Please note the specific requirements necessary to apply for STEM Extension OPT:
- The earliest your STEM Extension OPT application can reach USCIS is 90 days before the end of your post-completion OPT. The latest your application can reach USCIS is the last day of your post-completion OPT. USCIS maintains that your application should be filed in a "timely manner," so early application is recommended.
- USCIS must receive your STEM Extension application before your post-completion OPT ends.
- Your employer must be registered in the E-Verify program.
- Your employment must be paid.
- You cannot have more than 150 days of unemployment total (combined with your post-completion OPT) while on STEM Extension OPT.
- You must have a bonafide employer-employee relationship with the company providing the training, and this company must complete the Form I-983. If you are getting paid through a staffing agency, the staffing agency cannot complete your Form I-983. For more information, see Study in the States' explanation.
- You must work at least 20 hours per week.
List of Documents Necessary for the STEM OPT Extension Application
When you have readied these documents, please email the ISS Office or visit us during walk-in hours to get in touch with an immigration advisor.
IF YOU LIVE OUT OF TOWN, DO NOT PHYSICALLY MAIL YOUR STEM OPT APPLICATION TO THE INTERNATIONAL STUDENT SERVICES OFFICE. YOU WILL BE MAILING THE APPLICATION TO USCIS YOURSELF, SO ANY APPLICATION MAILED TO ISS WILL BE RETURNED TO YOU. ALL STEM OPT APPLICATIONS WILL BE REVIEWED BY EMAIL, UNLESS YOU PHYSICALLY COME TO THE ISS OFFICE WITH YOUR APPLICATION.
- New STEM OPT I-20. This can be obtained by submitting your Form I-765 and Form I-983 to an international student advisor
- I-765 [pdf]
- Form I-983 [pdf], completed by you and your employer
- Make sure to carefully read Guidance for Completing Form I-983 [pdf] as you complete this form.
- You do not have to complete page 5 upon the initial submission of your STEM OPT application.
- Keep in mind that you must have a bonafide employer-employee relationship with the person who completes this I-983 with you. If you are employed by a staffing company, then the staffing company cannot complete the Form I-983. The company where you physically receive the training must complete the Form I-983. For more information, see Study in the States' explanation.
- G-1145 [pdf]
- Copy of EAD
- Copy of post-completion OPT I-20
- Copy of Passport Photo Page
- Copy of F-1 visa
- Offiicial Transcripts from the Registrar's Office (They do not have to be sealed. You can order official eTranscripts from your Self Service Carolina account--they cost approximately $12. You should have them emailed to yourself. Unofficial advising transcripts are not acceptable, but the official transcripts ordered from Self Service Carolina are acceptable. They will say "printed from certified PDF." This is acceptable.)
- Copy of Diploma
- Check for $410 made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (personal check, money order, or certified check)
- 2 Passport Photos taken within the last 30 days with name and I-94 number written on the back (if you submit old passport photos, your application will be rejected)
Updated reporting requirements for students authorized for a 24-month STEM Extension:
- Every six months: You must confirm with ISS that your SEVIS record is accurate.
- Annually: You are required to complete the Evaluation of Student Progress portion of the Form I-983.
- When STEM OPT ends: you must conduct a second, final assessment, and procure signatures from your employer
- Any changes in employment, including termination, must be reported to ISS within 5 days
Please note that is the student's responsibility to report in a timely manner.
Summary of 24-Month Extension Rule
The new 24-month STEM Extension Rule was effective on May 10, 2016. You can read the new 24-month STEM Extension Rule on the Federal Register Website.
- Allowable Unemployment
- Students on their 24-month STEM Extension OPT have 60 days of allowable unemployment in addition to the 90 days of allowable unemployment on post-completion OPT.
- Reporting Participation
- Students are required to report their OPT participation every 6 months using the STEM OPT Update Form, located in our Forms Library.
- 12 & 24 Month Evaluations
- In addition to an update every 6 months, students must submit a self-evaluation (located on page 5 of the Form I-983 [pdf]) signed by their employers after the first year of STEM OPT, and then again after their second year of STEM OPT.
- Bona-fide Employee/Employer Relationship
- Students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Training Plan, and the employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience. If a third-party company is facilitating your payment and hiring, the third-party company cannot complete the Form I-983. For more information, see Study in the States.
Students and their employers are responsible for completing the Form I-983 [pdf] before the STEM OPT I-20 can be created. You will submit this form to ISS, along with all of your other documents, so that we can review it before creating a new I-20. For more information, please see Study in the States' Students and the Form I-983 page.