17-Month STEM Extension of Post-Completion OPT
1. STEM OPT Eligibility Requirements
2. What is E-Verify
3. When to Apply for a STEM OPT Extension
4. STEM OPT EXTENSION APPLICATION
CHECKLIST AND INSTRUCTIONS
5. Working While STEM Application is Pending
6. Student Reporting Requirements while on STEM OPT
7. Employer Reporting Requirements during STEM OPT
8. Periods of Unemployment during STEM OPT
9. Travel during STEM OPT and applying for a new F-1 visa
10.Travel while your STEM OPT extension EAD card is Pending
- Must currently be on post-completion OPT.
- F-1 students with Bachelor's, Master's or Ph.D. degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) are eligible to apply. The STEM Designated Degree Program List can be found on the SEVP website.
- Job or a job offer that is directly related to the most recent STEM field of study.
- Job or a job offer from an employer who participates in the U.S. Government E-Verify employment verification system.
- Only one 17-month extension is possible, regardless of how many degrees in the U.S. the student obtains. If you received a STEM extension for bachelor's degree, you are not eligible for a STEM extension at the master's or Ph.D. level.
- Must apply for the 17-month extension BEFORE your initial 12-month period of OPT ends.
- Must comply with additional reporting requirements related to your name, address and employer information (see #6 below).
- May not request all 29 months (12 plus 17) in the initial OPT application; must apply for initial 12 months of post-completion OPT first.
E-Verify is an electronic employment eligibility verification system under which employers commit to use an electronic database to check whether the name and social security number presented by new hires match the records in the Social Security database, and whether any immigration documents presented by the employee match information in Department of Homeland Security database. If an employer is not enrolled in E-Verify, a STEM student can NOT obtain a 17 month OPT extension. More information on E-Verify is available at the USCIS website.
You may file for the 17-month STEM extension up to 120 days prior to the end of your post-completion OPT. You may submit your application for the 17-month OPT Extension to the Davis International Center up to 125 days prior to your your current OPT end date. You must apply for the STEM Extension before your current OPT expires. Please make sure to send your application to Davis IC no later than 30 days prior to your current OPT EAD card end date.
Even if your current OPT EAD card expires, you may continue to work up to 180 days beyond the expiration date while our STEM OPT application is pending. However, it is important that you apply for an extension in a timely manner.
Can I change employers while my STEP OPT applicaton is pending?
Yes. However, the following needs to be submitted to the USCIS Service Center processing your STEM OPT application: an amended I-765 from with update employer's information in item 17, an updated I-20 and a letter of explanation. Please submit a request for a new I-20 to firstname.lastname@example.org. The request should include your: last name, first name, SEVIS number and your new employer's name and address. Please allow five (5) business days for processing. Upon receiving a new I-20 from Davis IC, make sure to mail a photocopy of the I-20, along with the I-765 form and the letter of explanation, to the USCIS.
Update Your Changes within 10 days of the change: Since you are still in F-1 status under Princeton University sponsorship while on the STEM OPT extension, you must continue reporting any changes of address to the Davis IC within 10 days of change. Please report address changes, name changes, employment updates, employment interruptions and loss of employment by submitting the OPT Address/Employer Change Form.
Required 6-month STEM OPT Report: You must also send to the Davis International Center a validation report every six months starting from the date of STEM extension starts and ending when your F-1 status ends or the STEM extension ends, whichever comes first. The validation report must include your:
- First and last names
- SEVIS ID number
- Current U.S. living address
- Name and address your current employer, and
- Date you began working for the current employer.
The report must be submitted through the OPT and STEM OPT Reporting Form within 10 days of each 6 month reporting period.
IMPORTANT: If this report is not submitted and your SEVIS record is not updated every six months, your SEVIS record will be automatically terminated and you will no longer have valid immigration status in the U.S.
The employer must report to the Davis International Center within 48 hours when the job ends or the student leaves the employer. If needed, employers should seek guidance about this from their legal counsel or directly from Immigration.
Maintaining F-1 status during OPT and STEM OPT requires that a student is employed for at least 9 of 12 months during the initial 12 months of OPT, and at least 25 of 29 months during the entire 29 month OPT/STEM OPT period. Each day (including weekends) during the period when OPT/STEM OPT authorizations begin and end that the student does not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment. STEM OPT authorization beings one day after initial 12 months of OPT end.
For student reaching the limit of unemployment time, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) suggests that, "prior to reaching the limit on authorized unemployment the student should prepare to transfer to another SEVP-certified school, change educational level, depart the United States, or take action to otherwise maintain status in the United States" (SEVP Policy Guidance, page 22).
The SEVP Guidance also states that "a student who has exceeded the period of unemployment while on post-completion OPT has violated his or her status unless he or she has taken one of the following actions:
- Applied to continue his or her education by a change of education level or transferring to another SEVP-certified school
- Departed the United States
- Taken action to otherwise maintain legal status"
You remain in F-1 status and under Princeton visa sponsorship until the end of your entire OPT/STEM OPT period. When traveling outside the U.S., you must carry your I-20 with a valid travel signature (obtained within the last 6 months), proof of work authorization (EAD card) and an employment letter stating the job title, job description, beginning/end dates, and salary.
Students on STEM OPT who need a new F-1 entry visa must schedule an appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country to apply for a an F-1 visa to return to the U.S. to resume their STEM OPT employment. Please consult the U.S. Embassy/Consulate website for information about required documentation needed for the visa renewal. It is important to note that it may be more difficult to obtain a student visa while on STEM OPT as the issue of non-immigrant intent with the intention to return to the home country at the completion of STEM OPT could be more difficult to prove once the student has obtained a degree and has been working in the U.S for a while. Therefore, you should be prepared to honestly answer any questions related to this issue if you are asked by the Consular officer. If the Consular officer determines that you have intention to abandon your home country and remain in the U.S. to work permanently, they may deny your F-1 visa application.
NOTE: Students who need a new entry visa are strongly advised to consult with their international student advisor before making travel plans.
If you have applied for a STEM OPT extension, but you have not yet received the new EAD card, you should be able to re-enter the U.S. if your current period of OPT is unexpired at the time of re-entry, and you have proof of filing the STEM OPT application.
If you have applied for the STEM OPT and have not yet received the EAD card, and your current OPT has expired, you should NOT travel outside the U.S. The most recent SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) Policy Guidance states that the student must wait to receive the new employment authorization document before s/he can travel outside of the U.S.