STEM Optional Practical Training Extension
Qualified students enrolled in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines may be allowed a 24-month STEM extension. However, students applying must already have an employer. The employment must be paid and the employer must be E-verified.
It is recommended that the STEM Optional Practical Training extension is requested 90 days before the current OPT end date. Students must be employed and the employer must be registered on E-Verify. Both the student and employer must fill out the Form I-983 training plan together.
To see if your degree qualifies for the STEM OPT extension, check the following form:
The application process for STEM OPT extension
- Fill out the I-983 training plan with your e-verify employer
- Fill out the I-765 employment authorization form
- When you are ready to apply, upload your documents to the ISSS Portal for STEM OPT Application Request. An ISSS advisor will contact you after reviewing your documents, will issue the STEM OPT I-20 and will set an appointment with you to put the application packet together.
- The student is responsible for mailing the packet to USCIS in a timely manner.
Resources for STEM OPT
While the STEM OPT application is pending
- The 24-month STEM extension period begins automatically the day after the initial OPT ends.
- Students are authorized to continue working for 180 days after the initial OPT end date, as long as the STEM OPT application was properly filed on time.
- Together, the employer and the student have to update the I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification).
STEM OPT Employment Reporting Requirements
Throughout the STEM OPT extension period, the student and employer must comply with the reporting, training, supervision, evaluation, wage, documentation, and other obligations specified in the regulations and on Form I-983.
- Validation report every 6 months. Make a validation report to the ISS office every six months starting from the date the extension begins. The validation should confirm the accuracy of your name; your physical and mailing addresses; your employer’s name and address; and the status of your employment. This six-month validation report is due to ISS within 10 business days of each reporting date.
- Annual self-evaluation of training. You must complete the “Evaluation of Student Progress” portion of Form I-983 within 12 months of the listed STEM OPT start date. At the end of the STEM OPT extension, you must conduct a second, final self-assessment. Once the evaluations are complete, the student must collect signatures from their employer and submit the form I- 983 to the ISSS advisor, who will upload the copies to SEVIS and will keep it in the student’s physical record.
- Maintain your employment. You may not accrue more than 150 days of unemployment during your entire 36-month
(12 months standard OPT and 24 months STEM OPT) OPT period.
- Revised Form I-983 if there are material changes. Report to ISSS any material changes to or material deviations from your Form I-983 Training Plan by providing with a revised Form I-983 within 5 days of the change.
- Change or addition of employers. If you wish to change employers, the new employer must be enrolled in E-Verify and employ you for at least 20 hours per week, and the job must directly relate to your STEM degree. If you begin a new job with a new employer less than 10 days after leaving your prior employer, you simply submit a new Form I-983 to ISSS. If the period of time between employers is longer than 10 days, you must first report the loss of employment to ISSS within 10 days of stopping work, and later submit a new Form I-983 within 10 days of starting your new employment.
- Report termination of employment. Both you and your employer have a separate obligation to notify ISS of any termination of your employment. Your employer must notify us within 5 business days of the termination, and you must notify us within 10 days of the termination.
- Report changes to your name and address. You must notify ISS within 10 days of any change to your legal name or your mailing or physical addresses.
- Copy of your EAD. Make sure ISS has on file a photocopy of the front and back of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card).