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We encourage students to watch the STEM OPT Video Series about the STEM OPT Extension to learn more about the benefit of their F-1 visa.
When to Apply
You can request your STEM OPT Extension I-20 from ISS as early as 90 days before your current 12-month OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card expiration date. USCIS must receive your STEM OPT extension application before your current 12-month OPT EAD Card expiration date.
- Have F-1 visa status.
- Currently working in a period of post-completion OPT.
- Have a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in an eligible STEM field (pdf).
- Have a paid job offer that meets the following requirements:
- Employer enrolled in the USCIS E-Verify program.
- Job offers at least 20 hours of work per week.
- Job is a paid position.
- The job will provide formal training and learning objectives directly related to your qualifying STEM degree.
- Be able to complete the I-983 Training Plan with your employer.
- Note: Students may participate in the STEM OPT extension program twice. To learn more about STEM OPT eligibility, please review Study in the States.
Steps to Apply
Students must request a STEM OPT I-20 from UW ISS BEFORE applying for STEM OPT with USCIS.
Step 1. Submit your STEM OPT I20 request
The request is made via your profile in MyISSS.
- Ensure you have been maintaining F-1 status. Confirm that your 12-month OPT information is up-to-date. Check the SEVP Portal. If anything is out of date please update that or submit a SEVP portal assistance request via the MyISSS portal.
- Pay the $200 STEM Post-Completion Training fee and save a copy of the receipt/payment confirmation.
- Complete the I-983 with your employer. (review ISS Tips for Form I-983)
NOTE: The STEM OPT Extension I-20 request option is not accessible until 100 days before your 12-month OPT expires.
Request STEM OPT Extension I-20 through MyISSS.
Step 2. Receive your STEM OPT I-20 with OPT recommendation
You MUST receive a signed OPT I-20 showing the STEM OPT recommendation from a DSO BEFORE submitting your OPT application to USCIS.
Step 3. Submit your I-765 application to USCIS
Note: There have been issues with EAD cards being sent to incorrect addresses through the USCIS online application. Please read our post about the issue to ensure your EAD Card is sent to the correct address.
You are automatically granted a 6-month extension as soon as you receive a receipt for your STEM OPT Extension application from UCSIS, meaning that you can continue working as soon as USCIS has received your STEM OPT extension application.
Completing the Form I-765
ISS no longer reviews I-765s for students, but we do have guides for students to use when applying with USCIS.
After Submitting Application to USCIS
You can continue working & travel
Your work authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 days while the 24-month STEM OPT extension application is pending. The USCIS receipt notice is documentation of the extended authorization. You can travel during your pending or approved STEM OPT extension period.
If your employer needs information about what documents to collect as proof of extended work authorization, please refer to them to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services I-9 Central
Changing Employer While your Extension is Pending
You can change employers while your 24-month STEM OPT extension application is pending with USCIS.
If you change employers, report the change to ISS through the ‘Report New Employment’ request via the MyISSS portal. In the “comments” section, explain that your STEM OPT extension application is still pending with USCIS. Regulations state that employment changes must be reported within 10 days.
Your ISS adviser will provide a copy of an updated I-20 directly to USCIS.
RFEs, Returned, or Denied Applications
If you receive a “Request for Evidence” (RFE), returned application, or denied application, notify ISS immediately. Contact ISS immediately. It may be necessary for ISS to provide a new I-20 before you can respond to the USCIS inquiry or resubmit your STEM OPT application.
Congratulations! Your STEM OPT is approved. Now what?
- Learn the STEM OPT reporting requirements (different from 12-month OPT).
- Mark your calendar for your deadlines to report to ISS – these can be found in your SEVP Portal.
- A new I-20 is not required to show STEM OPT approval.
- Keep your EAD Card in a safe place. ISS does not need a copy of your EAD.
- Read all the information on this page about the STEM OPT period.
STEM Reporting Responsibilities
- Submit an address and employer validation report to ISS every 6 months from the start of your STEM OPT.
- Submit a self-evaluation (page 5 of Form I-983) every 12 months, or when you leave a position. Review the Change In Employment section for details.
- Refer to the SEVP Portal for your reporting obligations and deadlines. From your due date, ISS has an additional 30 days to submit your validation report to the government.
Submit a STEM OPT Validation Report through MyISSS.
Change in Employment
While on STEM OPT, you must report any change in employment within 10 days of the change.
- New employment: submit a new Form I-983.
- End in employment: submit the final evaluation (page 5 of the Form I-983 (pdf)).
- Material Changes: you must report the following:
- Change of employer’s EIN.
- Significant reduction in compensation.
- Significant decrease in hours per week.
- Changes to your training plan.
- Change in Immigration Status: submit the final evaluation (page 5 of the Form I-983 (pdf)).
- Departing the U.S.: submit the final evaluation (page 5 of the Form I-983 (pdf)).
Report Your Change in Employment through MyISSS.
