24-Month STEM OPT Extension

ATTENTION!

Students on the 24-month STEM OPT can click the button below to

  • Report change to a new STEM E-Verified employer
  • Report material changes to my current Form I-983
  • Submit the 6-month, 12-month, or 18-month STEM OPT validation report
  • Submit self-evaluationsReport loss of employment and submit self-evaluation

Report STEM OPT employment

STEM OPT Extension Facts

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math. STEM OPT extension is an employment benefit that grants an 24-month extension in addition to a currently approved Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization. 
 
To apply for this extension, you must request an I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation by submitting your STEM OPT request and supporting documentation to OIP. OIP will issue you a STEM OPT requested I-20, and you must mail your application to USCIS for approval.
 
Detailed information for students and employers can also be found on the Study in the States' STEM OPT Hub.  
To qualify for the 24-month extension, you must:
  1. Currently be in a valid period of Post-OPT and have not exceeded 90-days of unemployment.
  2. Completed degree in a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) approved STEM field. You may check the CIP code on your I-20 to see if you qualify.
  3. Work at least 20 hours per week.
  4. Work for an employer who meets all the requirements listed below in the “STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities" section below.
The 2016 STEM OPT 24-Month Extension Final Rule require STEM OPT appliants to submit Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT StudentsAll STEM OPT employers must clearly articulate the STEM OPT students learning objectives and affirm the employer’s commitment to helping the student achieve those objectives. 
 
Form I-983 must be signed by the STEM OPT employers and STEM OPT students.  Students are required to submit modified Form I-983 to OIP for any material changes throughout their STEM OPT period.

If you had never applied for the STEM extension for the lower STEM based degree, you can qualify for a STEM extension as long as you are eligible for post-completion OPT for the new non-STEM based degree.

For example: If you are currently participating in OPT based on an MBA but you previously received a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, you may be able to apply for a STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor’s degree as long as it is from an accredited U.S. college or university and the STEM OPT employment is directly related to your bachelor’s degree in Mathematics.

You are permitted to have two STEM OPT extensions in your lifetime based on two separate STEM eligible degrees. However, the STEM extensions cannot be consecutive or stacked together - this means you CAN NOT extend your current 24 month STEM OPT for another 24 month based on your prior STEM degree. 

For example: If you receive a 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor’s degree in engineering and you later earn a master’s degree in engineering, you may apply for an additional 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your master’s degree. 

Your reporting requirements:
 
  • Report change of U.S. address, phone number and email address at SEVP Portal and SF State Student Center. 
     
  • Submit the following report to OIP via our reporting form at http://oip.sfsu.edu/optreporting:
    • Three validation reports at 6 months, 12 months, and 18 months of your STEM OPT period.
    • Two Self evaluations: This is page 5 of the Form I-983. First self-evaluation due at the end of the first year, and final self-evaluation at the end of STEM OPT. 
  • Reporting which required an updated Form I-983 to be submitted at http://oip.sfsu.edu/optreporting:
    • Change of employer: Submit a new Form I-983 completed and signed by your new employer.
    • Loss of employment: Submit a final evaluation (Page 5 of Form I-983) within 10 days of your last day at work.
    • Change of status (i.e. change status from F-1 to H-1B):  Submit a final evaluation (Page 5 of Form I-983) within 10 days of the effective date of your new status
In addition to the 90-day maximum period of unemployment during the initial period of Post-OPT, you are allowed to have an additional 60 days (for an aggregate of 150 days) after you obtain STEM OPT.

STEM OPT Employers

Employers play a key role in maintaining and strengthening the integrity of the STEM OPT extension program.  For the completed STEM employer requirement, visit STEM OPT Hub.

  • Complete and sign the employer sections of the Form I-983, Training Plan For STEM OPT Student.
  • Enrolled in E-Verify and remain a participant in good standing with E-Verify, as determined by USCIS.
  • Has an Employment Identification Number (EIN) used for tax purposes.
  • Has sufficient resources and personnel available to provide you the appropriate training in connection with the specified opportunity at the location(s) specified in the Form I-983. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may, at its discretion, conduct a site visit of the employer to ensure that STEM OPT program requirements are being met.
  • Maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with you.
  • Provide you a training opportunity that is commensurate with those of similarly situated U.S. workers in duties, hours, and compensation.
Staffing and Temporary Agencies: Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will review on a case-by-case basis whether the student will be a bona fide employee of the employer signing the Form I-983, and verify that the employer that signs the Form I-983 is the same entity that employs you and provides the practical training experience.
 
