STEM OPT Info Page

(updated 4/2/2021)

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.

Eligibility Requirements

  • 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 Training 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 employment, if applicable, and at the end of STEM OPT period. Signed evaluations must be sent to oiss@rice.edu 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 (oiss@rice.edu) 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 (oiss@rice.edu) 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 + days carried over the post-completion OPT period).
  • 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 Apply for STEM OPT

Step 1: Review the STEM OPT Tutorial & FAQs

Please review the 24-month STEM Extension Tutorial and read through the FAQ for Students Applying for STEM OPT Extension below before starting the STEM extension application process.

Step 2: Make an appointment to discuss your plans with an OISS advisor

If you have any questions about the STEM OPT application process after reviewing the tutorial, please set up an appointment with an OISS advisor.

Step 3: Verify that your SEVP Portal information is current

Please login to your SEVP Student Portal and make sure that all information is current and accurate.

Step 4: Complete the Form I-765

The Form I-765 is available at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765. Please make sure you are using the correct version of the form, as indicated on the USCIS website under the section "Edition Date." Make sure to read the USCIS “Instructions for Form I-765” document, especially the General Instructions and the information under Foreign Student Categories that applies to STEM OPT. Also read the OISS tips at https://oiss.rice.edu/OPTtips. We strongly recommend completing the Form I-765 on a computer and only printing for an original signature. Please note that electronic or digital signature are not allowed on this form.

Step 5: Complete the Form I-983 together with your STEM OPT employer

The Form I-983 is available at https://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/i983.pdf. Please review the instructions available in the Study in the States STEM OPT Hub, and work with your employer to complete the form. Please note that electronic or digital signature are not allowed on this form.

Step 6: Submit your STEM OPT request documents to OISS

Please upload the following documents at http://bit.ly/stemdocs:

1) OISS Student Statement of Understanding
2) Form I-765 "Application for Employment Authorization"
3) Form I-983 "Training Plan for STEM OPT Students
4) Your most recent I-94 record, available at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94
5) Proof of payment of the $500 Rice STEM OPT administrative fee (http://signup.rice.edu/STEMextension)
6) If STEM OPT extension is based on a previous degree from another university, provide copies of corresponding I-20 and posted degree. You must also provide evidence that the institution is currently accredited by the U.S. Department of Education and certified by SEVP.

Step 7: Assemble your STEM OPT application

While OISS works on your new I-20 (please allow 1-2 weeks for processing), please make sure you have the remaining application items ready. Once you receive your I-20, please assemble your STEM OPT application with the following items in the listed order:

1) Recommended G-1145 E-notification form
2) A check or money order for $410.00 to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" OR Form G-1450
3) Recommended cover letter (template available)
4) Two passport-style photos taken within 30 days
5) Completed Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization
6) Photocopy of the STEM OPT I-20 with your signature (you should keep the original)
7) SEVIS employment history printout (OISS will provide this along with your STEM OPT I-20)
8) Photocopies of your passport, most recent F-1 visa, and current I-94 record
9) Photocopy of the front and back of current (and any previous) EAD card(s)
10) Photocopies of previous CPT and OPT I-20s
11) Official Rice transcript (hardcopy; should remain in a sealed envelope)
12) Photocopy of diploma – if necessary, you may purchase a Facsimile Diploma on letter-sized paper from the Registrar's Office (https://registrar.rice.edu/students/diplomas)
13) Additional supplemental documents as appropriate and stated in your cover letter

All documents should be single sided. Photocopies do not need to be in color. Please make a copy of the entire application for your records before moving to Step 8.

If you would like to discuss your complete application with an OISS advisor before mailing it to USCIS, please feel free to schedule an appointment.

Step 8: Mail your application to USCIS

Please see the USCIS I-765 website section "Where to File" for the current mailing address for your STEM OPT application. Please note that you may not mail your application more than 90 days before the expiration date of your post-completion OPT. In addition, USCIS must receive your application no more than 60 days after the STEM OPT I-20 was issued. We strongly recommend mailing the application with tracking.

You can get a slightly discounted shipping through eShipGlobal. Visit https://study.eshipglobal.com, create an account if you don't already have one, select "OPT application" followed by the correct Lockbox as indicated on the USCIS website, and enter your payment information. If you have any questions, please contact the eShipGlobal directly.

