For a list of scheduled employment and immigration workshops, including workshops specifically dedicated to OPT, click here.
24 Month STEM OPT Extension
Students who hold degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) may be eligible to apply for an additional 24 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT), for a total of 36 months of post-completion OPT. Only students who have completed degrees in a STEM designated field qualify for this extension. You can locate your field of study as listed on your Form I-20. If your field of study does not appear on this list, you are not eligible for a STEM extension. It might be possible to apply for the STEM extension based on a prior U.S. degree in a STEM field. That degree must have been conferred within the past 10 years by an SEVP-certified school that is currently accredited.
Your OISS advisor can help you determine if your degree is eligible for the STEM extension. In addition to having completed a degree in a STEM field of study, you must have a job offer or be working for an employer registered with "E-Verify," a federal employment verification system and you and your employer must complete the Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT students. A guide to completing the I-983 can be found here under Employer Responsibilities and Obligations for STEM OPT.
What to know regarding STEM OPT
STEM Extension Employment Requirements and Employer Relationship
Must be a paid position at least 20 hours per week
Must work for an E-Verify employer
Must be a position related to the STEM program major listed under “Program of Study” on yourI-20. (You are responsible for drawing a connection between your position and the skills or knowledge learned in your STEM degree).
Must be supervised and paid directly by your employer. You cannot be paid by a third party or staffing agency, or work at a location other than your employer’s place of business. For more information, please see “The Employer’s Training Obligation: Staffing and Temporary Agencies” on the USCIS Website.
In an academic environment, you cannot be paid through an external fellowship. For example, you cannot use STEM for a postdoctoral position where you are not paid directly by the host institution.
You must not begin work for any new employer without first submitting to OISS a new, completed I-983 Training Plan for that employer
You must not have more than 150 days of unemployment time during the entire period of post-completion OPT (regular post-completion OPT and 24-month extension combined)
Cannot be self-employed/freelance/independent contractor
Cannot volunteer or work in an unpaid position
When and How to Apply
WHEN TO APPLY:
A STEM OPT application can take approximately 90-120 days to be processed. You can submit your STEM OPT application to USCIS up to 90 days before your current OPT period expires, as noted on your EAD card. Submit your application to USCIS no later than two weeks before the end of your current OPT. Your STEM OPT extension request will be denied if USCIS receives your application on or after the end date of your current current OPT.
STEP 1: OISS STEM OPT REQUEST FORM AND FORM I-983 TRAINING PLAN
Complete and submit the following to email@example.com or drop off at OISS:
Completed STEM Extension Checklist
Completed STEM Extension Request Form
SEVIS School Code can be found on page 1 of your I-20. RISD's school code is BOS214F20102000
Designated School Official (DSO) is the OISS advisor who issued and signed your most recent I-20
CIP code is the number found on page 1 of your I-20 near your major
Employment Authorization Number is the USCIS# on your EAD card
Completed Form I-765 (be sure you are using the most recent version)
Summary of ALL previous (including current) employment during post-completion OPT, including:
employer's name and complete address, including postal code
employment start and end date
position title and brief description of responsibilities
number of hours worked per week
supervisor’s name and contact information (phone and email)
Copy of current EAD/OPT card (front and back)
IMPORTANT: If you have not already done so, you must report your Post-Completion OPT employment information before submitting your STEM extension request. Please complete the OPT Update Form for all employment during your OPT period. Failure to report your OPT employment will delay the processing of your STEM request.
STEP 2: RECEIVE NEW STEM OPT I-20
OISS will issue a new I-20 with a STEM OPT extension recommendation. Please allow 2-4 weeks for processing.
If you are no longer living in the Providence area, OISS can mail the new document to you. Please provide your preferred mailing address on the STEM OPT Request form.
Your STEM OPT packet will include detailed instructions on how to finalize your application for mailing as well as instructions on where and how to mail the application to USCIS.
