The STEM extension is an extension of post-completion OPT for students in F-1 status with a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree. The STEM extension is available for students who are currently on valid post-completion OPT, have completed a degree in a STEM field in the U.S., and have secured employment with an E-Verify employer in their major field of study, who is willing to commit to creating and supervising a training plan during the student's STEM OPT extension. It is strongly recommended that you discuss the Form I-983 and the requirements for the Training Plan with your employer well in advance before applying for your STEM OPT extension!
Changes to the STEM OPT extension went into effect on May 10, 2016. Here are some quick facts about the differences between the old and new STEM OPT rules:
- STEM extension is now available for 24 months instead of 17 months.
- Student may be eligible for two STEM extensions during their lifetime instead of one.
- STEM extension may, under certain circumstances, be based on a previous degree in a STEM field, even if current degree is not eligible for the STEM extension. For more information on eligibility, please contact OISS.
- Student may accrue up to 150 unemployment days in total during post-completion OPT (90 days) and 24-month STEM extension (60 days), instead of 120 days in total during post-completion OPT (90 days) and 17-month STEM extension (30 days).
- Student and employer must commit to a training plan and annual evaluations, which will be documented with the Form I-983 "Training Plan for STEM OPT Students". New reporting requirements include, but are not limited to, articulating the STEM OPT student's learning objectives, affirming the employer's commitment to helping the student achieve the learning objectives, updating OISS with any material changes to the training plan, submitting the annual self-evaluations to OISS, etc. For more information on the Form I-983, please see Study in the States - Overview of the Form I-983 Training Plan. It is strongly recommended that you discuss the Form I-983 and the requirements for the Training Plan with your employer well in advance before applying for your STEM OPT extension!
How to request STEM OPT
FAQ FOR STUDENTS CURRENTLY ON VALID POST-COMPLETION OPT
1) How early can I apply for the 24-month STEM extension?
Students submitting their STEM application may apply 90 days prior to their current OPT expiration day.
2) I'm currently on my second OPT after another degree. I've had a STEM extension before, can I have another one?
Possibly. Under the new 24-month STEM extension regulations, students are now eligible for up to two STEM extension during their lifetime. Please contact OISS for more information.
3) I am on OPT for a non-STEM degree. May I apply for the STEM OPT extension based upon my previous STEM degree?
Possibly. Students participating in a valid post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree may apply for the 24-month STEM extension based upon a prior eligible STEM degree, if they did not have a STEM extension associated with this degree in the past. However, the work performed under the 24-month STEM extension must be directly related to the STEM degree obtained. Please contact OISS for more information.
4) Can I use a previous STEM degree from abroad to apply for a STEM extension?
No, only U.S. accredited universities may be considered. In addition, the degree must be from within 10 years.
5) Can I start my own business or work for a start-up company on STEM OPT?
The official communication states that the employment "Must be a bonafide employer and employee relationship." If you have a start-up, there must be someone else in the company that can serve as a supervisor and train you in the STEM field you have studied. Additionally, the company must also fit all the government requirements to be a STEM OPT eligible employer.
6) What is the Training Plan?
See answer regarding Form I-983 below.
7) What is the Form I-983?
The Form I-983 is the Training Plan required under the new, 24-month STEM regulations. Please visit the Study in the States website for an explanation of the Form I-983 as well as guidance on how to complete it.
8) What information about Rice and my DSO do I need to complete the Form I-983?
In Section 1 of the Form I-983 you will be asked to complete the following:
- SEVIS School Code of School Recommending STEM OPT - You will find Rice's School Code on your I-20 under the section titled "School Information"
- Designated School Official (DSO) Name and Contact Information - Please use "Adria L. Baker, 6100 Main Street, MS-365, Houston, TX 77005, 713-348-6095, firstname.lastname@example.org"
- Student SEVIS ID - You will find your SEVIS ID at the top of the first page of your I-20
- Qualifying Major and Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) Code - You will find your CIP code on your I-20 under the Major information in the section "Program of Study"
We have also included a handout with tips on completing the first page of the Form I-983 on our 24-month STEM Extension Handout
9) How often do I have to report to OISS?
