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OPT STEM Resources

Eligibility and When to File 24 month Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Eligible Degrees

The instructions below are provided to help you determine eligibility for the 24 month extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT) for STEM eligible students and provide practical guidance on when to apply and what to expect with the application process. You are encouraged to read the information carefully. More information on the 24 month extension of OPT for STEM eligible students can be found at the additional resources link on this page.

  • Eligibility Requirements

    ¨  Applicant has completed a degree in a STEM eligible field from a U.S. accredited institution with SEVP certification within the last 10 years and has not already utilized this degree to apply for a OPT STEM extension,

     

    ¨  Or applicant is currently engaged in a STEM eligible Master’s or PhD program, has completed all degree-required coursework and lacks only the thesis or dissertation to complete the degree;

     

    ¨  Applicant is in an Active period of post-completion OPT at the time of requesting the OPT extension for STEM recommendation on the I-20 or is currently engaged in the 17 month extension of OPT with an Employment Authorization Document expiration date on or after October 8, 2016;

     

    ¨  Applicant files the I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with required fee to USCIS to request the STEM extension prior to the completion of the Active Post-Completion OPT period, or if currently engaged in the 17 month OPT extension, the applicant files the I-765 before August 8, 2016;

     

    ¨  Applicant is working in a paid position for an E-Verified employer;

     

    ¨  Applicant has filed a completed I-983 with all attestations and supporting documentation to International Services to request the 24 Month OPT Extension (or 7 additional months extension);

     

    ¨  The EAD expiration date provides eligibility for filing of the request (see eligibility and timing considerations in table on page 2)

  • Timing Considerations for F-1 Visa Holders Currently Engaged in 12 Month Post Completion OPT

     

    F-1 Visa Holder Engaged in 12 month Post

    Completion OPT

    When To Apply

    What to Expect

    EAD Expires Before May 10, 2016

    Apply for the 17 month OPT Extension before the EAD Expiration Date; must take additional steps to apply for 24 month extension after May 10, 2016

    Can continue working for same employer in same position for up to 180 days while awaiting the new EAD. If not approved for 17 month extension before May 10, 2016, the applicant will receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) and must submit an updated I-20 with 24 month extension after May 10, 2016 and before the deadline on the RFE. If approved for 17 month extension before May 10, must apply for 7 month extension after May 10, 2016 and before August 8, 2016.

    EAD Expires After May 10, 2016

    Apply for OPT extension after May 10, 2016 and before the EAD Expiration Date

    Can continue working for up to 180 days for the same employer in the same position while awaiting the new EAD.

  • Timing Considerations for F-1 Visa Currently Engaged in 17 month OPT STEM Extension

     

    F-1 Visa Holder Engaged in 17 Month OPT STEM Extension

    Eligibility to Apply

    When to Apply

    What to Expect

    EAD Expires before May 10, 2016

    Not Eligible to Apply

     

     

    *See additional options on page 6

    Not Eligible to Apply

     

     

     

     

    Can remain inside the U.S., but not working for 60 days after the expiration of the EAD. Must depart on or before the 60th day.

    EAD Expires between May 10, 2016 and October 7, 2016

    Not Eligible to Apply

     

     

    *See additional options on page 6

    Not Eligible to Apply

    Can remain inside the U.S., but not working, for 60 days after the expiration of the EAD. Must depart on or before the 60th day.

    EAD Expires after October 7, 2016

    Eligible to Apply

    Must apply after May 10, 2016, but before August 8, 2016.

    Can continue working for same employer in same position for up to 180 days while awaiting the new EAD.

  • Detailed Explanation of Charts Above

    There are three OPT extension types for STEM which are available including:

    1.  17 month OPT extension for STEM (before May 10, 2016)
    2.  24 month OPT extension for STEM (after May 10, 2016)
    3.  7 month OPT extension for STEM (after May 10, 2016)

     

    In order to apply for any of the extensions referenced above, the applicant must be engaged in an Active period of OPT. The applicant will apply for one of the three types of extension listed below based on the type of OPT they are currently engaged in and the timing of the expiration of their Employment Authorization Document. Please determine the type of OPT you are currently engaged in and the timing of your request for more details on which type of extension to request. 

