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STEM OPT Extension

Submitting Your OPT and STEM OPT Application

On April 1, 2024, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) increased I-765 application fees for OPT and the STEM OPT extension for any request made on or after that day. In addition, the increased fees are higher for the mail filing versus the online filing process. SISS recommends students use the USCIS online filing process as described below; whenever possible.

On February 26, 2024, USCIS increased the fees for the premium processing option for any premium processing request made on or after that day.
More information about the increased fees and the amounts can be found here:

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STEM OPT Overview

Students in F-1 status who are currently on OPT can extend their work authorization an additional 24-months total if they meet certain criteria. Students who extend are required to maintain their status under the new regulations.  Official Department of Homeland Security guidance on the new STEM rules can be used as a resource if needed.

Eligibility 

Students currently authorized for Optional Practical Training (OPT) who also:

  • Completed a program of study in a STEM eligible field
  • Are currently working, or have a job offer to work, in a position directly related to the degree obtained
  • Have an employer who participates in the USCIS E-Verify system
  • Have used 90 days or less of their unemployment eligibility
  • Submit a complete I-983 training plan to SISS via the iGlobal STEM OPT Extension Request at least four weeks before the First Year of OPT EAD end date. Any STEM OPT request submitted in iGlobal less than four weeks before their current First Year of OPT EAD end date may have a much higher rate of denial.
  • Submit a complete request to USCIS prior to the expiration of your current OPT period
  • Employment on STEM OPT can be virtual/remote. Can not be self-employed.

Every major has a numerical code, known as a CIP code.  You can find the CIP code for your major on page 1 of your I-20 (for example: 11.0701 Computer Science).  You can check if your major field’s CIP code appears on the STEM-designated degree list.


How to Apply 

You must apply in the 90-day window before your current EAD expires. 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 up to 180 days while a decision is made on your application. You cannot apply more than 90 days before your OPT is scheduled to expire.

The optimal time to begin your STEM OPT extension request in iGlobal is approximately 4-6 weeks before your current OPT end date. We caution against waiting less than 4 weeks before your current OPT end date to start your STEM OPT request in iGlobal as this decreases the amount of time to respond to a USCIS Request for Evidence or rejection notification.

Determine your customized timeline by downloading the STEM OPT Extension Calculator.

Step 1: Attend the STEM OPT Workshop

Step 2: Submit an iGlobal request to SISS for a STEM OPT Extension recommendation I-20

  • Request an STEM OPT Extension recommendation I-20 through iGlobal.
Example of how to file a STEM OPT Extension request in iGlobal
  • Complete all required e-forms in iGlobal, which includes uploading: 
  • While you wait for SISS to issue your STEM OPT recommendation I-20, you may begin preparing the STEM OPT Extension Application documents listed in Step 3. Do not proceed to Step 4 until you receive your STEM OPT Extension recommendation I-20 from SISS.  
  • For E-verify information, please see FAQs at the bottom of the page.

Step 3: Prepare your STEM OPT Extension Application Documents 

  • Check the current filing fee before submitting. Check or money order payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security if you are mailing your request to USCIS.  Credit or debit card or bank account information if you will complete the online request (do not pay the online filing fee and submit your online USCIS OPT until your iGlobal request has been approved and you have your OPT recommendation I-20 from your SISS advisor).
  • Optional (highly recommended): Form G-1145  to receive an e-mail and/or a text message that your application has been accepted and the receipt number you will use to track your case (this form is only for the mail in application to USCIS and not for the Online USICS STEM OPT Extension submission).
  • Original I-765 application form (if mailing your request to USCIS).
    • The physical signature MUST fit inside the box and be signed with black ink. Electronic signatures are not acceptable.
  • Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record. 
    • Option 1: A printout of your electronicForm I-94.
    • Option 2: Photocopy of both front and back of a paper I-94 record stapled in the passport (rare). 
  • A copy of your first year of OPT EAD (front and back).
  • Photocopy of passport biographical information, showing passport expiration date.
  • A copy of your visa stamp page in your passport.
    • Although this is not an official requirement yet, student applications have been rejected because a copy of the visa stamp has not been included.
  • Photocopy of the new I-20 with the STEM OPT Extension recommendation (all pages). Be sure to sign and date the Student Attestation section.  
  • A copy of your STEM-eligible diploma or official copies of your transcripts showing you completed the degree you are applying for the STEM OPT extension with. You can request diplomas and/or official transcripts from the Office of the University Registrar (OUR). 
  • Two photos.
    • Must have been taken within the past 30 days on a white background, 2” x 2”.
    • See photo guidelines. 
    • If mailing your OPT request to USCIS, print your full name, SEVIS ID, and date of birth lightly in pencil or felt pen on the back of the photos.
  • Do not include the I-983 training plan in your USCIS submission.
  • If you are submitting your STEM OPT Extension request via mail to USCIS your OPT packet documents should be in the order shown above and follow the USCIS guidelines about how to arrange your documents for mailing your OPT packet.

 

Optional: Schedule an appointment with a Tier 1 Advisor for a STEM OPT Extension Packet Review to have your documents reviewed before mailing your application or completing the online submission to USCIS.

