Documents Needed to Apply
- Form I-983 (this is to be filled out with your employer and included in your application to International Services. This form will not be sent to USCIS),
- Form G-1145 (recommended),
- Form I-765,
- Filing fee of $410 (money order, cashier’s check, or personal check is preferred) payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (spelled out),
- Copy of new Form I-20 (includes STEM Extension recommendation, provided by International Services),
- Copt of Form I-20 for original OPT request,
- Two passport-style photos,
- Copy of I-94,
- Copy of Passport,
- Copy of Visa,
- Copy of front and back of current EAD (Employment Authorization Document),
- Copy of receipt notice from the original OPT application, and
- Evidence that the student’s degree meets the STEM degree/major requirements.
- An official transcript that shows degree level and program of study.
- Copy of their diploma that shows degree level and program of study.
- Fill out the OPT STEM Extension Request e-form on Sunapsis and begin gathering documents required for the application to USCIS. Upload the Form I-983 to your Sunapsis application.
- International Services will process your application and create a new I-20 that requests the STEM extension.
- You may request to review your OPT application with a DSO.
- The I-20 and OPT application must reach USCIS within 60 days of the creation of the new I-20 or the application will be denied. You will mail the I-20 along with all other required documents to USCIS.
- A couple of weeks after you have mailed your application you should receive Form I-797 Receipt Notice stating that USCIS has received your application.
- USCIS will either approve your application, deny your application, reject your application if something was wrong with the original application (you would be allowed to resubmit your application), or request additional evidence/information.
- If the application is approved, you will be mailed your EAD.
- All jobs must be related to your major. You are not permitted to work in jobs that relate to your minor.
- You must work more than 20 hours per week.
- You can have multiple jobs as long as each job is more than 20 hours per week.
- Unlike your original OPT, you may not volunteer or be self-employed.
You are required to report to International Services:
- Within 10 days of any change in employment or personal address,
- 6 months after your STEM Extension has started,
- 12 months after your STEM Extension has begun,
- 18 months after your STEM Extension has begun, and
- 24 months after your STEM Extension has begun.
When there are any changes in your employment including, but not limited to, a change in your job title or description or change in employer, you must fill out the STEM Extension Employment Update and upload a new Form I-983. You may use the SEVIS Portal to report employment if you would like. However, you are still required to report to International Services even if you reported changes directly to SEVIS.
OPT STEM Extension Frequently Asked Questions
What is e-verify?
E-Verify is a system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to the records available to the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration to confirm employment eligibility. Essentially, E-Verify is an online system run by USCIS to help employers determine employee work eligibility. Your employer must be registered in E-Verify.
Can I keep working if my extension hasn’t been approved by USCIS?
Yes, you may work up to 180 days after your original OPT ends while you wait for the extension to be approved. However, during this time you must be following the STEM Extension regulations including the type of employment and reporting requirements. You should not leave the country if your original OPT has expired and your STEM Extension application is pending.
Is fingerprinting or biometric scanning required for my STEM Extension application?
No, USCIS does not require fingerprinting or biometrics for OPT applications. This also means that you do not have to pay the biometrics fee that is sometimes associated with Form I-765.
Can I travel during my STEM Extension?
You are eligible to depart and re-enter the US with proper documentation:
- Current passport (valid for six months from the date of re-entry),
- An I-20 with a travel signature no more than 6 months old,
- A valid F-1 visa stamp,
- EAD Card, and
- Job offer letter or letter that verifies employment.
Dates of travel outside of the United States while employed may not count as days of unemployment. If you are traveling outside of the U.S. for vacation or business while continuing to be employed, the dates outside the U.S. do not need to be tracked or reported as days of unemployment.
When I’m on my STEM Extension, what is my status?
The STEM Extension is a benefit available to students with F-1 status. It is not a work visa. You will remain in F-1 status during your STEM Extension.
How is my authorization affected if I become unemployed?
You may accrue up to 150 days of unemployment during your STEM Extension. This number will also include any days of unemployment that you had while on your original OPT. Any period of unemployment will count toward this total. Days spent outside of the United States while unemployed still count toward the 150-day total. If you are unemployed for more than 150 days, you may be considered to be out of status.
Do I get more days of unemployment? How are the days of unemployment figured?
You get an additional 60 days of unemployment once your STEM Extension has been approved. This means that you will have a total of 150 days of unemployment allowed on OPT.
- Count all days, including weekends and holidays,
- Count any week in which you are employed less than 20 hours, and
- Count days outside the U.S., if unemployed.
Do I have to pay taxes while working on my OPT STEM Extension?
Yes, you must pay state and federal income taxes.
Can I take classes while on OPT?
If you begin to study at another educational level (e.g. masters/graduate program), your OPT STEM Extension authorization will be terminated with the notification of a new degree program in SEVIS or with a transfer of your SEVIS record to another institution. You are supposed to work full time in your major field of study while on OPT STEM Extension and it should be your only focus. However, you may take a class or two, provided that you do not begin a new education level.
What if I want to go back to school full time?
If you wish to transfer to another college or university in the U.S., you must fill out the “Transfer Out Request” e-form in Sunapsis. Once your SEVIS record is transferred, your OPT STEM Extension will end.
What happens when my OPT STEM Extension ends?
You have a 60-day grace period from the end date on your EAD card to:
- Leave the U.S.,
- Transfer to another college or university, or
- Apply to change your status if eligible.
The 60-day grace period ends as soon as you leave the country, you are unable to depart and reenter the U.S. during the grace period.