student must pursue their practical training through an employer that is enrolled in USCIS' E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.
Additionally, STEM OPT extension applicants must select employers that can guarantee the student will complete a minimum of 20 hours of work per week and provide the student with formal training and learning objectives.
The student must work with their potential STEM OPT extension employer to complete the Form I-983, which must include how the training opportunity has a direct relationship to the student’s qualifying STEM degree. Visit our Students and the Form I-983 page to learn how to properly complete and submit the Form I-983.
F-1 students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Form I-983 because F-1 students may not provide the employer attestation (i.e., signatures) on their own behalf. However, they may use a start-up business so long as all regulatory requirements are met. The employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.
Please note that a student’s post-completion OPT employer does not need to be the same as the student’s STEM OPT extension employer.
Students may not apply for STEM OPT extensions during the 60-day grace period following an initial (usually 12-month) period of post-completion OPT.
The Form I-983 Training Plan is a key component of the 24-month STEM OPT extension. Before a DSO may recommend a 24-month STEM OPT extension, the student must:
- Work with his or her employer to fully complete the Form I-983 and obtain requisite signatures from an appropriate individual in the employer's organization; and
- Submit the completed, signed form using the OPT STEM Extension Submission Form.
The DSO will review the Form I-983 to determine that it is "complete, signed, and addresses all program requirements."
Form I-983 resources:
SEVIS Help Hub resources:
Stricter USCIS Guidelines on STEM OPT Third Party Placements
In January, 2018, USCIS revised its USCIS STEM OPT Page - Employer-Employee Relationship, Site of Employment, Third Parties, taking a more severe interpretation of the employer-employee relationship "requirement" and conditions for third party placements, for STEM OPT students and employers.
Some main points of the new content on the USCIS STEM OPT page include:
- In order to establish a bona fide relationship, the employer may not be the student's "employer" in name only, nor may the student work for the employer on a "volunteer" basis. Moreover, the employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student.
- The "personnel" who may provide and supervise the training experience may be either employees of the employer, or contractors who the employer has retained to provide services to the employer; they may not, however, be employees or contractors of the employer's clients or customers.
- Under no circumstances would another F-1 student on OPT or a STEM OPT extension (who is undergoing training in their own right) be qualified to train another F-1 student on a STEM OPT extension.
- A STEM OPT employer may not assign, or otherwise delegate, its training responsibilities to a non-employer third party (e.g., a client/customer of the employer, employees of the client/customer, or contractors of the client/customer)
- The training experience must take place on-site at the employer's place of business or worksite(s) to which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has authority to conduct employer site visits to ensure that the employer is meeting program requirements. This means that ICE must always have access to a student's worksite; if the student is sent to different worksite locations as part of the training opportunity, ICE must be able to access such worksite locations. For instance, the training experience may not take place at the place of business or worksite of the employer's clients or customers because ICE would lack authority to visit such sites.
- Online or distance learning arrangements may not be used to fulfill the employer's training obligation to the student. For instance, the employer may not fulfill its training obligation to provide a structured and guided work-based learning experience by having the student make periodic visits to the employer's place of business to receive training, while the student is actually working at the place of business or worksite of a client or customer of the employer.
- The employer may not fulfill its training obligation by having the student make periodic telephone calls or send periodic email messages to the employer to describe and discuss their experiences at the place of business or worksite of a client or customer of the employer.
- The student's practical training experience must be provided by the employer's own trained or supervisory personnel at the employer's own place of business or worksite(s), to which ICE has authority to conduct employer site visits to ensure that the employer is meeting program requirements.
- Staffing and temporary agencies may seek to employ students under the STEM OPT program, but only if they will be the entity that provides the practical training experience to the student at its own place of business and they have a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. For instance, a student might possibly receive STEM-related training while working in such an entity's information technology (IT) department.
- Such entities may not, however, assign or contract out students to work for one of their customers or clients, and assign, or otherwise delegate, their training responsibilities to the customer or client. As noted above, the employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student.
The International Office will only recommend a student for STEM OPT following the conditions mentioned above.
E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. E-Verify is fast, free and easy to use — and provides a way for employers to ensure a legal workforce.
See here for more information: What is E-Verify
E-Verify confirms employment eligibility by comparing the information an employee enters in the Form I-9, “Employment Eligibility Verification,” to DHS and Social Security Administration records.
After the employer creates a case in E-Verify and enters information from the student’s Form I-9, E-Verify displays a case result within seconds. Sometimes, E-Verify may display a case result that requires additional action. When this happens, it is called an E-Verify tentative noncomfirmation (TNC). A TNC means the information entered by the employer from the student’s Form I-9 does not match government records.
Nonimmigrant students have many rights during the TNC process, including the right to contest the TNC and the right not to incur adverse actions because of the TNC. For more information, visit the USCIS Employee Rights Toolkit.
Please visit the USCIS website for tips on how to avoid receiving a TNC. These tips include ensuring the name on a student’s Form I-9 matches the name on the student’s other official government documents.
myE-Verify is a free resource that nonimmigrant students can use at any time. myE-Verify’s Self Check feature enables students to confirm that government records are accurate. myE-Verify’s Self Lock feature enables students to lock their Social Security number in the E-Verify system to help protect against employment-related identity fraud.
If a student uses these services and finds an error in their record, E-Verify provides guidance on the steps the student should take to correct the record.
