F-1 students who completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a STEM field and are currently engaged in Post-Completion OPT may apply for a 24 Month STEM Extension of their OPT if they have a job or job offer from an E- Verify employer.
In order to qualify for a STEM extension, you must meet the following requirements:
General Requirements: You must...
- Be currently participating in a 12-month period of approved, Post-Completion OPT and apply in advance of the current OPT’s expiration date.
- Submit your materials to USCIS before the expiration of your current OPT, but no sooner than 90 days before your expiration date.
- Complete Form I-983 STEM Training Plan with your employer (more details provided in the "Application Procedures" section below).
- Be otherwise properly maintaining F-1 status:
Degree Requirements: You must...
- Have completed a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) as identified by the Department of Homeland Security. See the list of STEM-designated majors here on the
Study in the States website.
NOTE: A qualifying degree that you have earned prior to your most recent degree may be considered for the STEM extension.
Employer and Employment Requirements: You must...
- Be employed at the time of your application.
- Work for, or have accepted employment with, an employer enrolled in the E- Verify Program (view more information about E-Verify here). Please check with the employer’s HR department to confirm if the company is enrolled.
- Conduct your work at your employer's worksite and receive all of your practical training experience from the employer that signs your Form I-983 STEM Training Plan. This means that remote work or work primarily conducted at a client's worksite could be denied by USCIS. Read more about the employer eligiblity requirements on the USCIS webstie (visit here) or on the Study in the States website (visit here).
If you are still unsure of your eligibility, please contact an OIA advisor for additional guidance.
If you are eligible for STEM based on the criteria above, follow these steps to begin the STEM extension request process:
OIA has created a
STEM OPT date calculator for you to plan your STEM extension dates accordingly. Pay close attention to the earliest and latest dates of submission. Keep in mind that government deadlines are not flexible.
Students who apply for OPT STEM extension are required to submit a STEM training plan using Form I-983. Specific information about how to complete Form I-983 along with a downloadable blank copy can be found on the
Study in the States website. You will submit your completed Form I-983 when you complete Step 2 below.
Your employer is required to complete and sign the appropriate sections of your I-983. Therefore, you should provide this form to your employer
at least two weeks ahead of your OIA request deadline. Please see the STEM OPT date calculator in Step 1 for additional informaiton.
DO NOT complete or sign page 5 when requesting STEM for the first time. This page is only for your 12-month and 24-month STEM participation reports, which you will complete at a later time.
The OIA application consists of two parts. Once you complete this step, you will receive a new STEM OPT endorsed I-20 from OIA, which is required to be included with the materials that you mail to USCIS. If you are away from Mount Pleasant, you can choose to have this mailed to you when you complete the employer update form in step 2b below.NOTE:
DO NOT complete this step more than 90 days before your current OPT end date. This date is indicated on the STEM OPT date calculator in Step 1 as the "earliest date to submit materials to OIA."Step 3a - Submit OIA's STEM OPT Extension Agreement:
This will ask you to indicate your agreement and understanding to the terms of your STEM extension. Click the button below now to complete that step:
Step 3b- Submit OPT Employer Update with Completed Form I-983:
You are required to submit an OPT employer update for your STEM employer with a completed Form I-983 training plan. You are required to do this even if you have previously reported your current employer while on 12 month OPT. All employer updates for STEM, including this first one, require a completed Form I-983 (see step 1 above for more information)
Once all steps are complete, your I-20 will be mailed or ready for pick-up within 2 to 3 business days.
Once you receive your new STEM OPT endorsed I-20 from OIA, mail the following documents to USCIS within 30 days of the signature date on the new I-20. Place the documents in the order specified below. Print single-sided only and DO NOT staple.
- Completed USCIS Form I-765 (download blank copy here) with the eligibility code in Item #20:
(c)(3)(C) for the 24-month STEM extension and appropriate degree in Item #21 (note that you should list your degree as it appears on your I-20, which may differ from what the degree/program is called at CMU); make sure that you do not sign your I-765 until you receive your STEM I-20 from OIA.
The signature date on your I-765 cannot be earlier than the advisor signature date on the STEM I-20.
- STEM OPT endorsed I-20 from OIA
- Photocopies of previous I-20(s)
- Photocopy of current EAD card
- Photocopy of CMU transcript or diploma stating STEM degree (request official transcript here)
- Printout of online I-94 (download here)
- Copy of your passport information page
- Copy of visa page from passport
- Check or Money Order for $410 payable to Department of Homeland Security.