Volunteer/Unpaid Position: You are not  allowed to use a volunteer opportunity or unpaid position as a basis for the extension.
 
Self-Employment: The purpose of STEM OPT is to provide training for you.  You may be employed by start-up business but you cannot be your own supervisor.  You must have a supervisor who oversees your work and provide you training that is indicated on the Form I-983.

Applying for STEM OPT

You must request a new I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation from the F-1 International Student Advisors at OIP.  You will then file the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization along with the photocopies of this new I-20 and other supporting documentation to USCIS.  
 

The standard processing time for USCIS to approve and mail your EAD is 90 days, but it could be longer.  See current USCIS Service Center Form processing time.

You may apply for STEM OPT as early as 90 days before your OPT end date. USCIS must receive your application and have you logged into the system before your OPT end date. 
 
Your start date would be the day after your OPT end date, and the end date would be 2 years after your STEM OPT start date. For example, if your OPT ends on June 3, 2019, your STEM OPT start date would be June 4, 2019, and your STEM OPT end date would be June 3, 2021. 
Submit the following documents to OIP. Do not staple your documents and do not print double sided:
 
  1. A blank envelope (at least 9 inches by 11 inches) – the envelope must be big enough to fit all your OPT application materials. You will be using this envelope to mail your OPT application to USCIS.
  2. TYPED, completed and signed STEM OPT Request Form (Excel file, 45KB)
  3. TYPED, completed and signed Form I-765 (Fillable PDF, 7 pages, 432KB)
  4. TYPED, completed and signed Form I-983
  5. Original or photocopy of your most current I-20.  OIP will return this back to you.
  6. Photocopy of the identification page(s) in your passport.  The photocopy must include name, current expiration date, and photo.
  7. I-94 admissions verification printout from http://www.cbp.gov/i94.
  8. Photocopies of your current EAD
An F-1 International Student Advisor will review your application materials and issue a new I-20.  If eligible, you will be issued a new I-20 with the STEM OPT Recommendation notated on page 2. 
 
Pick up your new I-20, the application materials, and an STEM OPT application mailing instruction (PDF, 240KB) at the OIP front desk within 5 business days (excluding weekends and holidays).  Follow the instruction on the mailing instruction and mail your application to USCIS.
 
You must mail your application within 30 days of the new I-20 issuance date.  USCIS will reject your OPT application if they receive your application 30 days after the I-20 issuance date.  If you didn't mail the OPT application within 30 days of the new I-20 issuance date, you must contact OIP and request a new I-20.

Attention

Keep your STEM OPT Request Form, Form I-983, and original I-20 with you.  Do not send them to USCIS.

 

 

Mail the following documentation to USCIS: 

  • Form I-765 (all 7 pages)
  • Photos: Two U.S. passport-style photographs (See USCIS photo requirement, PDF, 106KB).  Write your full name and I-94 number gently at back of your photos and place the photos in a small envelope.
  • Filing Fee $410: Fee can be paid by personal check. Make check payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”. Your photos and the personal check should be paper clipped on top of the Form I-765.
  • Photocopies of the I-20: DO NOT MAIL THE ORIGINAL I-20 to USCIS.  Make photocopies of your new I-20 and sign it in BLUE ink. Sign under the “Student Attestation” section at the bottom of page 1.
  • I-94: Print from http://www.cbp.gov/i94 or attach photocopies of both the front and back sides of your I-94 card.
  • Photocopy of your passport: The photocopy must include name, current expiration date, and your photo.
  • Photocopy of your degree: Unofficial transcripts or copy of the diploma showing the level and program of study.

Optional:

USCIS Mailing Address:

If your address is IN California, mail the above documents to:

For U.S. Postal Service: Private Courier (FedEx, DHL or UPS)
USCIS, PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
(OIP recommends that you send your application by U.S. Postal Services' Priority Mail - additional fee will apply)

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

 
If your address is OUTSIDE California, visit USCIS Phoenix and Dallas Lockbox facilities page for the appropriate USCIS lockbox to send your OPT application.

Application Sent! What's Next?

