STEM OPT

(updated 7/29/2021)

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 Request STEM OPT I-20 from OISS

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-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 5: 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-983 "Training Plan for STEM OPT Students
3) Your most recent I-94 record, available at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94
4) Proof of payment of the $500 Rice STEM OPT administrative fee (http://signup.rice.edu/STEMextension)
5) Optional for students who choose to complete a paper based STEM OPT application and would like to request a courtesy review from OISS: Form I-765 "Application for Employment Authorization". Please see the "How to File Paper Based STEM OPT Application" section below for some tips on the completing the Form I-765. Please note that accuracy and completeness of the Form I-765 is still ultimately your responsibility!
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.

How to File Online STEM OPT Application

Step 1: Prepare application materials

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:

1) Optional cover letter (template available)
2) A passport-style photo taken within 30 days
3) Photocopies of your passport, most recent F-1 visa, and current I-94 record
4) Photocopy of the front and back of current (and any previous) EAD card(s)
5) Official Rice transcript
6) 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)
7) Additional supplemental documents as appropriate and stated in your cover letter

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

Step 2: Create a USCIS Online Account

Create the USCIS Online Account at https://myaccount.uscis.gov/.

For detailed step-by-step instructions, please see https://www.uscis.gov/file-online/how-to-create-a-uscis-online-account.

Step 3: Complete the Form I-765 online

Please note that you must complete the online application very carefully. The system allows you to submit an incomplete application without all required evidence, which can lead to delays and additional difficulties. If you start working on your online I-765 in advance, USCIS will keep your draft for up to 30 days, allowing you to return to finish it later. Do NOT submit the payment and application until you have received the OPT recommendation I-20 from OISS and uploaded it under the Evidence section!

The guidance below is not intended to be legal advice, but general suggestions for how you might proceed when completing the online I-765 application.

Complete the Form I-765 online

Screenshot from USCIS online account. Select what you want to do. File a form online option is circled.

Login to your USCIS Online Account and select "File a form online"

Screenshot from USCIS website. Select the form you want to file online. I-765 is checked from the list of forms.

Select the Form I-765 and click on "Start form"

Read through all the provided information very carefully before proceeding to the questions.

Screenshot from online I-765. What is your eligibility category? c(3)(C) STEM Extension is selected as the response. What is your degree? What is your employer's name as listed in E-Verify? What is your employer's E-Verify company identification number or a valid E-Verify client company identification number?

Although the menu on the left allows you to skip to any section of the I-765, it is recommended that you complete the form in order to ensure no responses are missed.

Under eligibility category, select "c(3)(C) STEM Extension"

In the remaining fields, provide your degree level and major (for example, "Bachelor’s degree in English"), your employer’s name as listed in E-Verify, your employer’s E-Verify Company Identification Number, or a valid E-Verify Client Company Identification Number in the spaces provided. Make sure the information matches your Form I-983.

Screenshot from online I-765. What is your reason for applying? Renewal of permission to accept employment is selected. Have you previously filed Form I-765? Yes is selected.

Reason for applying should be "Renewal of permission to accept employment"

Make sure to report your previously filed I-765.

Screenshot from online I-765. Is someone assisting you with completing this application?

If a preparer or an interpreter assists you with completing the application, you must disclose it and answer additional questions regarding the preparer and/or interpreter.

Screenshot from online I-765. What is your current legal name? Have you used any other names since birth?

Enter your name exactly as it is listed on your Form I-20. Make sure to also report any other names you may have used, alternate spellings, and any alternate order in which your names may sometimes be listed, if applicable.

Screenshot from online I-765. How may we contact you? What is your current U.S. mailing address? OISS address is listed on the example as follows: OISS, Rice University. 6100 Main Street, MS-365, Houston, Texas 77005.

Please make sure to respond to all questions carefully and accurately.

If you use your own address for mailing, you should leave the “In care of name” field blank. If you use the address of a family member of friend, please enter their name in the "In care of name" field.

You are welcome to use the OISS address for mailing purposes! Please list it as follows:
OISS, Rice University
6100 Main Street
MS-365
Houston, Texas 77005

Screenshot from online I-765. Is your current mailing address the same as your physical address? No is selected as the response. Where in the United States do you live?

If you use a separate mailing address, i.e. an address where you do not currently physically live, you MUST report your physical address separately. This address should match what is reported as your physical address in SEVIS, so please make sure your address is current in the SEVP Student Portal before submitting your STEM OPT application.

Screenshot from online I-765. What is your gender? What is your marital status?

Please select the options that best apply to you.

Screenshot from online I-765. What is your city, town, or village of birth? What is your state or province of birth? What is your country of birth? What is your date of birth?

