STEM OPT Extension

Stem OPT Eligibility

When to Apply

How to Apply

Reporting Requirements

Employment Changes

For Employers

STEM OPT Resources

 

The STEM OPT extension is a 24 month extension of your post-completion OPT for certain students with qualifying majors and employment opportunities.

STEM OPT Eligibility

  • Must be on active post-completion OPT.
  • Must have completed a degree in the United States in a qualifying STEM field.pdf (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)
  • Must have active or have an offer of paid employment directly related to the STEM degree with an employer that uses E-Verify to confirm employment eligibility. The employer must also have an EIN number, and agree to certain requirements listed on the I-983 Training Plan. Self-employment is not appropriate for the STEM OPT extension.
  • Employment through staffing agencies may not be suitable for the STEM OPT extension.  USCIS states, "Staffing and temporary agencies and consulting firms may seek to employ students under the STEM OPT program, but only if they will be the entity that provides the practical training experience to the student and they have and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student".  This means your training and supervision must be provided by the employer completing your I-983, and cannot be delegated to the client or customer of the staffing agency. See  USCIS STEM OPT Employer Requirements and Responsibilities.
  • UConn is not an E-Verify employer. You may not work for UConn while on an active OPT STEM Extension.
  • You may be approved for up to two STEM OPT extensions per lifetime. Each extension must be based on a separate period of post-completion OPT, and the second STEM OPT extension must be based on a higher earned degree level than the first STEM OPT extension.
  • Most students apply for an OPT STEM Extension based on the degree their current OPT is based upon. However, you may apply for a STEM OPT extension based on a past STEM degree in certain circumstances (check with your ISSS advisor).
  • You may accrue up to 150 days of unemployment during the STEM OPT Extension, but this includes any unemployment days already accrued during the standard post-completion OPT period.

When to Apply

USCIS will receive your application up to 90 days before your current post-completion OPT end date. Your application must be received within 60 days of the ISSS STEM OPT Recommendation. If your application is timely filed, yet pending approval when your current OPT expires, you may work for the STEM extension qualifying employer for up to 180 days while awaiting your new EAD.

How to Apply

Step 1: Attend ISSS STEM OPT Workshop

Current OPT participants who will apply for STEM OPT extension must attend a STEM OPT workshop provided by ISSS before you submit your application. Workshops are provided virtually. STEM OPT Extension workshop dates and times are here (EST).

Step 2: Prepare Required Documents

  1. If you will file a paper-based application to USCIS, completed Form I-765. Review the tips for completing Form I-765 before submitting. We will review and suggest any required changes. If you will file your application online, you will complete the I-765 questions after receiving your STEM OPT I-20 from ISSS, so you do not need to submit it with your application. 
  2. Completed Form I-983.pdf – Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. Only pages 1-4 must be completed for your initial application. Refer to the I-983 Instructions.pdf for tips on completing the form. In the “DSO Name and Contact Information” section, list your assigned International Advisor based on your program or campus.  Please make sure that ALL fields are complete.
  3. Copy of UConn diploma or official transcript showing STEM degree completion. Visit the registrar transcript information to learn about requesting official transcript online. 
  4. If STEM OPT Extension is not based on UConn degree: Copy of STEM diploma, conferred within last 10 years, and evidence that the institution is currently accredited in the U.S. 
  5. Copy of EAD card for current OPT.   
  6. Pay ISSS 24 Month STEM OPT Processing Fee, $300.  Print/save receipt.   

Step 3: Apply to ISSS for STEM OPT I-20

Submit your application through the ISSS Portal to request a STEM OPT recommendation I-20, uploading the prepared documents. When starting your application, select the year during which your STEM OPT benefit will begin, if presented multiple request years.   

After reviewing the OPT Application, ISSS will return to you the following:

1) Updated Form I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation and STEM employer information on page 2

2) Form I-765 with any suggested revisions (if you submitted one).

3) A STEM OPT Filing Checklist with instructions on what and where to submit your STEM OPT application packet. We will provide you with a customized checklist, but you can view the general checklist here, to start preparing documents for your application. 

 

Step 4: Submit your application to USCIS

After receiving your documents from ISSS, you can submit your application to USCIS to request an Employment Authorization Document.

Submit your application either online, or according to the paper-based filing instructions that we will provide you with your updated Form I-20. If completing the application online, you can refer to the ISSS Tips for Completing Form I-765 webpage for guidelines.

Step 5: After You File Application with USCIS

Receive I-797 (Receipt Notice)

Several weeks after receiving your application, USCIS will send you a Receipt Notice (I-797). This will list the Service Center where your application is being processed, the date your application was officially received, and a case number assigned to your application. Carefully review the notice to make sure your name is spelled correctly and the correct mailing address is listed.  If it is not, call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) number listed on your receipt notice immediately.

Receive I-797 (Approval Notice)

After processing your OPT application, USCIS will mail you an approval notice (I-797).  This is a notification on your application status, NOT your work authorization/permission.

Receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

You will receive an EAD separately in the mail from USCIS. This is your proof of employment authorization. You may not start working until you receive your EAD and the start date becomes effective. EADs cannot be forwarded by the post office, so if you move or change your mailing address you MUST notify USCIS with the updated address for EAD mailing.

Reporting Requirements

Student Reporting Requirements

While on STEM OPT Extension you must:

  • Report your employer, or changes to your employment status within 10 days to ISSS by completing an OPT Employment Update each time your employment status changes.  
  • Maintain the I-983 Training Plan throughout your employment. If there are significant changes to the terms on the form, complete an updated I-983 with your current employer. If you receive a new employer, submit a new I-983 for each new employer.
  • Self Evaluation: Every 12 months, submit to ISSS a self evaluation (p. 5 of the I-983), approved by your employer. The Evaluation on Student Progress (top of p. 5) is submitted with the 12 month STEM OPT Validation Report, and the Final Evaluation on Student Progress (bottom of p. 5) is submitted with the 24 month STEM OPT Validation Report. The Final Evaluation on Student Progress is also submitted if you depart from your position before reaching the 24 month STEM OPT Validation Report.
  • Report changes in personal information within 10 days through StudentAdmin or the ISSS Portal:
    • Update U.S. and home country address changes following the instructions on this webpage.
    • Click the Edit Profile button on your ISSS Portal User Home Page to update your personal email address, non-U.S. telephone number.

Employer Reporting Requirements

Your employer is responsible for maintaining an E-Verify number and using E-Verify to confirm the employment eligibility of its staff.

Your employer must notify ISSS within 5 days of your departure or termination from employment. To meet this reporting requirement, they may email international@uconn.edu, or the DSO listed on the I-983 Training Plan.

Your employer must be willing to complete the Evaluation of Student Progress and Final Evaluation of Student Progress at the 12 month point and upon departure from the employment, or 24 month point.

Employment Changes

Common employment situations can be tricky to report while on STEM OPT. Please use this guide, and remember to report all changes within 10 days:

Pending STEM OPT Extension, Changing Employers:

Complete the OPT Employment Update Record to report your new employer details. You will also tell us the last day working with your prior employer (if you never worked for the STEM OPT employer, tell us in the comments section of form).

Upload the new I-983 (p. 1-4) completed by you and your new employer.

ISSS will issue an updated Form I-20 and send the copy to USCIS on your behalf to update your application.

Pending STEM OPT Extension, Lost Employment, No New STEM OPT Employer:

Complete the OPT Employment Update Record to report your loss of employment. Your SEVIS record will be updated accordingly. If you have lost the employment on which your STEM OPT application is based, and do not have an offer with a new qualifying employer, your STEM OPT application may be denied.

 

Active STEM OPT, Employment Ending, No New Employment:

Complete the OPT Employment Update Record to notify ISSS that your employment is ending

Upload the Final Evaluation on Student Progress, Signed by Employer (p. 5 of I-983)

 

Active STEM OPT, Employment Ending and Starting New Job:

Complete the OPT Employment Update Record to report your new employer details. You will also tell us the last day working with your prior employer.

Upload the Final Evaluation on Student Progress, Signed by Employer (p. 5 of I-983) reporting on your prior employment.

Upload the new I-983 (p. 1-4) completed by you and your new employer.

ISSS will send you an updated I-20 with new employer details.

 

Active STEM OPT, Adding Second or Multiple Employers:

Complete the OPT Employment Update Record to report your new employer details.

Upload the new I-983 (p. 1-4) completed by you and your new employer.

 

Active STEM OPT, Same Employer but Changes to the Terms of Employment (i.e. work site change, change in duties, etc.):

Complete the OPT Employment Update Record to report the changes to your current employment.

Upload an updated or new I-983 (p. 1-4) reflecting the changes to the employment circumstances.

For Employers

By employing an F-1 student visa holder with an OPT STEM Extension, you are providing a valuable training opportunity for the student to enhance their degree learning, and you will benefit from the skills, perspective and cultural competence they will bring to your organization. As the STEM OPT employer you do not need to file any government petitions or pay any visa related fees. However, you are responsible to complete and adhere to an individualized training plan for your STEM OPT employee. STEM OPT Employers agree to report to the Designated School Official any termination or departure of your employee within 5 days of the occurrence. To report the departure of your UConn STEM employee, please email international@uconn.edu.

While completing the I-983 training plan with your employee, you may find it helpful to refer to the government’s Instructions for Completing Form I-983. ISSS may not provide you with any specific information regarding your employee or their visa status. Please refer to the resources below for further information on the STEM OPT Extension.

If your employee’s STEM OPT extension is not approved by the date their current OPT expires, and your employee had a timely filed STEM OPT Extension, they may continue to work for up to 180 days on the expired EAD while awaiting the STEM OPT EAD. For guidance on how to complete the I-9 in this situation, see the I-9 Manual for Employers 7.4.4. F-1 STEM OPT Extension.

STEM OPT Resources

Instructions for Completing Form I-983

E-Verify and STEM OPT Employment

E-Verify Fact Sheet for Students

STEM Eligible Majors (CIP Codes)

Study in the States STEM OPT Hub

USCIS STEM OPT Page