- Two recent passport style photographs (see specifications here); write your name and I-94 number on the back of your photographs
- Optional: Employment letter including job description and how the employment relates to the STEM field
Mail the required documents to the appropriate USCIS Service Center depending on where you currently live. Refer to the
USCIS lockbox mailing table for additional guidance.
You will receive a letter of receipt within 10 to 30 days from the USCIS Service Center. It may take up to 90 days to obtain the EAD (Employment Authorization) card.
Frequently Asked Questions
Just like on 12-month OPT, you are required to report address changes and employer changes to OIA within 10 days. The process for reporting this is the same (see the
OPT reporting information here
). Each time you change employers while on STEM OPT, you are required to complete a new STEM training plan using Form I-983.
Yes. Here are summary of differences between STEM and 12-month OPT:
- While on STEM, you are required to work full time (20 hours each week or more) for an E-Verify employer. This means that you can no longer be self-employed or count volunteer work as employment.
- Work that is conducted primarily away from your employer's worksite may not be allowed.
- You must submit
Form I-983 each time you report a new employer.
- You must report your STEM participation every six months. Instructions are provided below.
- You must submit a completed final evaluation on page 5 of Form I-983 whenever you leave an employer. Instructions are provided below.
- Your allowable days of unemployment increases from 90 days to 120 days. Any days of unemployment that you may have had during your 12-month OPT period count against this 120-day allowance.
You are permitted to have no more than 120 days of unemployment throughout your entire 36 month period of post completion OPT once your STEM extension is approved. Any unemployment that you may have accured while on 12-month OPT counts against the 120-day maximum. Another way to look at this is that you are given 30 additional days of unemployment while on STEM, which are added to any remaining days of unemployment that you might still have from your 12-month OPT period.
Your STEM extension starts one day after your 12-month OPT expires and ends 24 months after the start date. This is true regardless of your USCIS approval date. See the OPT STEM Extension start and end date calculator for additional guidance on your specific start and end dates.
USCIS strongly advises against this since your I-765 names a specific employer. If you must change employers while your I-765 is processing, please contact your OIA advisor for specific guidance.
In early 2018, USCIS updated its website to indicate the following (see full text here):
- The employer that signs Form I-983 STEM Training Plan must be the employer that provides the practical training experience.
- Employer clients or customers cannot supervise a student's training experience.
- A STEM OPT employer may not assign its training responsibility to a non-employer third party (e.g. a client or customer).
- A student's training experience must take place on-site at the employer's place of business or worksite. If the worksite differs from the employer's place of business or worksite, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) must be able to access the work location.
- A student's work location may not be the business or worksite of the employer's client or the employer's customers.
- An employer cannot fulfill its training obligation by having the student make periodic visits, calls, emails, etc. to the employer while the student actually works at a client location.
OIA will issue a STEM I-20 so long as your employer properly completes and signs Form I-983. However, we cannot guarantee and we are not confident that your STEM extension will be approved when your primary worksite will be a client of your employer. OIA bears no responsibility in the event of a denial.
Submitting STEM Participation Reports
While on STEM OPT, you are required to submit participation reports every six months. These reports are due within 10 days of the required reporting period (6 months, 12 month, 18 months, and 24 months after your start date). To complete your participation reports, please complete the following:
- Go to
https://oia-intl.cmich.edu and log in with your CMU Global ID and password.
- Click on
STEM OPT Extension under the
Records heading on your home screen.
- Choose the correct report to submit depending on the reporting period (6, 12, 18, or 24 months) and complete the required questions.
Please note: the 12 and 24 month reports require completion of the appropriate self-evaluation located on page 5 of Form I-983. You will be asked to upload a copy of your evaluation when you complete the reports for these reporting periods. The 6-month and 18-month reports do not require this self-evaluation component.
Submitting Final Evaluation When Changing Employers
SEVP requires students to submit a final evaluation when leaving an employer, even if the student's period of STEM OPT has not yet expired. To complete and submit this:
- Download Form I-983 and complete the final evaluation section of page 5. This does require a signature from the employer you are leaving or have already left. You do not need to complete any other part of the I-983 for this submission.
- Go to https://oia-intl.cmich.edu and log in with your CMU GLobal ID and password.
- Click on STEM OPT Extension under the Records heading on your home screen.
- Under Questionnaires, click on Submit Final Evaluation Here When Changing Employers. Complete the required questions, upload your Form I-983 where directed, and click Submit at the bottom. An OIA advisor will be notified of this and indicate your completion accordingly.