UMD: A Globally Connected University
OPT STEM Extension
OPT STEM Extension
On April 12, 2021, USCIS announced the ability for F-1 students to file the I-765 online for OPT and STEM applications. Although this is now an option, limited information is available about the online application and the process of filing online. ISSS recommends that students continue to file by mail until more information is known. We expect to be able to update our workshops and online pages with more information about this new online filing option by the end of April.
To be eligible for the 24-month STEM OPT extension, you must:
- Be in valid F-1 status on Post-Completion OPT.
- Not have acquired more than 90 days of unemployment on Post-Completion OPT.
- Have not had more than two STEM OPT extensions granted (only two extensions in student's lifetime).
- Have earned your most recent degree in a STEM field specified by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) or use a previously earned U.S. degree in STEM. Degree must be from a U.S. accredited school and earned within last 10 years.
- Have an offer of employment directly related to the degree that qualifies you for STEM.
- Have an offer of paid employment from an employer registered in the E-Verify program.
- Have an employer who agrees to complete the I-983, review periodic evaluations, and report your departure or termination of employment.
- Have an offer of employment for at least 20 hours per week for each employer.
- Agree to make reports to UMD within 10 days of any change in employment status regarding your employment, or every 6 months if no change has occurred.
Not all employment relationships are permitted under the STEM extension. Students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Training Plan (I-983), and the employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience. Some employment arrangements that may not be permitted under the STEM extension include:
- 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.
When to Apply
DHS must receive the OPT STEM Extension packet by the last day of the initial 12 month OPT EAD expiration.
STEM applications may only be submitted up to 90 days prior to initial 12-month EAD expiration.
- Check that your degree is in the STEM category or was in a STEM category at the time of program completion.
- Check that your employer is an E-Verify employer.
- Gather the following documents for the application packet:
How to submit request to ISSS:
- Log into iTerp, go to F-1 Student Services, and complete the Stem: STEM I-20 Request e-form. You will need to upload the following documents:
- Copy of completed I-765(version 08/25/2020) (See Sample Guide or visit https://www.uscis.gov/i-765)
- Copy of EAD card
- Form I-983; completed and signed by student and employer
- Need help filling out the I-983? Students can refer to our I-983 student completion guide. Employers can refer to the SEVP tutorial on filling out the I-983 at https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/form-i-983-overview.
- An ISSS advisor will review your information and contact you with the status of your OPT Stem Extension Request. If approved a new I-20 will be created and instructions sent regarding the mailing of the I-20.
Materials to be sent to USCIS:
- A personal check or money order made out to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” for $410
- Two color passport photos (must be taken within 30 days; Do not wear white)
- Photo specifications may be found at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/photos.html
- Photographic Services is an on-campus option: 1117 Patapsco Building (bldg 805), 5201 Paint Branch Parkway. Call (301) 405-0590 to make an appointment. Two photos are $12.72.
- The original Form I-765, signed by hand in blue ink**
- Photocopies of all previously issued I-20s
- Photocopy pages 1 & 2 of your SEVIS I-20s
- Photocopy pages 1 & 3 of the older, barcode I-20s (if you have any)
- A photocopy of your passport number/photo/expiration date page(s)
- A photocopy of your most recent F-1 visa
- I-94 Card (Hardcopy OR Electronic copy)
- A photocopy of the front and back of your hardcopy I-94 card, or
- I-94 Electronic Copy can be printed here: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/
- A photocopy of your previous EAD card(s)
- Copy of your most recent diploma in a STEM field or your official transcripts
- If you would like to receive e-notification about the status of your application, attach the G-1145 form to your application.
- Recommended, but not required: Statement from the employer regarding how the employment relates to the STEM field
Once your packet is complete, send your packet to the appropriate service center according to the address on the I-765(version 08/25/2020). The application must be received by the USCIS within 60 days of the STEM recommendation but not later than the expiration of your current OPT period.
If you mail your package via:
Mail your application to:
U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries
FedEx, UPS and DHL deliveries
On the bottom of the envelope write: I-765(version 08/25/2020): Optional Practical Training/STEM Extension
You should receive an official USCIS receipt notice within a month of mailing your packet. After receiving this, you may check on the status of your application in the Case Status Online section of the USCIS website. If you do not receive a receipt notice within 5 weeks of mailing your packet, you should call USCIS at (800) 375-5283 to ensure your application was received.
Once you have applied for the 24-month STEM OPT Extension:
- You may continue your OPT employment while your extension request is pending for up to 180 days while waiting for the EAD.
- You may not accumulate a total of more than 150 days of unemployment, including unemployment during Post-Completion OPT.
- Any employment during the 24-month STEM OPT Extension period must be with an employer registered with the E-Verify program requires an I-983 for each employer.
- Report new employment or update your existing employer's address within 10 days of changing employment via iTerp. (Once you are logged in click OPT/STEM Related > OPT/STEM : Report New Employer Information). A new I-983 is also required which should be uploaded with the form.
- Report material changes to an existing Form I-983 through the iTerp eform OPT/STEM Related > STEM: I-983 Final Evaluation.
- Complete the STEM 6 month validation eform every 6 months
- If you will end employment report termination of a position through iTerp by submitting your I-983 exit self-evaluation (iTerp eform - STEM-I-983 Evaluation for 12 and 24 Month Evaluations)
- You are required to complete two self-evaluations during the STEM OPT period. The first one within 12 months of the STEM OPT start date and a second one at the end of employment (iTerp eform - STEM-I-983 Evaluation for 12 and 24 Month Evaluations).
- Any changes in your address needs to be updated in iTerp within 10 days of your change through the iTerp eform OPT/STEM Related>Address Update While on OPT or on your SEVP Portal
- You are still considered to be in F-1 student status while on STEM OPT, so any questions or concerns can be addressed by an ISSS advisor during this time.
- You may not accumulate a total of more than 150 days of unemployment (90 days while on OPT and additional 60 days on STEM OPT)
- If you plan to end STEM OPT early or change to a different status you must complete the I-983 final evaluation and the Exit Plan under OPT/STEM services in iTerp.
Travel on STEM OPT
You may travel while on STEM OPT. However, please keep in mind that you are still in F-1 status and that you will need the following in order to re-enter the U.S.:
- A valid travel signature on your most current I-20 (within 6 months of re-entry). You may request a travel signature via iTerp by completing the Travel Signature while on OPT eform in iTerp.
- Your unexpired EAD
- A letter from your employer indicating that you currently hold a job in your field of study and will be returning to the U.S. to resume employment
- A valid passport
- A valid F-1 visa
After completing your 24-month STEM OPT Extension
- If an H-1B application is pending or approved for your H-1B cap-subject employer, you may continue your employment until your employment start date (October 1 of the following fiscal year) or until your application is denied. You will need an updated I-20 from ISSS to prove your work authorization during this period.
- If your H-1B is approved for Consular processing, you need to inform ISSS by completing the Exit Plan eform in iTerp.
- You are entitled to a 60-day grace period beyond the last day of training as indicated on your EAD. You may not work during your 60-day grace period. You will need to notify ISSS if you plan to begin another course of study another program after your OPT.