What Kind of Work is Allowed?
The government has new guidance about acceptable types of activity during the 24-month STEM Extension that is substantially different than the past guidance for the STEM Extension. All employers must be part of the e-Verify program.
You can work for multiple employers as long as:
- You work for each employer at least 20 hours per week
- Each employer fully complies with the requirements of the 24-month STEM rule
The Department of Homeland Security has also commented that students may be employed by new start-up businesses as long as all regulatory requirements are met, including that the employer:
- Adheres to the training plan requirements
- Remains in good standing with E-Verify
- Will provide compensation to the STEM OPT student commensurate to that provided to similarly situated U.S. workers. For instance, alternative compensation may be allowed during a STEM OPT extension as long as the F-1 student can show that he or she is a bona fide employee and that his or her compensation, including any ownership interest in the employer entity (such as stock options), is commensurate with the compensation provided to other similarly situated U.S. workers.
- Has the resources to comply with the proposed training plan
Self-Employment, Work for Hire, and Employment through Agencies/Consulting Firms
The government has commented:
“There are several aspects of the STEM OPT extension that do not make it apt for certain types of arrangements, including multiple employer arrangements, sole proprietorships, employment through ‘temp’ agencies, employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, and other relationships that do not constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship… Accordingly, DHS clarifies that students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the (I-983) Training Plan, and the employer that signs the (I-983) Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.”
“Additionally, guidance from the USCIS states: (3rd parties)…may not, however, assign or contract out students to work for one of their customers or clients, and assign, or otherwise delegate, their training responsibilities to the customer or client.”
Volunteer and Uncompensated Activity
The government has commented:
“DHS carefully considered whether to allow volunteer positions to qualify under the STEM OPT extension program but has decided against permitting such arrangements. … Requiring commensurate compensation for F-1 students — which does not include no compensation — protects both international and domestic students and ensures that the qualifying STEM positions are substantive opportunities. . . .”
f you believe your STEM OPT employer is not complying with the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, the Form I-983 instructions, and the completed Form I-983 on file with ISS, you may:
- Contact the Student and Exchange Visitor Program at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by following the instructions found on ICE.gov.
- Report violations through this Homeland Security Investigations tip submission form
What happens if your EAD card has incorrect information on it?
- Wait to receive a job offer so you can show your EAD to your employer. The correction process may require you to mail the incorrect EAD to USCIS. Ideally, you should wait to request the correction after your employer has copied your EAD for hiring purposes.
- To correct the EAD, submit a request through the USCIS website to correct a typographic error.
Lost EAD Card
Sometimes students lose their EAD cards either in the process of receiving it or later on. Your EAD is the official document that allows you to work on OPT or STEM OPT so you should take action to get a replacement if it is lost.
If your EAD is lost in the mail:
- Submit a report to USPS about your lost document.
- Open an inquiry with USCIS.
- File a new I-765 with new fee for a replacement card.
If you lose your EAD card:
- File a new I-765 with new fee for a replacement card.
Students who do not exceed 150 days of unemployment and report employment to the ISS as required are automatically granted a 60-day grace period after the end date listed on the EAD.
Within this 60-day grace period, you have the following options:
- Depart the U.S. Once you leave the U.S. (including trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies and STEM OPT period, you are not eligible to reenter with your current I-20. The grace period is meant for travel within the states and preparation to depart the U.S.
- Request a new I-20 if you will continue at the UW in a new degree program. If you are an undergraduate and will begin graduate studies, your new I-20 will be issued by Graduate Admissions.
- Transfer your SEVIS record to a new school.
- Apply to change status to another visa category.
Frequently Asked Questions
The CIP code is printed next to your major on page one of your I-20. The code is 6 digits long (xx.xxxx). Once you find your code, you can consult the entire list of individual eligible CIP codes for the STEM extension available on the SEVP website.
Log into MyUW. Click on “Academics” in the left-side navigation bar, then click on “Unofficial Transcript.” Scroll to the bottom of the transcript and the date you earned your degree will be listed.
Yes, if one of the degrees is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List and any job worked while on the extension is related to your STEM degree.
Yes. Your work authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 days while the 24-month STEM extension application is pending. There is no interim documentation of the extended authorization. If your employer needs information about what documents to collect as proof of extended work authorization, please refer to them to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services I-9 Central.
If you have properly filed for a 24-month STEM extension, the period of extension starts the day after the expiration of your original OPT period.
Yes, your EAD is considered extended for up to 180 days while your STEM OPT extension application is pending with USCIS. During that period, you can travel outside the U.S. even if your previous EAD is expired.
Yes, you can change employers while your 24-month STEM OPT extension application is pending with USCIS.
If you change employers, report the change to ISS through our change in employment report via your MyISSS portal. In the “comments” section, explain that your STEM OPT extension application is still pending with USCIS. Regulations state that employment changes must be reported within 10 days.