Step 4: Submit your STEM OPT Extension Request to USCIS

  • After receiving your STEM OPT Extension recommendation I-20, submit your application to USCIS as soon as possible. USCIS must receive your application before your current first year of OPT EAD end date and within 60 days of the date SISS recommended your STEM OPT Extension (refer to the “Date Issued” on page 1 of your I-20). 
    • If completing the online STEM OPT Extension submission to USCIS follow part 4 in these detailed instructions (only after your iGlobal STEM OPT Extension request has been approved and you have received your STEM OPT Extension recommendation I-20).
    • If submitting your STEM OPT Extension request via mail, mail the OPT packet to USCIS:
      • Use an express mail courier (Federal Express, UPS, DHL, etc.) and keep your tracking number to confirm delivery.  Mail to the USCIS address below:
        USCIS
        Attn: I-765 C03 (Box 805373)
        131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
        Chicago, IL 60603-5517
  • As of April 2023, USCIS is allowing Premium Processing requests for OPT submissions and USCIS states they will take adjudicative action on an OPT request within 30 days of submission when Premium Processing is requested. Premium Processing is a substantial fee in addition to the USCIS I-765 processing fee. Premium processing is optional and can be requested at the time of OPT application submission to USCIS or any point after until USCIS has adjudicated the request. Please note that any I-765 application and Premium Processing fees may be forfeited if USCIS rejects or declines your OPT request.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many days of unemployment do I receive under STEM OPT?
  • F-1 students with OPT are allowed a total of 90 days unemployment during their initial 12 months of OPT. Any unused days from the first 12 months are rolled over into STEM OPT, and students with STEM OPT receive an additional 60 days of allowed unemployment. It is vital that you keep SISS updated with your employer information to avoid being erroneously viewed as unemployed. Consider tracking your unemployment days using the unemployment calculator.
  • Can I continue to work while my 24-month OPT STEM Extension is pending with USCIS?
  • If the I-765 is properly and timely filed, the student's standard post-completion OPT EAD is considered automatically extended pursuant to 8 CFR 274a.12(b)(6)(iv), for up to 180 days while the STEM OPT extension EAD application is pending. 
  • What if I do not have a Social Security Number?
  • Students who are being paid for work in the United States must obtain a Social Security Number (SSN). You can request a SSN using the I-765. If you already filed your I-765 and did not request a SSN, you must go in-person to a Social Security Administration office to apply for a SSN.
  • Can I travel during STEM OPT?
  • When returning, please present the following items to the Border Patrol Officer:

    1. Passport (not expiring in the next 6 months)

    2. Unexpired F-1 visa

    3. I-20 signed for travel in the past 6 months and showing your current employment information

    4. Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card

    5. Job offer letter or letter from your employer on letterhead stating that you will be expected to return to work on mm/dd/yyyy following your travel.  Make sure to include contact information for your employer/supervisor.  If the travel is authorized by your employer, you do not count unemployment dates during your period of travel.

    If you plan to renew your F-1 visa during travel, also prepare:

    1. Proof of employment with funds sufficient to cover living expenses (such as job offer, letter from employer, pay stubs received, and/or bank statement)

    2. A copy of your I-983 (may be requested)

    3. Any other documentation asked for by the embassy/consulate.

    Travel while STEM OPT is pending is not advised.

  • If my employer has obtained an H-1B for me, effective this coming October, do I still need the extension?
  • If my employer has obtained an H-1B for me, effective this coming October, do I still need the extension? 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 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.

    Students are strongly encouraged to stay in close communication with their petitioning employer during the Cap-Gap extension period for status updates on the H-1B petition processing. 

    Students can request a Cap-Gap I-20 with evidence of an H-1B petition selected for processing by USCIS through iGlobal (log on through Limited Services). 

  • How do I change my address with USCIS?
  • Change your address through your USCIS online account.
  • Can I change employers while on STEM OPT?
  • Yes, you can change employers on STEM OPT. If you are changing STEM OPT employers, you will need to go into iGlobal and submit a STEM OPT New Employer report noting the new employer and uploading a new I-983 training plan report for the new employment and then complete a STEM OPT Employment Change report noting the end of employment with any previous employers and uploading a completed final evaluation from page 5 of the I-983 training plan with that employer.
  • Can I change employers while STEM OPT is pending?
  • Yes. You may change employers while STEM OPT is pending. Please contact your official SISS International Student Advisor for details.
  • What NAICS code, EIN and E-Verify number do I use for the I-983?
  • What NAICS code, EIN and E-Verify number do I use for the I-983?

    NAICS code: 61131

    Employer Name: University of California

    EIN: 94-3067788

    This information is ONLY for F-1 students on STEM OPT who are working for UC Davis

    E-Verify: 1219005

  • What if my EAD is never delivered, is lost or stolen, or is there is an error on the EAD?
  • If your EAD was not delivered or is lost or stolen, please follow these instructions https://ucdavis.box.com/s/rsfewy68t2t6uicnebznu2mycf0e621o 
    If your EAD arrives and you notice an error on the card, please follow these instructions https://ucdavis.box.com/s/bopupvxncqdmibxdx0tge7uwqxl9p0rt