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 qualifying 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!
Important Notices to Employers!
Remember, U.S. government officials can perform site visits anytime to ensure compliance.
- Enrolled in E-Verify.
- Complete Form I-983 (Training Plan) accurately.
- Ensure the student is utilizing their STEM degree to perform job function.
- Work directly with student to remain compliance with reporting requirements (below).
Quick Tips for Form I-983
- For official instructions click here.
- Start Date of Employment – refers to the start date of employment during STEM OPT Training, and not start of employment on regular OPT, even if the student is a continuing employee.
- Employer Name – should be listed exactly as in E-Verify.
- Final page should be left blank (evaluations are due at later time).
Compliance & Reporting Requirements
- Review, understand, and follow the Form I-983 Trainnig Plan for STEM OPT Students.
- Conduct annual evaluations of the student (final page of Form I-983; due upon completing 1st year on STEM OPT and again at the end of amployment, if applicable, and at the end of STEM OPT period. Signed evaluations must be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org on time to remain compliant.
- Adhere to all applicable regulatory provisions that govern this program (see 8 CFR Part 214.2(f)(10)(ii)).
- Notify Rice University OISS (email@example.com) regarding any changes/updates/deviations from Form I-983 at the earliest available opportunity, including if the student is not receiving appropriate training as delineated in this Plan.
- Notify Rice University OISS (firstname.lastname@example.org) upon termination of employment, if applicable.
For additional information, please see Important Resources below.
Quick Facts about STEM OPT
- STEM extension is available for 24 months.
- Student may be eligible for two STEM extensions during their lifetime.
- 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).
- 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". 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
- 24-month STEM Extension Tutorial – Please review this tutorial before applying for the STEM extension.
- 24-month STEM Extension Handout – This handout includes additional instructions on how to apply, as well as the required Statement of Understanding form.
- Cover Letter Template for STEM Extension application – Please download this Word file, edit it with your information, and submit with your STEM OPT Extension application. For more instructions, please see the 24-month STEM Extension Tutorial and Handout above.
- Tips on completing the I-765 for STEM OPT application
- Reporting Requirements on OPT & STEM OPT
- Study in the States STEM OPT HUB
- Study in the States STEM OPT Extension Overview
- Study in the States STEM OPT Reporting Requirements Timeline for Students, Employers and DSOs
- Study in the States Overview of the Form I-983 Training Plan
- Study in the States Students and the Form I-983 Training Plan
- Study in the States Employers and the Form I-983 Training Plan
- SEVP Student Portal - More Information and Frequently Asked Questions
- FAQ for students currently on valid post-completion OPT
- FAQ for students currently on valid 24-month STEM extension
- 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.
- 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 24-month STEM extension regulations, students may be eligible for up to two STEM extension during their lifetime. Please contact OISS for more information.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- What is the Training Plan?
See answer regarding Form I-983 below.
- What is the Form I-983?
The Form I-983 is the Training Plan required under the 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.
- 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, email@example.com"
- 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
- How often do I have to report to OISS?
Every 6 months, and within 48 hours of a change in your employment, or immigration status. For information on how to submit an update, please visit our OPT webpage. For changes in your address, you will need to submit an update through your SEVP Student Portal.
- Will my training be evaluated during my STEM employment?
Yes. In addition to submitting a validation report to OISS every 6 months, the 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.
- How much does it cost to apply for the STEM OPT extension?
The USCIS application fee is $410. In addition, Rice University's central office charges a one-time STEM OPT extension administrative fee of $500 to cover processing, reporting, and compliance overhead costs for Rice alumni, so thank you for planning accordingly. Special note: At times, students are able to negotiate this cost to be reimbursed to them from their companies, as STEM OPT is a less-expensive option than most other working visa options.
- How do I pay for the $500 Rice STEM OPT extension administrative fee?
To pay for the Rice fee, please visit https://signup.rice.edu/STEMextension to pay with a credit or debit card. Upon submitting your payment, you will receive a confirmation receipt email that you will include with your STEM OPT request form to OISS.
- How do I submit the necessary documents to OISS if I'm no longer in Houston?
You are always welcome to submit your STEM documents in person, but if you're no longer in Houston, please submit the necessary documents electronically through http://bit.ly/stemdocs.
- 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.
- 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 the Students on OPT webpage every 6 months, even if your information has not changed.
- Submit an OPT update through your SEVP Student Portal whenever there is a change in your personal information or address.
- Submit an updated Form I-983 to OISS if there is any change in your employment or Form I-983 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 emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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.
- Submit an updated Form I-983 to OISS regarding your new employment and the formal training plan that has been set for you.
- 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.
- 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.