STEP 3: ASSEMBLE YOUR APPLICATION PACKET
1. Two official U.S. passport photographs - Full legal name and SEVIS number written on the back of each photo
2. $410 - Check from a U.S. bank account or money order payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
3. Completed Form G-1145 (typed)
4. Completed Form I-765 (typed)
STEM Extension Eligibility Category: (c)(3)(C)
5. Copies of:
STEM I-20 (pages 1 and 2 only)
All previous I-20s (recommended)
Valid passport ID page(s)
Most recent F-1 visa
I-94 record or copy of your I-94 card (front and back)
Copy of current EAD card (front and back)
Copy of official final transcript with degree awarded (available from the RISD Registrar)
Copy of diploma (8 ½ x 11, black and white)
IMPORTANT: STEM OPT application must be received by USCIS within 60 days of the issue date on your STEM Extension I-20 but no later than the expiration of your current OPT period as noted on your EAD.
STEP 4: MAIL YOUR COMPLETE APPLICATION WITH SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS TO USCIS. Please visit the USCIS website for the USCIS mailing address.
STEP 5: RECEIVE RECEIPT, APPROVAL NOTICE AND STEM EAD
The Form I-797 "Notice of Action" (receipt) will be mailed to the address you provide on Form I-765. This receipt indicates the date your application was received by USCIS and includes a receipt number that allows you to track the status of your application online.
Applicants who anticipate changing addresses should note that USCIS mail will not be forwarded by the US Postal Service. Please update OISS and USCIS with any address changes.
The evidence that you have been approved for the STEM extension is a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Form I-797 Approval Notice, which you should receive within 90-120 days (normal processing time) of the receipt date listed on the receipt notice. If you have not received the EAD within the normal processing time, you may follow up with USCIS by telephoning the number listed on your receipt notice.
Please provide OISS with a copy of your EAD once you have received it.
Using a Prior Degree for the STEM Extension
If you are on post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree, you may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree earned from a U.S. institution of higher education to apply for a STEM OPT extension. For example: if you are currently participating in OPT based on a Master’s degree in Graphic Design but you previously received a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture, you may be able to apply for a STEM OPT extension based on your Bachelor’s degree in Architecture, as long as it is from an accredited U.S. college or university and the OPT employment opportunity is directly related to your Bachelor’s degree in Architecture, if:
The prior degree was conferred no more than 10 years prior to submission of the extension application;
The prior degree was conferred prior to the degree that provided the basis for the student's current period of standard post-completion OPT;
The prior degree was conferred by a U.S. educational institution that is accredited and SEVP-certified at the time the student's DSO recommends the student for the 24-month OPT extension;
The prior degree is in a degree program category included on the current STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time of the DSO recommendation;
The prospective employment that is the basis for the 24-month STEM OPT extension must directly relate to the prior degree;
You must submit an official transcript and a copy of the I-20 that identifies the prior degree. If you do not have the I-20, you can provide documentation from your previous school that confirms the degree that was conferred as well as the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code that was assigned to you. USCIS may, or may not, accept such documentation. You can find the major and CIP code in the “Program of Study” section of I-20s issued after July 2015. For forms issued before July 2015, the major will be listed under item 5. There will be no CIP Code.
Student Responsibilities While on the STEM Extension
Students who are granted a STEM OPT Extension have additional federal reporting requirements. Failure to satisfy these requirements will automatically invalidate the student’s F-1 status:
STEM OPT Training plan
- Students must report within 10 days any changes to the I-983 Training Plan on file. Students are also required to report to OISS if their employer is not abiding by the terms of the Training Plan.
- Any new employment undertaken while on the STEM Extension must meet the employment requirements detailed under "STEM Extension Employment Requirements and Employer Relationship" in the Training Plan.
- Students must submit a fully completed Training Plan evaluation at the end of the first and second twelve month periods of STEM OPT (found on page 5 of the I-983 Training Plan.)
STEM OPT students must provide the following information to OISS every six months AND within 10 days of any change:
- Legal name
- Residential and mailing address
- E-mail address
- Telephone Number
- Employer name
- Employer address
- Employer EIN
- Job title or position
- Average number of hours worked per week (must be at least 20 hours)
- Supervisor's name
- Supervisor's telephone number
- Supervisor's email
- Employment start-date
- Employment end-date
Change in Employment
Students with a 24-Month STEM extension cannot begin new employment or report a change to their employment without first following the applicable steps below:
- For changes with the current employer, within 10 days of the changes being made you must submit an updated I-983 Training Plan detailing the change (e.g., supervisor, new responsibility, change in location), to OISS. Please check with OISS if you are unsure if you need to submit an updated I-983 Training Plan.