Every 6 months, and within 48 hours of a change in your address, employment, or immigration status. To submit an update, please visit http://oiss.rice.edu/opt/.
10) Will my training be evaluated during my STEM employment?
Yes, in addition to submitting a validation report to OISS every 6 months, new regulations also require that you conduct an annual self-evaluation which will be reviewed and signed by your employer and submitted to OISS on the Form I-983.
11) How much does it cost to apply for the STEM OPT extension?
Effective December 23, 2016, the USCIS application fee increased to $410. In addition, effective July 1st, 2016, Rice implemented an additional, one-time per STEM extension administrative fee of $500, so please plan for this. This will help off-set additional resources needed to process compliance for this benefit.
12) How do I pay for the $500 Rice STEM OPT extension administrative fee?
Please go to https://signup.rice.edu/STEMextension, where you will be able to pay the fee with a credit or debit card. You will receive a confirmation email once the fee has been paid, which you will need to submit to OISS as proof of payment.
FAQ FOR STUDENTS CURRENTLY ON A VALID 24-MONTH STEM EXTENSION
1) Once my STEM Extension is approved by USCIS, do I still need to communicate with OISS at Rice?
Yes, There are several reporting requirements that apply to you while you are on your STEM extension to ensure that you are maintaining your F-1 status. For more information, please see questions 2 & 3.
2) What reporting requirements apply to me if I stay with the same employer throughout my 24-month STEM extension?
- Send OISS a copy of your new EAD card as soon as it arrives.
- Submit a validation report through http://oiss.rice.edu/opt every 6 months, even if your information has not changed.
- Submit an OPT update through http://oiss.rice.edu/opt whenever there is a change in your personal information, address, or employment information.
- Submit an updated Form I-983 to OISS if there is a material change in your employment or training plan.
- Submit an updated Form I-983 to OISS with your self-evaluation signed by your employer within the first 12 months of your STEM extension.
- Submit an updated Form I-983 to OISS with your self-evaluation signed by your employer at the end of your 24-month STEM extension.
- Notify OISS immediately if you change your status to a visa type other than F-1 by submitting an update through http://oiss.rice.edu/opt.
3) Are there additional reporting requirements that apply to me if I change employers during my 24-month STEM extension?
Yes. In addition to all the reporting requirements listed in question 2, you must also complete the following:
- Submit an updated Form I-983 to OISS with your self-evaluation signed by your former employer at the conclusion of your employment during the 24-month STEM extension.
- Submit an updated Form I-983 to OISS regarding your new employment and the formal training plan that has been set for you.
- Submit an OPT update through http://oiss.rice.edu/opt detailing the change in your employment information.
4) Are there any resources available to help me with the different reporting requirements and timelines?
Yes. The Study in the States STEM OPT HUB has a great chart detailing the STEM OPT reporting requirement timelines for both students and employers. To view the chart, please visit https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/assets/sevpstemoptreportingrequirementsfinal.pdf.
5) What happens if I fail to submit any of the required items listed in the questions above?
You must meet all the reporting requirements listed above. Failure to do so is a violation of your F-1 status under the regulations of the 24-month STEM OPT extension, and may result in SEVIS auto-terminating your status. It is your responsibility to make sure you are meeting these requirements.
For more FAQs, please see the 24-month STEM Extension Tutorial.
FAQ FOR STUDENTS CURRENTLY ON A VALID 17-MONTH STEM EXTENSION
1) Can I change from the 17-month STEM extension to the 24-month STEM extension?
No. The deadline to apply for the additional 7 months was August 8th, 2016. If you did not submit an application for the additional 7 months by August 8th, you will finish your OPT under the old regulations that apply to the 17-month extension. Please contact OISS for more information.