opt stem (24-month extension)

OPT STEM Extension Rule

Eligibility Requirements

OPT STEM Application Window

How to Apply

Frequently Asked Questions

Completing the I-765 (STEM Extension)

Helpful Resources

OPT STEM Extension Rule

Certain students who are currently participating in their 12 months of post-completion OPT are allowed to file for an additional 24 months of OPT.

To improve the educational benefit of the STEM OPT extension, the rule requires employers to implement formal training programs to augment students' academic learning through practical experience. This requirement is intended to equip students with a more comprehensive understanding of their selected area of study and broader functionality within that field.  The practical training opportunity must be directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree.

Please see the additional reporting requirements for the 24-month STEM extension.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify, you must be maintaining your F-1 status and fulfill all the following criteria:

  • Approved for your initial allocation of up to12 months of post completion OPT
  • Your major field’s CIP code must appears on the STEM designated degree list. You can find the CIP code for your major in the ‘program of study’ section on page 1 of your I-20.
  • Have an offer of paid employment for at least 20 hours per week from an employer enrolled in E-verify. E-Verify information can be found here.  Students may not be self-employed.
  • The student and employer must complete Form I-983 Training Plan.
  • Kept ISSS updated with both your physical address and employer address.
  • Have not exceeded more than 90 days of unemployment while on OPT.
  • Completed a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral degree in a STEM field, OR have completed all course requirements and working on thesis or dissertation.

OPT STEM Application Window

You must apply within the 90 day window before your current EAD expires. You cannot apply more than 90 days before your OPT is scheduled to expire. In addition, you must submit your OPT STEM Extension application materials to USCIS no later than 60 days after the I-20 with the OPT STEM recommendation was created.

*We recommend applying as early as possible within the 90 day window*

how to apply

Complete Form I-983 Training Plan with your employer. Upload your completed I-983 Training Plan to the “OPT STEM Extension” e-form in iSTART. You will also need to pay the $200 OPT STEM Management Fee before your I-20 can be processed. Click here to make your payment. ISSS will review your I-983 Training Plan for completeness and issue a new STEM OPT I-20. Do not upload a password-protected copy of your Training Plan.

Note: we cannot issue your I-20 if you have not submitted the ‘OPT: Employer Information Update’ e-form. If you have not previously reported your employment, please submit this e-form in addition to the STEM Extension e-form.  

Notes on completing the I-983:

  • Leave DSO (Designated School Official) section blank. ISSS does not assign a DSO until after we have received your request.
  • CIP code: 6 digit code listed beside your major on your I-20
  • SEVIS School Code: Refer to the SCHOOL CODE section on your I-20.
  • University Recommending STEM: You may put ‘University of Illinois – UIUC’.
    If you earned the STEM eligible degree from a previous institution, list it under the ‘Name of School Where STEM degree was earned’.
  • NAICS code: The code can be found here.  Please note the NAICS code for UIUC or any institute of higher education in the US is 611310.
  • Evaluation on Student Progress: This section should not be completed at this time as the self-evaluations are completed AFTER the STEM extension has been granted.
  • Updated Form I-983 Training Plan. A new Form I-983 Training Plan must be executed and submitted to the DSO through the iSTART system within 10 days of:
    • Beginning a new practical training opportunity with a new employer during the 24-month extension
    • Any time there is a “material change” in the terms and conditions of the original I-983. 

*Please make sure all of the necessary signatures are present from both you and your employer*

In your application to USCIS, you should include the following application materials:

  1. Personal Check or money order for $410.00, payable to the “US Department of Homeland Security”.
  2. Two passport-sized photographs. Lightly write your name and SEVIS ID on the back of the photos.  Place the photos in a clear Ziploc-type bag. Take eyeglasses off for photos.
  3. Form I-765. (Please see below for further instructions)
  4. Photocopy of pages 1 & 2 of your new I-20 with the ISSS recommendation for STEM OPT. Make sure you sign your new I-20!
  5. Photocopy of the front and back of your I-94 card or download and print out the electronic admission record from www.cbp.gov/i94.
  6. Photocopy of the identity page and visa page from your passport, including passport expiration date.
  7. Photocopy of the front and back of your last EAD card. Include copy of I-797 Notice of Action, if available. The I-797 is recommended but NOT a required document.
  8. Photocopy of any previous I-20s with work authorization (CPT/OPT) from current level of study.
  9. Photocopy of diploma from UIUC or official UIUC transcript letter showing your conferred degree.  If you do not have a conferred degree, please contact your department to obtain a letter stating that you have finished degree requirements, and only have thesis.

Mailing your OPT STEM Application

Once you have all of your application materials prepared, you should then file to the USCIS Lockbox with jurisdiction over the state you currently live in (either Phoenix or Dallas). The Lockbox will correspond to the mailing address you have listed on your I-765 form.

As long as your application is received by USCIS before the EAD expiration date, you will be allowed to remain in the US and continue employment for 180 days or until a decision is made on your application (whichever is sooner).

Student’s have the option of receiving text message/e-mail notification from USCIS if they include the optional form G-1145: https://www.uscis.gov/g-1145.

Note: Mail by certified mail with a Return Receipt Requested or Express/Overnight with Delivery Confirmation. Make photocopies of all documents you send for your records.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q:  What are the additional reporting obligations?
A:  Six-month validity reports. A student in a period of 24-month STEM OPT must confirm the validity of the following information with the DSO every six months by submitting the ‘6/12/18 month STEM reporting’ e-form through iSTART:

  • Legal name
  • Residential or mailing address
  • Employer name and address
  • Status of current employment/practical training experience

You will receive an e-mail from our Data Manager when it is time to complete this report.
STEM OPT students must also separately report changes to this information within 10 days of the change, including any loss of employment.

