STEM OPT Extension Guide

For information about STEM OPT Extensions, from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), go to: STEM OPT Hub and STEM OPT Extension Overview

You should be eligible for a STEM OPT Extension if:

  • You are currently authorized for OPT.
  • You have completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree, and your major is in a field on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List. (See the list of STEM majors at Gustavus below.)
  • Your employment is directly related to your major field of study.
  • Your employment is a paid position of at least 20 hours per week.
  • Your employer is registered with the E-Verify employment verification system and has an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN).
     

Application process:

1) Work with your employer to complete Form I-983 Training Plan and submit it to your DSO (Jeff Anderson):

2) Your DSO (Jeff Andeson) must review the Form I-983 Training Plan to determine that it is complete, signed, and addresses all program requirements. If so:

  • Your DSO will enter the STEM OPT recommendation in SEVIS.
  • Your DSO will create a new I-20 with the STEM OPT recommendation for you.
  • You will need that new I-20 with the STEM OPT recommendation to submit with your STEM OPT application.
  • USCIS must receive that STEM OPT application within 60 days of your DSO entering the STEM OPT recommendation in SEVIS, and not more than 90 days before your STEM OPT expires.

3) Mail your STEM OPT application to the USCIS address according to where you live. Your STEM OPT application should include:

  • $410 application fee. You may pay by check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” or by credit card with Form G-1450.
  • Form I-765. To complete Form I-765:
     * In Part 1, check box 1.c for “Renewal of my permission to accept employment”
     * In Part 2, item 27, use the code (c)(3)(C) 
     * In Part 2, item 28a, enter “BA” and the name of your STEM major, as it appears on Form I-20. 
     * Sign in black ink. Your signature must stay inside the lines of the box.
  • Form G-1145 (download from I-765 page).
  • 2 passport style photos, taken within 30 days of filing your application.
     * Use a professional service with passport photo experience.
     * Do not wear eyeglasses or head or face coverings (there are some exceptions for religious or medical reasons).
     * Lightly print your full name and I-94 number in pencil on the back of each photo.
  • A photocopy of your new Form I-20 showing the STEM OPT recommendation (signed by your DSO and by you).
  • Copy of Form I-94 (You can get you most recent I-94 online).
  • Photocopy of the ID pages of your passport (passport photo page and most recent F-1 visa).
  • Photocopy of the front and back of your current Employment Authorization Document (OPT card).
  • Photocopy of your previous I-20 with the recommendation for your current period of OPT.
  • Photocopy of your final transcript (You can order from the Gustavus Registrar).

Make sure to mail your STEM OPT application to the correct USCIS address. The correct address depends on where you live and whether you are sending by USPS or FedEx, UPS or DHL. Ask your DSO (Jeff Anderson) if you are unsure of the correct address. You should mail with a service that provides a tracking number or delivery receipt, so you can prove that you mailed the application to USCIS if needed. You should keep a copy of your STEM OPT application.

DHS Designated STEM majors at Gustavus:

Note that the names of majors on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List may be different than what the major is called at Gustavus. Use the DHS title and CIP Code in your STEM OPT application. The below list includes: CIP Code and DHS title (with the corresponding major at Gustavus in parenthesis).

3.0103 Environmental Studies (Environmental Studies)

11.0701 Computer Science (Computer Science)

26.0101 Biology/Biological Sciences, General (Biology)

26.0202 Biochemistry (Biochemistry & Molecular Biology)

27.0101 Mathematics, General (Mathematics)

27.0501 Statistics, General (Statistics)

40.0501 Chemistry, General (Chemistry)

40.0601 Geology/Earth Science, General (Geology)

40.0801 Physics, General (Physics)

When to apply:

  • You cannot apply more than 90 days before the date your current OPT expires.
  • Your STEM OPT application must arrive at USCIS within 60 days of your DSO entering the STEM OPT recommendation in SEVIS.
  • Your STEM OPT application must arrive at USCIS before the date your current OPT expires.
  • Once USCIS receives your STEM OPT application, you can legally work for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of your current OPT, while the STEM OPT application is pending and you are waiting for the new EAD (OPT card) to arrive.
  • Consult with your employer regarding filing an H-1B petition and the timing of that and your OPT STEM application.
     

After you submit your STEM OPT application:

It normally takes two to four months for USCIS to process the STEM OPT application and mail your new EAD (OPT card) to the address on Form I-765. Several weeks after you apply, you should receive a receipt notice (Form I-798) in the mail from USCIS. You should also receive an email and text alert if you have submitted Form G-1145 with your STEM OPT application. With your receipt number, you may check on the status of your application at USCIS Case Status Online.

Requirements during your STEM OPT Extension:

  • When you receive your new EAD (OPT card), please send a copy to your DSO by email or Gustavus Secure Share.
  • You must report any changes in your name and mailing address or physical address, to your DSO, within 10 days.
  • You must report if you stop working for your employer, or start working for a new qualifying employer, to your DSO, within 10 days.
  • If there has been a material change to the Training Plan described on Form I-983, you and your employer must complete and submit a modified Form I-983 to your DSO, at the earliest available opportunity.
  • Every six months you must submit a “validation report” with your legal name, your current address, your employer’s name and address, and the status of your current employment, to your DSO, even if there have been no changes. You must do this 6 months, 12 months and 18 months after your STEM OPT employment start date. You may use the Gustavus STEM OPT Validation Report.
  • Every 12 months you must submit a self-evaluation (page 5 of Form I-983) to your DSO. You must do this 12 months and 24 months after your STEM OPT employment start date.
  • If your employment is terminated or you leave your employment, your employer must report that to your DSO, within five business days.
  • Notify your DSO if you decide to permanently depart from the U.S. during your OPT or if you change your visa status during your OPT.
  • Failure to follow the reporting requirements can result in the termination of your SEVIS record and loss of your F-1 status.
  • There is a limit on the amount of time that you can be unemployed during your period of OPT. The limit is 90 days for your initial 12 months of OPT. STEM OPT students get an additional 60 days of unemployment during the 24 month STEM OPT period. Therefore, you are allowed a maximum of 150 days of unemployment during your OPT and STEM OPT.
  • You may travel outside of the U.S. during your STEM OPT extension and return, if you have:
     * Your passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond entry)
     * Your valid F-1 visa
     * Your current I-20 (signed by your DSO within the last 6 months)
     * Your current Employment Authorization Document (OPT card)
     * Documentation to show you are employed by the qualified employer that you reported to your DSO to enter in SEVIS.