STEM Extension OPT

F-1 students who earned bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in certain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are eligible for an extension of post-completion OPT—called STEM Extension OPT.

New STEM regulations took effect on May 10, 2016.  Key changes included:

  • Extended the length of time from 17 months to 24 months
  • Requires employers to complete a Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students”  
  • Allows students who graduated with a non-STEM degree but who received an earlier STEM degree from an accredited institution in the U.S. to apply for the STEM extension

17-Month STEM Extension

If you currently have a 17-month STEM Extension, you may change jobs without filing the new I-983 Training Plan. You are still required to report employment every 6 months using the OPT Reporting Form.

Eligibility for 24-Month STEM Extension

  • Qualifying degree and school
    • Valid F-1 status.
    • Completed a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a STEM degree listed on the STEM Designated Degree Program List and are currently engaged in post-completion OPT.
      • Double major degrees will be considered, but not minor degrees.
  • Qualifying job
    • Job must be paid employment for a minimum of 20 hours per week.
  • Qualifying employer
  • Form I-983 Training Plan
    • Employer must design a training program and sign agreement on Form I-983.
  • Filing deadlines
    • Application must be received by USCIS no earlier than 90 days before the expiration of current post-completion OPT and no later than the expiration of the current post-completion OPT AND no later than 60 days from the date the DSO recommended the STEM OPT Extension on the new I-20, whichever is earlier.

Application Process and Timeline

Because it takes at least 90 days for the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to approve your application, you are strongly encouraged to apply early. NOTE: You can apply up to 90 days before your OPT end date, but no later than the end date of your OPT.

□ STEP #1: Discuss completion of I-983 with employer.

□ STEP #2: Gather all documents for the STEM Extension OPT application package.

□ STEP #3: Scan and email STEM Extension OPT Request Form and Form I-983 (only pages 1-4) to istemopt@ucsd.edu. (Form I-983 Instructions)

□ STEP #4: OPTIONAL: If you would like ISPO to review your documents before submitting them to USCIS, e-mail the OPT STEM Extension Application package to istemopt@ucsd.edu

 □ STEP #5: After receiving the new I-20, mail the STEM Extension OPT application package to USCIS. The application package must be received by USCIS before the current I-766 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card expires. 

□ STEP #6: Continue employment. If the STEM Extension OPT is timely filed, employment is authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 days while the application is pending with USCIS. 8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(C) and 8 CFR 247a.12(c)(6)(iv)

Application Requirements

A complete OPT Application Packet includes:

□  You have reported your most updated personal and employer information by submitting an OPT Reporting Form. You will be prompted to report your entire employment history (all current and previous OPT employers).

□  OPT STEM Extension Request Form

□  Copy of new I-20 with 24 month STEM Extension recommendation

□  I-765 application form (available at www.uscis.gov). NOTE: The I-765 form was updated on 01/17/2017 and is now 2 pages instead of 1 page. USCIS will not accept the old I-765 form after 02/17/2017.

□  I-765 application fee: US$410 check or money order made payable to "US Department of Homeland Security." See "Guidelines for Completing Check" for example. NOTE: Effective 12/23/16, all applications received by USCIS on 12/23/16 and beyond will be subject to an increased application fee of $410.

□  I-983 signed by employer (required after May 10, 2016). Scan and email to istemopt@ucsd.edu.

□  Copy of valid EAD card (Form I-766)

□  Copy of passport biographical page (including photo, birthdate, and expiration date); include passport extension page (if applicable). NOTE: Passport must be valid for at least 6 months in the future.

□  Copy of F-1 visa page or change of status to F-1 approval notice (Form I-797)

□  Copy of I-94 (https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/consent.html)

□  Copy of of diploma showing the level and program of study

□  Two US-style passport photos

 NOTE: USCIS must receive your I-765 application packet before the expiration date on your EAD card. Please plan accordingly.

Guidelines for Completing Check

When mailing your STEM Extension OPT Packet to USCIS, make sure you inclue the US$410 check or money order made payable to "US Department of Homeland Security." Make sure that your name and SEVIS # (N000...) are written at the top of the check or money order. No cash is accepted.

NOTE: Effective 12/23/16, all applications received by USCIS on 12/23/16 and beyond will be subject to an increased application fee of $410.

Guidelines for Completing the Form I-765

Make sure you complete the most recent version of Form I-765 available at www.uscis.gov. USCIS periodically updates this form so they will not accept outdated versions.

  • Document must be typed or completed in black ink
  • At "I am applying for," select "Renewal of my permission to accept employment".
  • Number 1: Use your name as it appears on your I-20. First, write your family name in capital letters. Then, write your first name and middle name.
  • Number 2: List other names you might use or have used on official documents such as an American name or a maiden name.
  • Number 3: Use your mailing address in the USA. This is where your receipt and EAD card will be sent. It can be a friend's or relative's address in the USA. Make sure this is a valid address for the next 3-5 months. The US Postal Service cannot forward your new EAD card. Invalid addresses may delay receipt of your EAD card.
  • Number 4: Write your country of citizenship.
  • Number 5: Write your city and country of birth.
  • Number 6: Write month, day, and year of your birthdate.
  • Number 7: Select "Male" or "Female".
  • Number 8: Select marital status at the time of completing this form.
  • Number 9: Write your Social Security number, not your UC San Diego Campus ID number.
  • Number 10: Write the 11-digit number found on your I-94 card.
  • Number 11: Write "Yes" that you received prior employment authorization from USCIS. If your EAD was granted, write "Granted", the name of the USCIS office, the date it was issued, and attach a copy of your EAD card.
  • Number 12: Write the most recent day of entry into the USA.
  • Number 13: Write the city where you last entered the USA.
  • Number 14 & 15: This is the I-94 status you had when you last entered the USA. It is only different from #15 if you changed your status after entering the USA.
  • Number 16: For STEM Extension OPT, write (c)(3)(C).
  • Number 17: Enter the Degree Name (Major) not the Education Level. Enter employer's name as listed in E-Verify and E-Verify Identification number (a 4-7 digit number).
  • Certification: Sign the form. Keep your signature within the space provided. Your signature will be scanned by USCIS and placed on your EAD card. WHEN SIGNING FORM I-765, DO NOT TOUCH THE TEXT ABOVE OR THE LINE BELOW.

Mailing your OPT Package

You must mail your EAD application packet within 60 days of the OPT recommendation date listed on the I-20, but before the end date of your current EAD card. If your package does not arrive on time, your application may be denied. Please plan accordingly.

Mailing Form I-765 Directly to USCIS

Mail the following items to the appropriate USCIS Service Center:

□ US$410 Application fee

□ Two US-style passport photos (Full Name and SEVIS # printed lightly on back of photos)

□ Original Form I-765

□ Copy of updated I-20 (all pages) with OPT recommendation on page 2 (signed on front page)

□ Copy of passport information page

□ Copy of visa page

□ Copy of I-94 (front and back page)

□ Copy of valid EAD card (I-766)

□ Copy of diploma showing the level and program of study

DO NOT SEND THE I-983 TO USCIS.

If your mailing address is in California:
Mail your entire package via certified mail to:

USCIS
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

NOTE: Do not use the PO Box address listed above if you are sending your package via FEDEX. Express mailings require a physical street address. Send your package via FEDEX to:

USCIS
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

If your mailing address is outside of California:
Send your package to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox Facility depending on the state in which you live. Addresses are listed on the I-765 application instruction form at www.uscis.gov

Pending EAD Approval

I-797 Receipt Notice

USCIS will send a receipt (Form I-797) within 7-10 business days confirming they received your application. Your receipt will have a case number.

Keep the original receipt in a safe place. This is the only way you can track your application at the USCIS Service Centers. You can check the status of your application at www.uscis.gov. Select "Check Case Status", and enter your case number.


Extension of Work Authorization and F-1 Status

Your work authorization and F-1 status is automatically extended for up to 180 days while the STEM extension application is pending. This applies even if your current EAD is expired. Please retain your I-797 receipt notice as documentation of your pending STEM extension application. 8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(C) and 8 CFR 247a.12(c)(6)(iv)

Important note: F-1 OPT STEM extension applicants can only work while the OPT application is pending if the application was received by USCIS before the current EAD expiration date.


Travel Outside the USA and Reentry

DHS clarifies in the preamble to the 24-month rule [81 FR 13103 par. 774] that,

"Students on STEM OPT extensions (including those whose application for a STEM OPT extension is pending) may travel abroad and seek reentry to the United States in F-1 status during the STEM OPT extension period if they have a valid F-1 visa that permits multiple entries and a current Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility endorsed for reentry by the DSO within the last six months. The student's status is determined by CBP upon admission to the United States or through a USCIS adjudication of a change-of-status petition."

