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24-Month Optional Practical Training (OPT)


Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Extension:  How to Apply

The 24-month OPT STEM extension benefit went into effect Monday, May 10, 2016.  This new benefit replaces the previous 17-month OPT extension option.

Students nearing the end of their post-completion OPT may be able to apply for an extension for 24-months, provided they meet the degree and employment conditions.  Students with a degree (primary concentration/major) in a designated STEM field as defined by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) -- check the USCIS website for an up-to-date list -- AND who are employed by an E-Verify employer are eligible.  This is a one-time benefit; you may not apply if you had a previous STEM extension and may not receive a second STEM extension in the future.  The job must be related to your STEM major and your current OPT authorization must also be in that major.

Students with STEM degrees and currently in their 12-month OPT period should review the eligibility requirements, application timeline, and instructions below.

Eligibility

To qualify for the 24-month STEM OPT extension, you must:

  • Be in F-1 Status
  • Be currently working in a period of post-completion OPT
  • Have a bachelor's degree in an eligible STEM field
    • You may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree earned in the U.S. for this requirement; to use a prior STEM degree, you must:
      • Have received your most recent degree (which does not need to be STEM-related) from a currently accredited Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school in the U.S.
      • Have received your prior, qualifying STEM degree in the U.S. within 10 years of applying for the OPT STEM extension.
      • The qualifying STEM degree must be on the Department of Homeland Security's STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time you submit your OPT STEM extension application (rather than at the time you received the degree).
    • Have a job offer that meets the following requirements:
      • The job is with an employer enrolled in the USCIS E-Verify program
      • The job offers at least 20 hours of work per week
      • 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
Employment Requirements during the 24-month STEM OPT Extension

You must work at least 20 hours per week for an employer that a) participates in the E-Verify program and b) agrees to follow all the employer requirements under the 24-month STEM rule.

Please review the new guidance about acceptable types of activity during the 24-month STEM OPT Extension that is substantially different that the 12 month OPT and past guidance for the 17-month STEM Extension.  

When to Apply

Students with a STEM degree and currently in the 12-month OPT period:

  • USCIS must receive your OPT STEM extension application before your current 12-month OPT EAD card expiration date.
  • Apply as early as 90 days before your current 12-month OPT EAD card expiration date.

Take into consideration:

  • Our office needs up to five business days for processing your new I-20.
  • Allow sufficient time to mail your application to USCIS.
How to Request a STEM I20

Students with a STEM degree and currently in the 12-month OPT period:

STEP 1: Report Your Employment/Training

  • Complete and submit the STEM Extension Request Form by fax, mail, email or in-person along with the following:
  • If OPT STEM extension is based on previous U.S. STEM degree not from Hamilton, also submit with this form:
  1. Copy of previous U.S. STEM degree
  2. Copy of I-20 issued for previous U.S. STEM degree
  3. Form I-765 (employer’s E-Verify number must be written on form)
  4. Form I-983 Training Plan
  • From the USCIS Website, download and complete Form 1-765 indicating (c)(3)(c) and entering your STEM major and E-Verify employer number on question 17.
  • From the USCIS Website, download and complete Form I-983 Training Plan, with assistance from your employer.

Send by email to aharriso@hamilton.edu. Email is the preferred method for requests.

Students submitting paper forms should submit photocopies (not originals) of the I-765, I-983, and any previous degree documents, since request materials must be kept and copies can’t be made.

Before processing your STEM extension request your SEVIS record must be reviewed and updated (allow up to five business days). Then a new, updated I-20 with an OPT STEM extension recommendation printed on the back page will be generated and provided to you.

STEP 2: Prepare STEM Application

  • After you receive your new I-20:
  • Sign it at the bottom of page one and prepare your application:
  • Photocopy I-20 after signing
  • Gather the following documents:
  1. Copy of Form I-20 with your signature and STEM extension endorsement (must be sent within 60 days of issuance)
  2. Form I-765 (be sure to include your employer’s name as listed in E-Verify and E-Verify Company Identification Number or valid E-Verify Client Company Identification Number)
  3. Copy of your diploma (if your diploma only states the degree and not the program, include a copy of your official transcript with or without the raised seal)
  4. Copy of Form I-94 (which can be obtained at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov)
  5. Copy of your current EAD card (front and back)
  6. Two passport-style photos (lightly with pencil write your Name and Alien Receipt Number found on your I-94 on the back of each photo). Review number 2. C on page 8 of the “Required Documentation” section of USCIS photo instructions.
  7. Include a $410 check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” (Do not use a future date. Use the date that you signed the check. The date format for your check should be as follows: month/day/year)
  8. Completed G-1145 Form (optional; it signs you up for email/text message notification of your application's arrival at USCIS)