You can continue to work up to 180 days after your current EAD end date if USCIS has received your STEM OPT extension application before your current EAD end date.

The standard processing time for USCIS to approve and mail your EAD is 90 days, but it could be longer. See current USCIS Service Center Form processing time.

I-797C Notice

USCIS will mail a paper I-797C noticeto your address after they received your fee and OPT application.  Your receipt number (usually starts from or “YSC”) is printed on the I-797C notice. The “Received Date” on the notice is the date when the USCIS begins processing your application.  If you do not receive any I-797C notice within 3 weeks after mailing your application, request the receipt letter to be sent to you by using the USCIS online tools.
 

Request for Evidence (RFE)

If there is a problem with your application, USCIS will send you “Request for Evidence (RFE)” to ask more supporting documentation.  An RFE does not mean that your application has been rejected.  It simply means that you need to provide the missing documents before your EAD can be issued.  USCIS give applicant 30 days to respond to the RFE.  Your OPT application will be denied if you fail to respond to the RFE.  Unfortunately, receiving an RFE will delay the processing of your STEM OPT application.  
 
OIP discourage you to change STEM OPT employer while your STEM OPT application is pending.

Approval Notice and Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

USCIS will mail you an I-797 Notice of Approval (It is different from I-797C notice) letter and EAD card at your mailing address.  These can come separately or at the same time.  Do not start working until you receive the EAD, and the “Valid Date” on the EAD has started.

You can check the status of your OPT application by entering your receipt number under “Check your case status” at http://www.uscis.gov/.

Do not leave the U.S. if your current EAD has ended, and your STEM OPT extension application is still pending. 

If your STEM OPT application is pending, but your current OPT hasn't ended, see “Travel While on Post-Completion OPT” information.

Working Under STEM OPT

To maintain F-1 status you must:

Stay employed

You must work at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verified employer to be considered maintaining F-1 status. 

Fulfill reporting responsibilities

Report your address change at your online Student Center at SF State and SEVP Portal.  Report your employment change by submitting Form I-983 to OIP at http://oip.sfsu.edu/optreporting

Obtain travel signature on the I-20

Request travel signature on the 2nd page of your I-20 before you leave the US.  You will also need a valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport in order to return to the U.S.  Your travel signature can not be more than 6 months old.  

You can only update your personal contact information and view your employment information at SEVP Portal .  You will need to submit an modified I-983 to OIP if you have any employer related changes at http://oip.sfsu.edu/optreporting.  OIP will review your Form I-983 and update your SEVIS record.  You will see the changes reflect on the SEVP Portal.

You can change your U.S. address, phone and email address at SEVP Portal.  However, since you are still holding an I-20 from SF State, you should also update these information at SF State Student Center.

You can receive free tax assistance (Only if your total income is below $54,000) from the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) at San Francisco State University.

After STEM OPT Ends

You will have 60-day grace period after the “Valid Until” date on the EAD.  You must leave the U.S. or transfer to another school to continue your F-1 status within the grace period.

If you wish to pursue study at a different U.S. institution, follow the I-20 Transfer Procedures and request your SEVIS record/I-20 to be transferred to your new school.

If your status is changed before your current OPT end date, you must submit a final evaluation (Page 5 of Form I-983) at http://oip.sfsu.edu/optreporting:within 10 days of the effective date of your new status.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

You can continue to work up to 180 days after your current EAD end date if USCIS has received your STEM OPT extension application before your current EAD end date.

Yes, if you are currently on STEM OPT.  Submit a modified Form I-983 signed by your new employer to OIP for review.  

OIP discourage you to change STEM OPT employer while your STEM OPT application is pending.

Do not enroll in any academic courses: You can only take recreational/avocational classes (Yoga or Wine tasting classes…etc) while on Post-OPT.  You cannot enroll in any academic degree nor certificate programs while on Post-OPT. 
If you plan to obtain a higher degree and your academic program will start before your OPT end date, you must request your SEVIS record to be transferred to your new school.  Your OPT will end on the date SF State transfer your SEVIS record out.
The information contained in this website is provided as a service to the international students, faculty, staff, employees and administrators of San Francisco State University, and does not constitute legal advice on any immigration, tax or other matter. We try to provide useful information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site or any associated site. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Neither San Francisco State University nor the Office of International Programs is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

Last updated: June 2019