What is STEM OPT Extension and how to get it?
Some F-1 students who have received education in STEM courses i.e. if they have secured degree science, technology, engineering, and mathematics course can apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion optional practical training (OPT). These extensions are granted to those that have a job offer from an employer in the U.S. or a college acceptance letter and the opportunity to stay in the U.S. after they graduate from their STEM degree program. In this article, we will inform you about the STEM OPT extension and how you can get it? For receiving the STEM OPT extension, a student must pursue his practical training through an employer that is enrolled in USCIS' E-Verify employment eligibility verification program. The STEM extension is a work permit for students who are in their last year of study and will be moving on to graduate school in a STEM field. The student must have had an F-1 student visa while they studied. They must have been enrolled at a higher education institution, completed coursework equal to at least one year of full-time study, graduated from that institution and received a job offer from the employer.
The STEM OPT extension is a 24-month period of temporary training which is related to an F-1 student's program of study in an approved STEM field/area. Students with a degree or pending graduation in a qualifying STEM program may be eligible to apply for one of these extensions. F-1 students (eligible) with STEM degrees who have finished their programs and are on regular OPT which is of 12 months can apply for STEM OPT extension. A regular work permit given for OPT is for 12 months. If they are eligible for STEM OPT extension of 24 months then the total OPT duration is 36 months. Students must stop their employment when they reach the end date mentioned on their EAD card, however, they can remain in the US for a grace period of 60 days.
Eligibility for the STEM OPT Extension
To qualify for the 24-month extension the candidate must:
- Have been granted OPT and currently be in a valid period of OPT.
- Have earned either a bachelor’s, master's or doctoral degree from a school that is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency and is also certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) when the candidate is submitting his STEM OPT extension application.
- The employer of the student from where is pursuing his STEM OPT extension must be enrolled with USCIS's E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.
- Should work for an employer who meets all the requirements set by the STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities section.
Also read, eligibility for pursuing STEM abroad.
Applying for STEM OPT Extension
- A student must submit the Form I-765 up to 90 days before his current OPT employment authorization expires
- Application fee
- Employer's name as listed in E-Verify
- Employer’s E-Verify Company Identification Number or valid E-Verify Client Company Identification Number
- Copy of student's STEM degree
- Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, endorsed by your DSO within the last 60 days
If the candidate has filed for the STEM OPT extension on time but his OPT period expires, however, his extension application is still pending, and then his employment authorization will be automatically extended for 180 days by USCIS. The automatic 180-day extension is given once USCIS decides student’s STEM OPT extension application.
After Receiving STEM OPT Extension
Students who received the STEM OPT extension must do the following:
- Report these changes to your DSO within 10 days of the change:
o Student's legal name
o Student's residential address
o Student's email address
o Student's employer's name
o Student's employer's address
- STEM OPT students must report to their DSOs every six months even if no information has been changed.
Unemployment during OPT Period
A student can be unemployed for a limited number of days during his OPT period. However, DHS allows STEM OPT students an additional 60 days of unemployment during the 24-month STEM OPT extension period. Students with regular OPT can stay unemployed for a period of 90 days, however, after getting a 24-month extension they get an additional 60 days of unemployment which makes their total unemployment days to 150.
If you are an F-1 student who timely filed an H-1B application, and request for a change of status is pending, then you may apply for the H1-B Cap-Gap Extension of your F-1 status. This extension will allow you to continue to lawfully stay in the United States up until your H-1B petition is processed.
Students whose H1-B petitions are pending or approved can stay in the US in F-1 status under the H1-B Cap-Gap Extension until the start date of their approved H1-B job period. They are allowed to stay in this status even if their OPT authorization or the grace period for F-1 is expired before October 1.
STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities
F-1 students can only qualify for the STEM OPT extension if their employer is signing the Form I-983 as the employer needs to attest this form for the F-1 students. The F-1 student STEM extension is available to international students who have been granted a degree in a qualifying field of study. F-1 students are eligible for this extension if they have been pursuing full-time studies in the United States and can present an employment offer from a qualifying employer. The employer that signs the Training Plan of the F-1 student must be the same entity that employs the student and providing the practical training experience to him. STEM OPT applicants can also work for a small business if they are fulfilling all the regulatory requirements.
The company should be in good standing with E-Verify and must have the resources to fulfill with the proposed training plan.