STEP 3: Mail your application to USCIS

Mail the documents listed in STEP 2 to:

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) First-Class and Priority Express Deliveries

USCIS

P.O... Box 660867

Dallas, TX 75266

For Express Mail and Courier Service Deliveries

USCIS

Attn: AOS

2501 S. State Hwy.121 Business

Suite 400

Lewisville, TX 75067

If your I-765 mailing address is outside New York State, review the USCIS mailing instructions to find the correct Lockbox location.

Reporting Requirements During OPT STEM Extension Period

To maintain legal F-1 status during your 24-month OPT STEM authorization period, you must report the following information to our office:

Every Six Months

Confirm there have been no changes to your:

  • Legal name
  • Residential or mailing address
  • Employer name and address
  • Status of current employment

*You must report any changes to the above information, including loss of employment, within 10 days of the change.*

Every Year

You must submit an annual self-evaluation about the progress of your training experience. This self-evaluation must be signed by you and your employer in the I-983 Training Plan. Email to: aharriso@hamilton.edu.

Within 10 Days of the Following Changes

  • Material changes to an existing I-983 Training Plan
  • Change in employer
  • Unemployment
H-1 B CAP GAP COVERAGE

Students caught in the H-1B Cap Gap may also automatically extend their OPT if their H-1B application is approved.  You may also find information regarding H-1B visas for 2017 at the USCIS H-1B visa site.  Current students should carefully read the H-1B certification policy.  

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Where can I find additional government resources about the OPT STEM extension?

STEM OPT Hub --from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Study in the States

OPT Extension for STEM Students (OPT STEM) --from USCIS

2. Where can I find my CIP code?

The CIP code is printed next to your major on page one of your I-20.

3. What is Hamilton’s SEVIS School Code?

BUF214F10221000

4. If I have a dual concentration, can I qualify for the 24-month extension based on one of the degree programs?

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.

5. Can I qualify for the 24-month extension based on a minor?

No.

6. When does my 24-month extension of OPT start?

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.

7. Can I work with an expired EAD while my 24-month extension is pending?

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.

8. Can I travel outside of the U.S. if my original EAD expires and my 24-month extension is still pending?

No. You must wait to receive your new EAD prior to traveling. You may travel if your current EAD card is still valid.

9. Like my original I-765 application, do I need to use Hamilton’s Dean of Students Office address on the I-765?

No, you are not required to use the Hamilton address on #3 of the I-765 form. However, be sure to provide an accurate and valid address for at least four months into the future so you can receive your EAD card. The post office will NOT forward OPT mail. If you might change your address while your OPT application is pending, consider renting a post office (P.O...) box or using a friend’s address.

10. Can I change employers while the 24-month extension is pending?

Changing employers while your 24-month OPT STEM Extension is pending can be risky because the regulations do not contemplate such situations.

If you must change employers, submit a new I-983 and provide the E-verify number to aharriso@hamilton.edu. Then complete a new OPT Reporting Form. Regulations state that employment changes must be reported within 10-days.

Note: the new employer information will not match the employer information in the OPT STEM Extension application you submitted to USCIS. There is currently no immigration guidance about how to resolve this conflict. Some students have mailed an additional updated application with a letter explaining their situation. However, errors may occur with additional updated applications to USCIS. USCIS has rejected a few such applications because they simply think it’s a new application missing a filing fee. Another option is to provide the updated I-983 Training Plan, E-Verify number, and OPT employment reporting to our office, but not mail any additional documents to USCIS unless they send you a “Request for Evidence” (RFE).

We hope to receive new guidance soon from USCIS about how to proceed in these situations.

Adapted from:  University of Washington ISS Webpage

 

Contact Information


Allen Harrison

Associate Dean of Students for Multicultural Affairs and Accessibility Services
Elihu Root House
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