- If you are ending employment, you must complete and submit to OISS a completed final employment evaluation from page 5 of the I-983 Training Plan within 10 days of ending the employment.
- To begin new employment, you must submit a new STEM Extension Request Form and I-983 Training Plan. The new I-983 must be confirmed by OISS as being complete and meeting all STEM program requirements before you can begin the new employment.
Ending STEM Extension, Departing the U.S., and Changes of Status
While on STEM OPT, you continue to hold F-1 status sponsored by RISD and your F-1 record remains active in the government database SEVIS. It is extremely important that you notify OISS of any changes to your immigration status:
- If you leave the U.S. permanently, you must notify OISS before you leave the U.S., and submit to OISS a completed final employment evaluation from page 5 of the I-983 within 10 days of ending the employment.
- If you change to another visa status in the U.S., such as H-1B, E-3, G-4, TN, O-1 etc. or obtain Permanent Resident status, you must notify OISS. To report this change, you will need to send evidence of your new status (e.g. copy of new I-94 arrival/departure record, I-797, or green card). You will also need to submit a completed final employment evaluation from page 5 of the I-983 within 10 days of changing your status.
Employer Responsibilities and Obligations for STEM OPT
Students on F-1 visas are eligible for a work benefit in the U.S. called Optional Practical Training (OPT) that allows students to work in their field of study for 12 months. Those who have earned eligible U.S. degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) may apply for additional OPT time. Effective on May 10, 2016, new STEM OPT regulations were issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The new rule imposed significant new obligations on students, employers and schools. Below are highlights of the new STEM OPT regulations.
The new rule increased STEM OPT from 17 to 24 months, allowing a total of 36 months of work authorization.
There are new requirements that must be followed by employers, students and Designated School Officials (DSO). There is a required Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students that must be completed by employers and students.
STEM OPT employment must be paid; and self-employment is not allowed.
Students will qualify for up to two STEM OPT extensions if they earn multiple STEM degrees in the U.S. and may be eligible for a STEM extension based on a previously earned STEM degree.
For the most up-to-date information on STEM OPT, please refer to the Study in the States website.
Responsibilities and Obligations
There are numerous employer requirements to which you must adhere. Some of those requirements are enumerated here, but you should pay particular attention to the attestation on page 2 of the I-983 Training Plan and the employer information located in Study in the States. General employer requirements include being registered with the E-Verfiy program and ensuring that hiring an international student with STEM employment will not displace a U.S. worker.
1. Rules apply for all STEM OPT students
2. Must be E-Verify employer
3. Develop a training plan for the student
4. Complete Form I-983
5. Provide two evaluations for the student
6. Responsible for proving compliance during government site visits
1. Have a job offer related to your U.S. STEM designated degree
2. Work for an E-Verify employer
3. Have a paid position in STEM field for at least 20 hours per week
4. Work with OISS to complete a STEM OPT application and submit the application to USCIS
5. Complete the student portion of Form I-983
6. Submit the completed Form I-983 to OISS
7. Responsible for completing validation reports every six months and submitting it to OISS
8. Completing parts of evaluation
1. Review STEM OPT application
2. Issue STEM OPT recommendation on Form I-20
3. Maintain the completed Form I-983 in student’s file
4. Monitor student’s validation reports and evaluations
About Form I-983
The new STEM OPT rule that provides the 24-month STEM OPT regulations increases the educational benefits that F-1 students receive from their practical training experiences by requiring the submission of a formal training plan, using Form I-983.
The formal training plan, Form I-983, must clearly articulate the STEM OPT student’s learning objectives and affirm the employer’s commitment to helping the student achieve those objectives. To fulfill this requirement, a student and their employer must complete and sign Form I-983 and submit it to OISS. By signing Form I-983, students and their employers agree that they understand their obligations during the STEM employment.
STEM OPT students and their employers are subject to the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, effective as of the employment start date requested for the associated STEM OPT period, as indicated on Form I-983.
STEM OPT students may participate in entrepreneurial ventures where the student is an employee. However, they may not act as their own employer or as the signatory for the employer for the purposes of the form.
For additional information, please review this STEM OPT Presentation