For more information about the E-Verify employment eligibility verification program, download the USCIS fact sheets and web pages listed in the additional resources section below.
If you are an international student and have case-specific questions about your status in E-Verify, please call the E-Verify Employee Hotline at 1-888-897-7781.
Every six months a student must work with their DSO to confirm that the student's record in SEVIS accurately reflects their current circumstance.
As part of this six-month reporting, STEM OPT students must confirm that their SEVIS information correctly identifies their:
- Legal name.
- Residential or mailing address.
- Employer name and address.
- Status of current employment.
Students will receive an email from firstname.lastname@example.org and must respond with appropriate answers within 10 business days of receiving the email notification.
Please note that STEM OPT students must report a change in this information, including any loss of employment, within 10 days of the change.
Each STEM OPT student must complete and submit to their DSO an annual self-evaluation describing the progress of the training experience.
The student must ensure that the DSO receives the assessment no later than 10 days following the conclusion of the training period. The student must submit the assessments for the stated periods:
- Initial: 12 months after the STEM OPT start date, and a
- Final assessment that recaps the training and knowledge acquired during the complete, 24 month training period.
A student must complete an assessment at the conclusion of the training opportunity; usually this is a final assessment due at 24 months, but possible any time during the period of authorized employment when employment ends.* This final assessment must be submitted within 10 days following the conclusion of this training opportunity.
SEVIS only allows DSO reporting of conclusion of employment from a student during the window for 12- or 24-month reporting. Since unemployment has been accounted for by the entry of the employment end date, the earlier of these two reporting alternatives is sufficient.
Not submitting a final evaluation would be a violation of the terms of the Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students,” and may jeopardize the student’s nonimmigrant status.
Students and their employers must sign the student's self-evaluation before the student submits it to their DSO, who will include it in the student's record. For more information about the annual self-evaluation, please visit the Students and the Form I-983 page.
Note: If a DSO receives an early report of conclusion of employment from a student, the DSO must shorten the employment end date to reflect the last date of the training. Shortening the last date of work is the catalyst for SEVIS counting unemployment; SEVIS will then calculate unemployment correctly.
Each STEM OPT student must report to their DSO any material changes to, or material deviations from, the student's formal training plan.
Material changes or deviations from the original Form I-983 may include, but are not limited to:
- Any change of the employer’s EIN.
- Any reduction in student compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked.
- Any significant decrease in hours per week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity.
- Changes to the employer’s commitments or student’s learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983.
So long as the STEM OPT student and employer meet the regulatory requirements and the modified Form I-983 meets the specified requirements, the student’s employment authorization will not cease based on a change to the plan.
When a STEM OPT student changes employers, the new employer must be enrolled in E-Verify before the student begins to work for pay. The student must also submit a new Form I-983 to their DSO within 10 days of starting the new practical training opportunity.
When a student begins a new practical training opportunity with a new employer less than 10 days after leaving the student’s prior employer, the student may fulfill all reporting obligations (loss of employment and new training plan) by submitting a new Form I-983.
In cases where the period of time between employers is longer than 10 days, the student must first report the loss of employment to the DSO and later submit a new Form I-983.
STEM OPT students must report the termination of their practical training experience within 10 days of the event.
Students who are granted a 24-month STEM OPT extension are allowed an additional 60 days of unemployment beyond the initial post-completion OPT limit. This means that students who obtain a 24-month STEM OPT extension will receive, for a total of 150 days of allowable unemployment, 90 days during the initial period of post-completion OPT plus an additional 60 days during the extension period.
If a STEM OPT student believes that their STEM OPT employer is not complying with the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, the Form I-983 instructions, and the completed Form I-983 on file with their DSO, the student may:
- Contact the Student and Exchange Visitor Program at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by following the instructions found on ICE.gov.
- Report violations through this Homeland Security Investigations tip submission form.
There are a number of enforcement and oversight mechanisms to help ensure compliance, including reporting requirements, employer site visits, periodic evaluation of a student’s training and required notification of any material changes to or deviations from the Training Plan.
Please note that if a student believes that their employer is not complying with the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations and Form I-983 instructions, the student should leave that practical training opportunity and report their unemployment to the DSO. A period of student unemployment, caused by an employer’s failure to comply with program requirements, on its own will not affect the STEM OPT student’s status so long as the student reports changes in employment status and adheres to the overall unemployment limits.
A student may file for the 24-month extension up to 90 days prior to the end date of post-completion OPT.
Yes, but all the employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
Yes, in order to apply for OPT STEM Extension your employer must be e-verified. If you switch employer while your OPT STEM Extension is in process of being approved, the other employer MUST also be e-verified.
If you apply for OPT STEM you must have an e-verified employer, but after your OPT STEM is approved and if you lose your job you can go 90 days of being unemployed and maintain status.
If you or your company receives the RFE, then you will need to submit a copy along with the RFE response documents to ISSS using the secure upload tool. USCIS only sends the RFE to the address that is listed on the I-765. If you receive this, then IO will not receive a separate copy and it will be your responsibility to submit a copy to us for review.
Under the new regulations you may use a previously awarded degree to apply for STEM OPT if:
- You received the previous degree no more than 10 years prior to the date STEM OPT is recommended by the international student advisor
- The prior degree must be STEM eligible and from an SEVP-certified, U.S. institution
- You must have approved 12 month post-completion OPT
- Your work must relate your previously awarded STEM degree
No. All OPT STEM Extension must be a paid employment.