EAD Approval

Receiving Your EAD Card

When you receive your EAD card, your employer will request a copy for their records to verify your eligibility to work in the USA. In addition, please submit a copy of your EAD card (front and back) to ISPO by submitting an OPT Reporting Form


Travel Outside the USA and Reentry

Students on OPT are still in F-1 student status. To reenter the USA, you must have:
  • Current passport that is valid up to six months after reentry date
  • Current F-1 visa
  • Current I-20 with valid travel signature on page 2
    NOTE: For post-completion OPT, travel signatures are valid for only six months—unlike one year validity for continuing students.
  • Original EAD card
  • Original job offer letter or verification of employment from employer

NOTE: Students with expired visas may find it extremely difficult to renew their F-1 visa for practical training purposes. Students on OPT are advised to plan carefully before leaving the USA.


SEVIS Reporting Requirements

  • Students with approved STEM Extension OPT are still in F-1 status, so they are required to report certain information about their stay in the USA. While on STEM Extension OPT, students must:
    • Work in a paid position for an E-Verify employer and signed I-983 at least 20 hours per week.
    • Work in a position related to the STEM degree.

Report to the UC San Diego International Center within 10 days of:

  • Changes in legal name
  • Change in mailing and/or residential address
    When you change your name or address, you must update this in TritonLink
  • Changes in employer name and/or address (any change requires that a new I-983 be submitted to istemopt@ucsd.edu.)
  • Loss of employment

Submit a completed OPT Reporting Form every six months starting from the STEM Extension OPT start date and ending when the student's F-1 status ends or STEM Extension OPT ends, whichever is first.

Submit an evaluation form at the end of years 1 and 2. (see I-983 page 6 and 7)

In addition, students pursuing a period of STEM Extension OPT cannot:

  • Work in a paid position for any employer that is not an E-Verify employer.
  • Have more than 150 days of unemployment time during the entire period of post-completion OPT (regular post-completion OPT and STEM Extension OPT).

Change of Employers While on STEM OPT

If you have already submitted an application for a STEM OPT extension, and are changing employers while your application is still pending, you must:

1.  Submit a new I-765 to istemopt@ucsd.edu (must include the company’s e-verify number)

2.  Submit a Final Evaluation from previous employer (last page of I-983) to istemopt@ucsd.edu

3.  Submit a new Training Plan for new employer (first 5 pages of I-983) to istemopt@ucsd.edu

4.  Fill out an OPT Reporting Form directly on our website

If you have already received your EAD card for your STEM Extension, you must:

1.  Submit a Final Evaluation from previous employer (last page of I-983) to istemopt@ucsd.edu

2.  Submit a new Training Plan for new employer (first 4 pages of I-983) to istemopt@ucsd.edu

3.  Fill out an OPT Reporting Form directly on our website

Information for Employers

Reporting Requirements for STEM OPT Students

STEM OPT Reporting Requirements

As part of the F-1 24-month OPT STEM extension regulations, you are required to report your address and employer to us every six months, even if there are no changes. You are also required to submit an Evaluation of Student Progress (last page of I-983) at 12 months and a Final Evaluation (last page of I-983) at 24 months. The SEVIS immigration system is requiring us to confirm this information; failing to complete your 6-month OPT STEM Reporting is not complying with OPT regulations and you may be considered out of status.

 

STEM Reporting Chart:

For easy reference, please follow the chart below for STEM reporting requirements (*all dates are calculated from the start date on your STEM EAD card):

6 months

Submit an Employment Reporting Form

12 months

Submit an Employment Reporting Form and an Evaluation on Student Progress

18 months

Submit an Employment Reporting Form

24 months

Submit an Employment Reporting Form and a Final Evaluation

 

Please Note:

If you experience a change in information (i.e. change of employer, change of address, change of contact information, etc.) in between your 6-month required reporting dates, you must report that to us within 10 calendar days of the change by submitting an Employment Reporting Form, in addition to reporting to us at your 6-month required reporting dates. For a change of employer, please follow the instructions on this page above.

 

How to submit an Employment Reporting Form:

Please fill out the form on our website at the following link, and be sure to upload your current STEM OPT EAD card to the Employment Reporting Form.

 

How to submit an Evaluation:

Please fill out the appropriate evaluation box on the last page of your I-983, and email it to istemopt@ucsd.edu.

 

For questions, please email istemopt@ucsd.edu. ** Include your FULL NAME and PID in ALL e-mail inquiries.**

Contact Us

Questions regarding STEM OPT? Please e-mail istemopt@ucsd.edu. Please allow for 2-5 business days (not including weekends) for an advisor to review your message and respond.