STEM OPT Extension

24-month STEM Extension

Definition of STEM OPT

Practical work experience in your field of study, typically after completion of a degree for a maximum of 36 months (12 months of “regular” OPT with a 24-month extension possible).

Eligibility Criteria for the 24-month OPT extension

  • Students who have already been approved for 12 months of post-completion OPT; and
  • Who have earned a bachelor’s or higher degree in a field included on the U.S. Government’s list of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields within the last 10 years; and
  • Who are employed in a paid job directly related to his/her field of study; and
  • Who are working for an employer that is enrolled in the U.S. Government’s E-Verify program.
Please Note: All four of the above criteria must be met in order for a student to be eligible for the 24-month OPT extension.

List of degrees in STEM fields

If a student earned a degree in a field that appears on the U.S. government’s official list of STEM fields, he/she may be eligible for the 24-month OPT extension. In order to verify that your degree is on this list, look at the code listed under “Primary Major” on page one of your I-20 and then look for that code in the CIP code column of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security STEM Majors List.

E-Verify

E-Verify is a database system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration. It allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly-hired employees. Your current employer MUST be enrolled in E-verify and provide you with the E-verify ID number.

Application time frame for the 24-month OPT extension

Students must contact ISSS for the 24-month OPT extension prior to the expiration of the first 12 months of “regular” OPT. The application must be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of the first OPT period in order to be properly (timely) filed. USCIS will not accept I-765 applications for STEM extensions any earlier than 90 days before the current EAD expiration date.

Work authorization status while STEM extension is pending: If you successfully file the application for your 24-month OPT extension prior to the expiration of your current 12-month OPT period EAD, you may continue employment even if your previous EAD card is expired until your OPT extension is processed or until 180 days has passed, whichever is sooner.

Reporting requirements during the 24-month extension

Students approved for the 24-month OPT extension have additional reporting requirements in order to maintain their status and work authorization. Students must report to ISSS within 10 days if there is any change of:

  • Legal name
  • Residential or mailing address
  • Employer name
  • Employer address, and/or
  • Loss of employment

Students must make a validation report to ISSS every six months to confirm name and address, employer name and address, and continuation of employment. The report is due within 10 days of the six-month reporting date. Use the OPT Validation Form to submit your validation report.

Types of Employment Allowed during an OPT STEM extension

A student authorized for a 24-month extension must work at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify employer in a paid position directly related to his or her DHS-approved STEM CIP code.

For students who are on a STEM extension, this employment may include:

  • Work for one or more employer. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to each individual student’s degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
  • Multiple employers. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to each individual student’s degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
  • Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. The company for whom the student is providing services must be registered with E-Verify. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
  • Self-employed OR–Staffing Agency. There must be an employer/employee relationship between you and the employer. Self-employment or employment with a staffing agency will not qualify for employment – making you ineligible for STEM OPT.

Starting and Ending Dates

The start date of the 24-month OPT extension will be automatically set to the day after the expiration of the current 12-month OPT authorization. The end date will be 24 months later.

Application Procedures for Students

    1. STEM OPT requests may be made either in person (making an appointment with an advisor) or via e-mail. If you are applying via e-mail, scan and send an ISSS document request form along with all supporting documents listed on the STEM OPT Checklist. Incomplete requests cannot be processed. *Students will be required to upload a completed form I-983 with their I-20 request. This is a new form that requires information from both the student and the employer.For more information, please see the Study in the States website. Send request and attachments to isss@fiu.edu Subject line: STEM OPT Request. Find forms here: https://globalaffairs.fiu.edu/isss/forms/  If you are applying in person, make an appointment to meet with an ISSS Advisor and bring all the required documents with you.
    2. What to send/bring to ISSS:

IMPORTANT: You MUST bring/send ALL these items to the ISSS Office in order to start the process. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Please make sure you read the OPT Maintenance Fee REFUND POLICY

ISSS will prepare a new I-20 for you. In most cases your I-20 will be ready in 5-10 business days. We will notify you via email once it is ready. If you are located close to FIU, you may come to the office to pick up your new I-20. If not the ISSS email will include the I-20 and instructions that include mailing information.

Sending your application: We recommend mailing you application via US Postal Service (USPS) The address you use on the I-765 determines where you should send your application (see I-765 instructions).

If your OPT extension is approved, you must send a photocopy of your new EAD card to ISSS at isss@fiu.edu

Read during the STEM Extension below for more details on how to meet the requirements for properly maintaining your F-1 immigration status.

Approval

If an application for a 24-month extension is approved, USCIS will issue an EAD with a validity period that starts on the day after the expiration date stated on the 12-month OPT EAD.

During the 24-month OPT Extension

How to maintain your F-1 status

Information reporting requirements are more strict during the 24-month OPT extension. Take special care to comply with these obligations. Failure to do so can jeopardize the validity of your OPT and your legal visa status in the U.S.

  • If you experience an interruption in employment, you must report it to ISSS. Students are allowed a maximum of 150 days of unemployment time, which is cumulative including the 12 month OPT and the 24 month STEM extension.
  • You are required to make a validation report to ISSS every six months starting from the date your 24-month OPT extension is approved. The report is due within 10 days of the required reporting date. Use the OPT validation form to submit your validation report.The validation report must contain the following information:
    • Legal Name
    • Residential/mailing address
    • Employer name
    • Employer address
    • Confirmation that you are currently employed by the employer named

Ending Your OPT

Your F-1 status remains valid until 60 days after the expiration of your EAD card. During this 60-day grace period, you are no longer authorized to work, however you may legally stay in the U.S. If you depart the U.S. during the 60-day grace period, you are no longer eligible to re-enter under your previous F-1 visa status.

  • If you plan to return home after the end of your OPT, please make sure that you depart the U.S. before the end of your 60-day grace period.
  • If you decide to abandon your OPT and depart the U.S., please submit a departure form located at the ISSS website under forms
  • If you plan to change your visa status, we recommend you begin this process before your OPT is expired. Notify the Registrar’s Office if your immigration status does change during the OPT period.
For more information, access our Summary of STEM OPT Extension Policies
For additional information about the 24 month STEM OPT and employer form 983 visit: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub