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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. If you have any questions regarding the information below, we encourage you to contact International Services.

  • Eligibility Requirements

    The STEM OPT extension is a 24-month period of temporary training that directly relates to an F-1 student's program of study in an approved STEM field. Eligible F-1 students with STEM degrees who finish their program of study and participate in an initial period of regular post-completion OPT (often for 12 months) have the option to apply for a STEM OPT extension. While a student may be eligible to participate in post-completion OPT once per education level, students may only apply for the STEM OPT extension twice over the course of their entire academic career. Students may not apply for STEM OPT extensions during the 60-day grace period following an initial period of regular post-completion OPT. 

    To qualify for the 24 Month OPT STEM extension, individuals must meet the following criteria:

    - Applicant must be in active F-1 status.

    - Applicant must be working on post-completion OPT and can apply up to 90 days prior to their post-completion OPT end date. Applicants are not eligible to apply for the 24 month OPT STEM extension once their post-completion OPT end date has passed.

    - Applicant must have 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 an 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 must work in a paid position at least 20 hours per week for an employer enrolled in USCIS's E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.

    - Applicant and their employer must complete the I-983 Training Plan with all attestations and supporting documentation and be able to show that they have a bona fide employer-employee relationship.

    If you have additional questions regarding your eligibility, please review the Additional Resources section below. You are also encouraged to contact International Services with any questions regarding your OPT STEM eligibility. Once you've determined your eligibility, please review the How to Apply instructions below to learn the process of applying for the STEM extension.

  • Additional Resources

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

    - Study in the Stateshttps://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub

    NAFSA STEM OPThttp://www.nafsa.org/Find_Resources/Supporting_International_Students_And_Scholars/ISS_Issues/STEM_OPT_Rulemaking/

    USCIS 24 Month Extension Guidancehttps://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/students-and-exchange-visitors/students-and-employment/stem-opt

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

    Other Options

    If you are ineligible for the STEM 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. If you need help completing the form, please review these 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

    **The evaluations on page 5 are to be completed while on the STEM extension. Please review the reporting requirement section below to determine when the evaluations are due.

    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 within 5 business days. If you are found eligible for the extension, 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.

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

    • A check or money order for the I-765 filing fee made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (please review USCIS's website for the fee amount)
    • Completed Form G-1145 (if you wish to receive electronic notification from USCIS)
    • Completed Form I-765
      • Your signature should be completed in black ink by hand-not electronically- and you should try to fit the signature within the box
    • Copy of OPT STEM Extension I-20 Form within 60 days of issuance from the IS office. Your request should not be submitted to USCIS more than 90 days prior to the expiration of your post-completion OPT end date as it will be rejected by USCIS.
    • A copy of your official or unofficial transcript and degree certificate showing the level and program of study
    • Photocopy of form I-94
    • Photocopy of valid passport and U.S. F-1 visa (If you are a Canadian citizen, you may enclose a copy of your citizenship card or a birth certificate & a government-issued photo ID rather than a copy of the 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 authorization. This can include: pay-stubs, job offer letters, or letters from the employer stating your dates of employment. It is not required that you submit all of these materials, but we highly encourage you to submit any documentation that can be used as support that you have maintained status and have not exceeded 90 days of unemployment.

    5. If USCIS receives and receipts your STEM extension packet prior to your post-completion OPT end date, you can continue working for up to 180 days while your STEM extension is pending. Most employers require that you provide some type of documentation or receipt to show that your STEM extension is pending. We encourage you to consider this when considering applying for the STEM extension. 

    If you have any questions regarding this process, please contact the office.

  • 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 your training plan listed in the I-983 Form. All changes, updates, validations can be made by submitting the 24 Month STEM OPT Employment Update e-form.

    Validating SEVIS Information

    After the start of their STEM extension, students must validate their employer and contact information every six months from the start of the STEM extension authorization. Even if the student has reported a change within the 6 month period, students are still required and expected to validate their information via the 24 Month STEM OPT Employment Update e-form.

    Evaluations on Page 5

    There are two evaluations to complete while on the OPT STEM extension: 1. Evaluation on Student Progress and 2. Final Evaluation on Student Progress.

    The first evaluation is to be completed after one year on the STEM extension. Students are expected to submit their evaluation, validate their employer information, and upload a receipt of the second OPT Fee installment of $200 to International Services via the 24 Month STEM OPT Employment Update e-form in order to meet this reporting requirement.

    The second and final evaluation is to be completed at the end of your employment or at the end of your second year while on the STEM extension. Students are expected to submit their evaluation and validate their employer information to International Services via the 24 Month STEM OPT Employment Update e-form in order to meet this reporting requirement.

    Material Changes to an Existing Form I-983

    Students must report any material changes to, or material deviations from, the student's formal training plan to International Services within 10 days of the change. Students should complete the I-983 form with the new training plan, obtain the signatures from their employer, and submit to IS via the 24 Month STEM OPT Employment Update e-form.

    Changing Employers

    When a STEM OPT student changes employers while on the STEM extension, the student should ensure that the position and employer meet the requirements of the STEM extension program as outlined above.

    Prior to leaving the employer, the student should complete a final evaluation with their supervisor reflective of the time they were employed. You will be asked to upload this evaluation along with your new I-983 form with the new employer when reporting your employment change via the 24 Month STEM OPT Employment Update e-form within 10 days of starting the new employment.

    *Note, it is risky to change employers while your STEM extension is pending. We would not advise that you change employers while the STEM extension is pending. If you still wish to change employers while the STEM request is pending, please complete the following steps:

      1. Submit your 24 Month STEM OPT Employment Update e-form within the iStart Student portal with your updated employment information.
      2. Once our office has reviewed the update and processed the information within the system, we will print a new I-20 Form for you with the updated employer’s information.
      3. You will need to send a letter to USCIS explaining the reason for the update to your application along with a copy of the new I-20 Form. Your letter should include your receipt number so that USCIS can match the new documentation with your currently pending case

    Unemployment

    STEM OPT students are required to report the termination of their practical training experience within 10 days of the event regardless of whether or not new employment has been obtained.

    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. Students who have accrued more than 90 days of unemployment during post completion OPT or more than 150 days of unemployment during STEM extension OPT period are considered out of F-1 status and their SEVIS record will automatically terminate.

    It is important students understand their new reporting requirements as failure to do can result in ineligibility for future benefits or termination of status. If you have any questions related to the new reporting requirements, please contact our office and we will be happy to assist you.