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International Student & Scholar Services

OPT STEM Extension

The Optional Practical Training STEM Extension is an extension of the OPT work authorization available to F-1 students currently on OPT who have completed a program of study in one of the STEM fields. Students are eligible for 2 lifetime STEM OPT extensions and only one STEM extension per degree level.


STEM Extension of OPT

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
STEM OPT extensions have very specific requirements for eligibility. Those requirements are:

  • Currently in an approved period of Post-Completion OPT
  • Qualifying Degree
  • Qualifying Job
    • Must be a paid position for at least 20 hours per week and directly related to the STEM eligible degree.
  • Qualifying Employer
    • Employer must be enrolled in E-Verify and have an IRS Employer Identification Number
  • Former I-983 Training Plan
    • Must present a completed I-983 to OISSS for approval before a recommendation for STEM OPT will be made.

APPLICATION PROCESS
Students must apply before the end of their current OPT authorization period but not earlier than 90 days before the current expiration date. It is recommend that students apply as close to the 90 days as possible.

The preparation steps are:

  1. Gather all required forms as listed in the OPT STEM Filing Procedure Form
  2. Drop off forms with OISSS
  3. Meet with OISSS to finalize the application
  4. Mail the application to USCIS using the appropriate address below:

U.S. Postal Service (USPS)                                                                            Fedex, UPS, and DHL
Attn: I-765 C03                                                                                             Attn: I-765 C03 (Box 805373)
P.O. Box 805373                                                                                           131 South Dearborn – 3rd floor
Chicago, IL 60680-5374                                                                                Chicago, IL 60603-5517

The start date of the STEM OPT period must be the day after the post-completion OPT period expires. Students who have submitted a STEM OPT application before their post-completion OPT ends are considered to have their work authorization automatically extended for up to 180 days beyond the EAD expiration date while the STEM OPT application is pending. USCIS will send a new EAD if the STEM OPT application is approved.

MAINTAINING STATUS WHILE ON STEM OPT

OPT Reporting
Students are required to report any changes of their physical living address, legal name, or when a student stops working for an employer or starts working with a new qualifying employer within 10 days of the change. This can be done using the OPT Information and Updates Form as well as the SEVP Portal. Additional information for using the SEVP Portal is available here.

Additionally, students on the STEM OPT extension must make periodic reports regarding their employment information as well as their physical living address during the approved STEM OPT period. These reporting requirements are:

  • 6-month Validation Report
  • 12-month Evaluation Report
  • 18-month Validation Report
  • 24-month Evaluation Report
  • A modified I-983 when there has been a material change to the training plan on file with the DSO
    • Material changes “may include but are not limited to”:
      • Any change of the employer’s IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN)
      • Any reduction in student compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked
      • Any significant decrease in the number of hours of work per week that was specific on the Form I-983
      • Any decrease in hours of work that would reduce the student’s total hours with that employer to less than 20 hours per week
      • Changes to the employer’s commitments or student’s learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983

Travel during STEM OPT
Students on STEM OPT may travel outside of the U.S. and seek reentry in F-1 status as long as they have the following documents for reentry:

  • Valid F-1 Visa
  • I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation and a travel signature no older than 6 months from date of reentry.
  • Valid Passport
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
    • It could be the expired card from regular post-completion OPT OR the STEM OPT EAD
  • A copy of the receipt notice
    • Required only if the STEM OPT application is still pending

OISSS generally recommends that students not travel if their F-1 visa is expired because of concerns regarding the ability for the student to renew the F-1 visa while abroad.