Please make sure to respond to all questions carefully and accurately. All dates should be listed in the MM/DD/YYYY format.

Screenshot from online I-765. What is your country of citizenship or nationality? What is your Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record Number? When did you last arrive in the United States?

Please make sure to respond to all questions carefully and accurately.

If you are a citizen of more than one country, report them all by selecting "+ Add country" as needed.

Your I-94 number is listed at the top of your I-94 record as “Admission (I-94) Record Number.”

Your Status at last arrival is most likely F-1, so select “F-1 - F-1 - Student, Academic or Language Program” from the dropdown.
Exception: If you originally entered the U.S. in a different visa status, filed and were approved by USCIS for a change of status to F-1, and have not traveled internationally since then, please make sure to select the correct status at last arrival!

Screenshot from online I-765. What is the passport number of your most recently issued passport? What is your travel document number (if any)? What is the expiration date of your passport or travel document? What country issued your passport or travel document?

Please make sure to respond to all questions carefully and accurately.

Most F-1 students do not have a travel document, so you may leave that question blank.

Screenshot from online I-765. What is your current immigration status or category? F-1 Student Academic or Language Program has been selected. What is your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System Number?

In order to qualify for STEM OPT, your current immigration status must be F-1. Please select “F-1 - F-1 - Student, Academic or Language Program” from the dropdown.

Your SEVIS Number is available at the top of your Form I-20.

Screenshot from online I-765. What is your A-Number? What is your USCIS Online Account Number? I do not have or know my number has been checked on both questions.

Unless you specifically have and know your A-Number and/or your USCIS Online Account Number, you may select that you do not have or know these numbers.

Screenshot from online I-765. Has the SSA ever officially issued a Social Security card to you? Do you want the SSA to issue you a Social Security card? Consent for Disclosure: I authorize disclosure of information from this application to the SSA as required for the purpose of assigning me an SSN and issuing me a Social Security card.

Please make sure to respond to all questions accurately. If you have an SSN, you will be asked to provide it. If you do not have an SSN or need a replacement card for any reason, you have the option of requesting for a Social Security card to be issued on the Form I-765. In that case you must give USCIS consent to disclose your information to SSA, and you will be asked a few additional questions related to the Social Security Number application.

Screenshot from online I-765. What is your father's birth name? What is your mother's birth name?

These additional questions only apply to students who are requesting a Social Security card to be issued on the Form I-765.

Screenshot from online I-765. 2X2 Photo of you.

Please read through the photo requirements carefully. Use the link to access the Department of State’s photo composition tools if you need to resize or otherwise adjust your photo to meet the requirements.

Pay attention to the file requirements, including accepted file formats, file names, and maximum file size.

Screenshot from online I-765. I-94 Arrival and Departure Record.

Please upload a copy of your I-94 record (available at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94), or a copy of your USCIS I-797A Approval Notice if you have changed status to F-1 inside the U.S. and have not traveled internationally since then.

Pay attention to the file requirements, including accepted file formats, file names, and maximum file size.

Screenshot from online I-765. Employment Authorization Document or Government ID.

Although the instructions for this section only request that one identity document be uploaded, we strongly recommend that you upload all of the following:
1) Passport biographical page
2) Most recent F-1 visa stamp even if it has expired (if applicable)
3) Previous EAD card(s)

Pay attention to the file requirements, including accepted file formats, file names, and maximum file size.

Screenshot from online I-765. I-20, certificate of eligibility for nonimmigrant student status.

Please upload a copy of the new STEM OPT I-20 provided by OISS. No other I-20 copies should be uploaded in this section. Please make sure you have signed the I-20 (by hand in ink, electronic signatures from students are not accepted).

The online application must be submitted to USCIS within 60 days of the issue date of your STEM OPT I-20!

Pay attention to the file requirements, including accepted file formats, file names, and maximum file size.

Screenshot from online I-765. College Degree.

Please upload copies of the following:
1) Official transcript showing conferred STEM degree
2) Diploma
3) (if STEM is based on a previous degree) Copy of your I-20 from previous STEM degree program

Pay attention to the file requirements, including accepted file formats, file names, and maximum file size.

Screenshot from online I-765. Institution Accreditation.

This document is only required if you are applying for the STEM Extension based on a previous degree, i.e. not the degree your current OPT is for. Contact an international advisor at your STEM degree institution for assistance regarding appropriate documentation to upload here.

Pay attention to the file requirements, including accepted file formats, file names, and maximum file size.

Screenshot from online I-765. Additional information.

If you would like to provide any additional information regarding any of your responses on the Form I-765, you may do so here by clicking + Add a response.