  • F-1 Visa Holders Currently Engaged in Post-Completion OPT

    The 12 month Post Completion OPT end date on the EAD is before May 10, 2016:

    In order to be eligible for the STEM extension, F-1 visa holders in an active 12 month period of Optional Practical Training, must meet the following requirements:

     

    • Complete all degree-required coursework in a STEM eligible field
    • File the I-765 request for STEM extension before the 12 month OPT end date listed on the Employment Authorization Document
    • If applying for STEM extension based on a previous degree type, must not have already utilized a STEM extension period for the program of study for which they are applying for the extension, must have completed the degree within the last 10 years at an SEVP certified U.S. accredited institution. The practical training experience must also directly related to the previously obtained degree for which the extension is requested.

     

    Applications received after the 12 month post-completion OPT end date will be denied by the USCIS. Please note because you will be required to file the I-765 Request for Employment Authorization for the OPT STEM extension prior to May 10, 2016 you will receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS and will be required to request a new I-20 with a 24 month STEM extension recommendation after May 10, 2016. You must respond to the RFE by filing the updated I-20 with the 24 month extension recommendation to USCIS by the RFE deadline.

     

    The 12 month Post Completion OPT end date is after May 10, 2016:

    You are encouraged to apply for your I-20 requesting the 24 month OPT extension after May 10, 2016 and must file no later than the OPT end date listed on your Employment Authorization Document. Please note that if you request the I-20 prior to May 10, you will receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS which will likely delay your STEM extension request and will require you to request a new I-20 from International Services to comply with the RFE.

  • F-1 Visa Holders Currently Engaged in 17 Month OPT Extension for STEM

    If Your 17 Month STEM Extension Expires Before May 10, 2016:

    Unfortunately, the 2016 OPT rule does not extend eligibility for the 24 month OPT Extension for STEM to individuals with an 17 Month OPT Extension for STEM end date prior to May 10, 2016. You will not be eligible to receive an I-20 with a recommendation for the 24 month extension.

    If Your 17 Month STEM Extension Expires Between May 10, 2016 and October 7, 2016:

    In order to be eligible to apply for the additional 7 month OPT Extension for STEM, F-1 visa holders in an active period of 17 month OPT extension for STEM must have 150 days remaining on the Employment Authorization Document at the time of application. F-1 visa holders with Employment Authorization Documents expiring between May 10, 2016 and October 7, 2016 will not have 150 days remaining on the EAD and will unfortunately be ineligible to receive an I-20 recommending the 24 month OPT extension.

    If Your 17 Month STEM Extension Expires After October 8, 2016:

    In order to be eligible to apply for the additional 7 month OPT Extension for STEM, F-1 visa holders in an active period of 17 month OPT extension for STEM must have 150 days remaining on the Employment Authorization Document at the time of application.In order to request the additional 7 months extension of the OPT, you must request a new I-20 after May 10, 2016 and file a new I-765 request for the additional 7 months within 60 days of the DSO authorization. You must submit the I-765 request for the additional 7 months prior to August 8, 2016 in order to be eligible to receive the additional 7 months extension. 

  • Additional Resources

    You may have additional questions about whether or not you meet the eligibility requirements or want further details on the requirements, we recommend the following resources for more information:

    - Study in the States:

       https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub

    NAFSA STEM OPT:

      http://www.nafsa.org/Find_Resources/Supporting_International_Students_And_Scholars/ISS_Issues/STEM_OPT_Rulemaking/

    USCIS 24 Month Extension Guidance:

       https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/students-and-exchange-visitors/students-and-employment/stem-opt

    Planning Tools:

      Study in the States has developed several tools to help identify the eligibility, filing deadlines, and information needed to apply for the STEM extension.

       https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/sevis-help-hub/learn-more/tools 

     

    Other Options

     

    If you are ineligible for the additional 7 months of extension and are interested in continuing to work within the U.S., you might consider speaking to your employer about H1-B sponsorship. For more information on the H1-B visa program, please visit: https://www.uscis.gov/eir/visa-guide/h-1b-specialty-occupation/h-1b-visa

  • How to Apply

    Once you have determined you are eligible for the STEM extension, you can begin the application process up to 90 days prior to your post-completion OPT end date. Please note, once your OPT end date has passed, you are then no longer eligible to apply for the STEM extension.

    1. Work with your employer to complete the I-983 Form. Need help completing the form- here are step-by-step instructions.