FAQ for Students Applying for STEM OPT Extension

When can I apply for the STEM OPT Extension?

You may apply as early as 90 days before the end of your 12-month OPT period. Your application must be received by USCIS before your 12-month OPT end date and within 60 days of the STEM OPT I-20 issuance date.

Can I apply for a second STEM extension if I have already had one before?

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.

Can the STEM extension be based on a previous 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 and the degree is from within 10 years. 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 the STEM extension be based on a previous STEM degree from abroad?

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 Form I-983 Training Plan?

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, oiss@rice.edu"
  • 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"

How much does it cost to apply?

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.

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 STEM OPT request documents to OISS?

Please submit your STEM OPT request electronically through http://bit.ly/stemdocs.

What happens after the STEM OPT application is mailed to USCIS?

1) USCIS sends an I-797 Notice of Action once your application is received, usually in a few weeks. This notice will contain a receipt number to check application status at https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do.
2) USCIS mails your STEM OPT EAD card. Processing times vary but may take 90+ days.

What if my STEM OPT EAD card does not arrive in time?

Even if your new STEM OPT EAD card has not arrived by the start of your 24-month extension period, you may continue working for an E-Verify employer for up to 180 days according to the Code of Federation Regulations (8CFR 213.2(f)(11)(i)(C) and 8CFR 274a.12(b)(6)(iv)). Once your new STEM OPT EAD card arrives, you should provide a copy to your employer and OISS. Note that you may not be able to renew your driver license without the STEM OPT EAD.

Can I change jobs while STEM OPT application is pending?

We do not recommend changing employers while your STEM OPT application is pending USCIS approval, as this change can disrupt the application process and can cause delays. If you are considering changing employers while your application is pending, contact OISS immediately for guidance. A new or updated STEM extension petition may be required.

Can I travel internationally while my STEM OPT application is pending?

Traveling while your STEM OPT application is not recommended and should be undertaken with caution. If USCIS approves your application, you will be expected to have your new EAD in hand to re-enter the United States. Remember, USCIS can only send the EAD to your U.S. address. Application for F-1 visa renewal during OPT (especially while the STEM application is still pending) can be risky.

Please speak with an OISS advisor for more information. You may also find additional information on travel and OPT at https://oiss.rice.edu/opt.

FAQ for Students Currently on STEM OPT Extension

What are the reporting requirements on STEM OPT?

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:

1) Submit a copy of your new EAD card to OISS as soon as it arrives at http://bit.ly/oissdocs
2) Submit a validation report through the Students on OPT webpage every 6 months, even if your information has not changed.
3) Submit an OPT update through your SEVP Student Portal whenever there is a change in your personal information or address.
4) Submit an updated Form I-983 to OISS if there is any change in your employment or Form I-983 Training Plan using our online reporting form.
5) If you change employers while on STEM OPT, submit an updated Form I-983 to OISS with your self-evaluation signed by your former employer at the conclusion of your employment at https://riceuniversity.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8CYjpYc18xZw1wi.
6) If you change employers while on STEM OPT, submit an updated Form I-983 to OISS regarding your new employment and the formal training plan that has been set for you at https://riceuniversity.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8CYjpYc18xZw1wi.
7) 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.
8) 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.
9) Notify OISS immediately if you change your status to a visa type other than F-1 by emailing oiss@rice.edu.

For more information, please see https://oiss.rice.edu/opt.

Where can I find resources for reporting requirements and timelines?

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.

Please also see the Maintaining Status on STEM OPT section of https://oiss.rice.edu/opt.

What if I fail to meet all the reporting requirements?

You must meet all the reporting requirements listed above and at https://oiss.rice.edu/opt. 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 all of these regulatory requirements.

How many unemployment days are allowed during STEM OPT Extension period?

Students are required to work full-time (defined as at least 20 hours per week) for an E-Verify employer during the STEM OPT Extension. Students are permitted a total of 150 days of unemployment in the combined 36-month period of OPT (12-months of regular OPT plus 24-month STEM OPT extension). Unemployment days accumulated during the regular 12-month OPT carry over to the 24-month extension period.

Important Resources

For more information, please see the Students on OPT & STEM OPT webpage.