Q: Can I change employers with a pending STEM application?
A: Yes, but please contact ISSS to discuss your employment situation.

Q: What does the question “Based on Prior Degree” mean on the form I-983?
A: If you are applying for the OPT STEM Extension using a degree that was conferred previously and not used as the post completion OPT degree, please list that degree.

Q: When should I submit my Self-Evaluations?
A: A student must complete self-evaluations of his or her progress during the course of each "STEM practical training opportunity" his or her STEM OPT period:

  • An initial evaluation within 12 months of the STEM OPT start recorded on Form I-983; and
  • A final evaluation "no later than 10 days following the conclusion of the reporting period or conclusion of his or her practical training opportunity."
  • The SEVIS Help Hub also indicates that a student should submit self-evaluations "at the end of any employment," in addition to "the 12 and 24 month marks from the start date of the STEM extension."

Evaluations must be signed by the student and his or her immediate supervisor, and then submitted to the DSO through the ‘OPT STEM: Annual Self-Evaluation or Updating I-983’ e-form.

The school whose DSO recommended the student's STEM OPT extension is responsible for ensuring that SEVP has access upon request to each student evaluation (in either electronic or hard copy), beginning 30 days after the document is submitted to the DSO and for three years following the completion of each STEM practical training opportunity.

*You do not have to submit a self-evaluation when requesting the initial STEM OPT I-20*

Q: How can I report my employment information?
A:  OPT applicants are now only allowed a total of 90 days unemployment during their initial 12 month OPT allocation, and 150 days during their 36 month total OPT allocation (post-completion OPT and STEM OPT). It is therefore vital that you keep ISSS updated with your employer information to avoid being erroneously viewed as unemployed. This can be done through iStart at https://sunapsis.illinois.edu within 10 days of the change. Please note that if you accrue 90 days or more of consecutive unemployment, your F-1 status will be automatically terminated in the SEVIS system.

If you have an active netID and password, login under Full Client Services. If your password is expired, login under Limited Services using your UIN, Date of Birth and a temporary PIN number that you can have emailed to yourself.

Q: If my employer has obtained an H-1B for me, effective this coming October, do I still need the extension?
A:  The H-1B cap-gap extension states that the duration of your F-1 status and work authorization will be automatically extended for a student on OPT, who is the beneficiary of a timely filed Change of Status to H-1B petition requesting an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. This applies to all students on OPT, not just STEM students. The extension of duration of status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf. This will allow the continuation of employment between the expiry of OPT and the start of the H-1B without filing for the 24 month extension for all students on OPT.

Q: I was previously on a STEM extension as a Bachelor’s student but now I am finishing another STEM degree at the Master’s level, can I apply for another STEM extension?
A: Yes. F-1 students who subsequently enroll in a new academic program and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level are eligible for one additional 24-month STEM OPT extension. (2 STEM Extensions lifetime).

Q: Can I apply for the OPT STEM Extension based on a prior degree?
A: The rule permits an F-1 student participating in a 12-month period of post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree to use a prior eligible STEM degree from a U.S. institution of higher education as a basis to apply for a STEM OPT extension, as long as both degrees were received from currently accredited educational institutions.

Q: How do I know if I need to update my I-983 Training Plan?
A: Please refer to the information provided from the Study in the States website indicating when a material change to Form I-983 needs to be reported to a DSO:

“Both STEM OPT students and employers are obligated to report to the DSO material changes to, or material deviations from, the student’s formal training plan. 

Material changes or deviations may include, but are not limited to:

  • Any change of the employer’s Employer Identification Number, (i.e., the company’s Federal Tax ID number) resulting from a change in the employer’s ownership or structure.
  • 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.”

Q: I am currently working on OPT at UIUC but I did not receive my degree from The University of Illinois. What should I do?
A: Employees of the University on OPT from another institution should contact the International Office at their home institution that recommended post-completion OPT for further information on applying for the STEM Extension.

Q: Can I travel outside of the U.S. if my original EAD expires and my 24-month extension is still pending?
A: Yes, please contact ISSS for details.

Completing the I-765 (STEM Extension)

  • Skip top box, below the box mark I am applying for...  Renewal of my permission to accept employment.
  • Questions 1- 8: Basic biographical information.
  • Question 9a: Select ‘YES’ based on the Social Security Administration issuing a social security number to you.
  • Question 9b: Input Social Security Number.
  • Question 10: Select ‘NO’ as you will not need a new social security card.
  • Question 11: Select ‘NO’. Skip to Question 14.
  • NOTE: Skip question 12 and 13 as you should already have a social security number if you are applying for the STEM extension. If you do not have a social security number at this time, please contact ISSS.
  • Question 14:  Input the 11 digit “Admission number” at of the top of your I-94.
  • Question 15: Choose “YES”. Which USCIS office? Service Center that approved your application, found under ‘Card#’ of EAD card. “Dates” – Start date of EAD card. Results “Granted”.
  • Question 16 & 17:  This information can be found on your entry visa stamp and I-94 record.  
  • Question 18: F1- Student
  • Question 19: F1- Student
  • Question 20:  ( C ) ( 3 ) ( C )
  • Question 21: Enter your degree level and CIP code. Make sure you enter the employer’s E-verify code (normally 4-6 digits) and NOT the 9-digit EIN.
  • Question 22-23 No information is required in this section.

*Make sure you sign in the “Applicant’s Signature” section*

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