    **DSO Name & Contact Info: Bryony Higgins, bryonyh@clemson.edu, 864-656-3614, 108 Long Hall, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, 29634

    **If you work for a staffing agency and are unsure who should complete your I-983 form, please review this SEVP guidance

    2. Submit your Request for OPT STEM Extension through the iStart Student Portal. You will be required to provide your STEM employer's information, upload a copy of your I-983 Form, and upload copy of your 24 month extension OPT Fee Receipt. 

    3. Your Request for OPT STEM Extension will then be reviewed by an advisor within our office. If you are found eligible for the extension, within 5 business days, a new I-20 Form will be issued recommending you for the STEM extension. You will be notified via email that the new I-20 Form has been issued and provided a scanned copy of the I-20 Form.

    4. You will then file your application with USCIS within 60 days of the advisor's recommendation. (To determine which USCIS processing center you should file with, click here) Below are a list of documents you should include with your STEM application to USCIS

    • A check or money order for $410.00 payable to the Department of Homeland Security.
    • Completed Form G-1145 (if you wish to receive electronic notification from USCIS)
    • Completed Form I-765
      • #15 should be checked yes, and you will need to list the OPT start date printed on your EAD card
      • # 20 should be entered as (c)(3)(C)
      • # 21 enter your CIP code from your I-20 form under the "Degree" section
    • Copy of OPT STEM Extension I-20 Form within 60 days of issuance from the IS office
    • A copy of your official or unofficial transcript and degree certificate showing the level and program of study
    • Photocopy of form I-94  (retrievable from http://www.cbp.gov/I94)
    • Photocopy of passport and visa
    • Two U.S. passport-style photos (print your name and I-94 number on back of photos)
    • A copy of your previously approved OPT EAD card (both sides)
    • Job offer letter for your current employer as well as any proof of employment while on OPT. This can be pay-stubs, job offer letters, or letters from the employer stating your dates of employment

    5. If you file your extension application on time and your OPT period expires while your extension application is pending, USCIS automatically extends your employment authorization for 180 days. 

    If you have any questions regarding this process, please contact the office during walk-in/call-in advising hours: 1-4 p.m. Monday-Friday.

  • Reporting Requirements

    Clemson University F-1 visa holders on OPT are required to report address and employment updates within 10 days of any change during Optional Practical Training. 

    In order to maintain your legal F-1 status, you must regularly check in with International Services throughout the duration of the STEM extension to validate Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) information and report changes made to the your training plan listed in the I-983 Form. These changes and validations can be made by submitting your OPT 24 Month STEM Employment Update e-form.

    Validating SEVIS Information

    Every six months a student must work with their DSO to confirm that the student's record in SEVIS accurately reflects their current circumstance. Even if you have reported your information within the 6 month period, you are still required to validate your employment and address information every 6 months after the start date of your STEM extension.

    Annual Self-Evaluations

    Each STEM OPT student must submit to their DSO an annual self-evaluation about the progress of the training experience. Along with the evaluation, International Services will ask that you upload your receipt of the second OPT Fee installment of $200.

    Material Changes to an Existing Form I-983

    Each STEM OPT student must report to their DSO any material changes to, or material deviations from, the student's formal training plan.

    Changing Employers

    When a STEM OPT student changes employers, the new employer must be enrolled in E-Verify before the student begins to work for pay. The student must also submit a new Form I-983 to their DSO within 10 days of starting the new practical training opportunity.

    Unemployment

    STEM OPT students must report the termination of their practical training experience within 10 days of the event.

    Federal regulations limit unemployment while on Optional Practical Training. Students who are granted a 24-month STEM OPT extension are allowed an additional 60 days of unemployment beyond the initial post-completion OPT limit. This means that students who receive an approved 24-month STEM OPT extension will receive a total of 150 days of allowable unemployment, 90 days during the initial period of post-completion OPT plus an additional 60 days during the extension period. If you have exceeded the allowed unemployment days you must depart the U.S. immediately or face penalties for visa overstay. Effective December 4, students who have accrued more than 90 days of unemployment during post completion OPT (more than 120 days of unemployment during STEM extension OPT period) are considered out of F-1 status and their SEVIS record will automatically terminate.

    For more information on reporting requirements, please review Study in the States.