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24- MONTH STEM OPT EXTENSION

STEM Fee Payment: revised 04/16/19

Students interested in applying for STEM OPT must pay a $215 service fee to the International Student Services office to receive assistance with the process. The fee is associated with updating and maintaining your SEVIS record during STEM OPT. To access the fee payment site, please visit Parchment Order Site.Once payment is confirmed, you will be contacted with further instructions.

ABOUT THE STEM EXTENSION

The STEM OPT extension allows some students with science, technology, engineering, or math degrees to apply to extend their post-completion OPT authorization. Students with STEM degrees who are currently in their 12-month OPT period should review the eligibility requirements, application timelines, and application instructions below.


ELIGIBILITY

To qualify for the 24-month STEM OPT extension, you must:

  • Be in F-1 status
  • Be currently working in a period of post-completion OPT
  • Have a bachelor's degree or higher degree in an eligible STEM field
    • Have received your most recent degree from a currently accredited Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school in the U.S. (WTAMU is a SEVP certified school)
  • Have a job offer that meets the following requirements:
    • The job is with an employer enrolled in the USCIS E-Verify program
    • The job offers at least 20 hours of work per week
    • The job will provide formal training and learning objectives directly related to your qualifying STEM degree
  • Be able to complete Form I-983 with your employer. You may request a fillable form from the ISS or download the form and change it to a fillable PDF so the information can be typed. You and your employer should carefully read the information at the following USCIS site - Form I-983 Overview

EMPLOYMENT REQUIREMENTS

 

  • OPT authorizes employment/practical training that is related to your major area of study and commensurate with your level of education.
  • OPT does NOT authorize employment unrelated to your major area of study.
  • It is your responsibility to evaluate how a job relates to your major area of study. The ISS advisers CANNOT review job descriptions to assess if they are related to your studies.
  • ISS advisers will update your SEVIS record with the job information you provide on the OPT Employer Update/STEM form.

 


REQUIREMENTS DURING THE EXTENSION

 

  • You must work at least 20 hours per week for an employer that (a) participates in the EVerify program and (b) agrees to follow all the employer requirements in the 24-month STEM rule.
  • Unlike the 12 month initial OPT period, volunteer/unpaid work or self-employment is not permitted under the 24 month STEM OPT Extension regulation.

 


REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

The U.S. government checks that students with OPT authorization are engaged in practical training experience (work/internships/unpaid professional experience) related to their major area of study. To learn more about STEM reporting requirements, please visit the Study in the States website for reporting and self-evaluation requirements

Please note:
If you do not report your practical training/employment to the ISS and through your personal SEVIS portal, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security may automatically terminate your F-1 SEVIS record within 90 days after the OPT start date as printed on your EAD card. A terminated SEVIS record cancels all OPT authorization and the student loses F1 visa status.

Although you can update your own SEVIS record through the SEVIS portal, please continue to use the OPT Employer Update/STEM Request form provided by the ISS. This allow ISS advisors to double check the information in SEVIS in case you made any data entry mistakes. Our goal is to help you maintain your visa status throughout the OPT period. Please notify the ISS of the following updates:

  • Employment Employment/Practical Training information: Report employment/practical training as soon as you start working. For students approved for the STEM 24 month OPT extension, do not exceed 150 days (Total) of unemployment between the initial OPT period (90 days) and STEM extension period (additional 60 days).
  • Report at 6 months and 18 months - During OPT, you are required to report/verify your home address and employer information at both the 6 months and 18 months point of your valid EAD dates. You can use the ISS OPT update form to do this.
  • Report at 12 months and 24 months - After you are granted an extension, you are required to provide a 12 month progress report using the I-983 form. AT the end of the 24 month extension, you need to submit the final evaluation report using the I-983 form.
  • Employment Changes - Report employment changes within 10 days via the OPT/STEM update form provided by the ISS and the SEVIS portal available to you by SEVIS.
  • Address changes - Report within 10 days of moving via the OPT/STEM update form provided by the ISS and the SEVIS portal available to you by SEVIS.
  • Final departure from the U.S. (if earlier than your OPT end date) Please notify the ISS so we may complete your SEVIS record. Failure to take this action could result in problem with future U.S. visa applications.

LIMITS ON PERIODS OF UNEMPLOYMENT

 

  • If you exceed days of unemployment, or if you forget to report your employment/practical training, there is the potential that your SEVIS record can be autoterminated by SEVP. A terminated SEVIS record cancels all OPT authorization.
  • If you received a 24-month STEM extension, you received 90 days of unemployment allowance during your initial OPT period and are now allowed an additional 60 days of unemployment, for a total of 150 days while on STEM OPT.
  • Each day (including weekends) that you do not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment. There is no grace period after 150 days (total) of unemployment between initial OPT and STEM extension OPT.
  • To avoid violating status, it is recommended that prior to reaching the unemployment limit, you should prepare to transfer to another school, change education level, depart the U.S., or change to a different immigration status.

 


WHEN TO APPLY

Students with a STEM degree and currently in the 12-month OPT period should note the following:

  • USCIS must receive your STEM OPT extension application before your current 12- month OPT EAD card expiration date.
  • Apply as early as 90 days before your current 12-month OPT EAD card expiration date.
  • Take into consideration:
    • ISS needs 7-10 business days for processing your new I-20 with STEM extension authorization
    • Allow sufficient time to mail your documents and application to USCIS

 


HOW TO APPLY

Students with a STEM degree and currently in the initial 12-month OPT period should take the following steps:


STEP 1: Access the Parchment order site and pay the $215 STEM extension service fee. This can be done at the following site - Parchment Order Site.


STEP 2: Read about the STEM Extension process at the Study in the States website.


STEP 3: Report Employment

Report your current employment on the OPT Employer Update/STEM form and through the SEVIS portal. The ISS must review and update your SEVIS record before processing your STEM Extension request. This information must be printed on the new I-20 for the STEM extension request.


STEP 4: Complete and submit the following items to Kristine Combs via email attachment at kcombs@wtamu.edu

  • OPT Employer Update/STEM form
  • Completed I-983 Training Plan - You may save this form as a PDF fillable file or request a PDF version of the I-983 from the ISS. Both you and your employer will need to work together to complete this form. Instructions for completing this form can be found at the Study in the States website under "I-983 Overview"
  • Completed I-765 form
  • Copy of current EAD

Once you have paid the fee and submitted the forms, we will review all documents for accuracy and issue a new I-20 with the STEM recommendation.


STEP 5: Gather all the documents as listed below and mail to the USCIS address listed on the I-764 instruction information

  • Form I-983
  • Form I-765
  • Form I-765 application fee
  • Copy of I-20 form with STEM extension request
  • Copy of most recent I-94 arrival/departure record
  • Copy of Passport bio page
  • Copy of F1 visa page
  • 2 recent passport size photo’s
  • Copy of transcript with degree notation
  • Copy of degree certificate (optional)
  • Copy of all previously issued EAD cards

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Once your application package is received by USCIS, they will issue a receipt notice with a case number and mail this notice to the address on your application. You can go to the following website www.uscis.gov and enter your case number in the CHECK CASE STATUS section of the website. You will now be able to read information on how your case is progressing. Once you receive the new EAD, please provide the ISS with a copy for our records. If you have any questions or concerns, please call the office at 806-651-2073 or email kcombs@wtamu.edu .