Screenshot from online I-765. Check your application before you submit.

Please review any alerts and warnings very carefully. Although USCIS allows you to add unsolicited documents at a later stage, the application itself cannot be changed after submission.

Screenshot from online I-765. Review the I-765 information.

Please review your responses very carefully. The system allows you to submit your application without all the required documentation, and although USCIS allows you to add unsolicited documents at a later stage, submitting an incomplete application can lead to delays and additional difficulties.

Screenshot from online I-765. Applicant's statement.

If you did not report having used an interpreter, you must attest to having read and understood every question and instructions related to the Form I-765.

Screenshot from online I-765. Applicant's declaration and certification.

Please read the declaration very carefully and sign the online I-765 digitally by typing your full legal name where requested.

Screenshot from online I-765. Pay for and submit your application.

Your STEM OPT application will be submitted to USCIS once you have paid the application fee online. The available payment methods include a withdrawal from a U.S. checking or savings account, or payment with a U.S. debit or credit card. USCIS does not accept foreign debit or credit cards.

If you choose to start working on the I-765 in advance, USCIS will keep your draft for up to 30 days, allowing you to return to finish it.

DO NOT SUBMIT THE PAYMENT AND APPLICATION until you have received the new STEM OPT I-20 from OISS and uploaded it under the Evidence section (under Form I-20).

After you submit your application, an electronic receipt notice will be immediately available. USCIS will also mail you a hard copy receipt notice, which you should receive in a few weeks.

If you wish to add additional documentation to your application, such as the optional cover letter, you may upload them as unsolicited evidence under the "Documents" tab in your online account.

Step 4: Respond to any requests from USCIS, if applicable

If USCIS issues a Request for Evidence (RFE) for your STEM OPT application, you will receive the notification through your USCIS Online Account. Please read through the request carefully paying special attention to the response deadline. Contact OISS if you need any assistance and upload your response through your USCIS Online Account as quickly as possibly.

How to File Paper Based STEM OPT Application

Step 1: 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 – Use this form to request a text message and/or email notification from USCIS when they receive your application.
2) A check or money order for $410.00 to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" OR Form G-1450 – Only credit cards issued by a U.S. bank may be used for Form G-1450, foreign credit cards are not accepted
3) Recommended cover letter (template available)
4) Two passport-style photos taken within 30 days
5) Completed Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (must be signed by hand in ink) – Please see the official USCIS instructions at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765 and OISS tips below
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) Official Rice transcript (hardcopy; should remain in a sealed envelope)
11) 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)
12) 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.

Tips for Completing the Paper Form I-765

The guidance below is not intended to be legal advice, but general suggestions for how you might proceed when completing the Form I-765 when applying for STEM OPT using a paper based application. If you have questions about parts of the form not covered here, please contact OISS. You also want to read the official USCIS instructions at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765. We strongly recommend that the form is typed on a computer, and only printed for an original signature. USCIS recommends using the most recent version of Adobe Reader for best functionality of the form. Handwritten responses can lead to misinterpreted characters, etc., but if you wish to still submit a handwritten form, please use black ink and make sure that all responses are strictly within the lines of the answer box.

Part 1. Reason for Applying – Please check option 1.c. “Renewal of my permission to accept employment.”

Part 2. Information about You – Your Full Legal Name & Other Names Used
Enter your name exactly as it is listed on your Form I-20 in the Full Legal Name section. Make sure to also report any other names you may have used, alternate spellings, and any alternate order in which your names may sometimes be listed, if applicable.

Part 2. Information about You – Your U.S. Mailing Address

  • Complete 5.a. (In Care Of Name) only if you’re using an address that is not your own. In that case you would put the name of the person living in that address. For example, you are always welcome to use the OISS address, in which case you should complete question 5. as follows:
    a. In Care of Name: OISS, Rice University
    b. Street Number and Name: 6100 Main Street, MS-365
    c. Leave blank
    d. City or Town: Houston
    e. State: TX
    f. ZIP code: 77005
  • If you’re using your own physical address, you should leave 5.a. blank and complete your address in the remaining fields under question 5. You should respond “Yes” to question 6.
  • If you’re using a mailing address other than your physical address, you must answer “No” on question 6, and include your physical address in question 7.
  • IMPORTANT: Your physical address should match the address we have reported for you in SEVIS. Please make sure your address is correct in the SEVP Student Portal before submitting your STEM OPT application.

Part 2. Information about You – Other Information

  • Question 8. (Alien Registration Number) – Please include the number titled “USCIS #” on your OPT EAD.
  • Question 12. (Have you previously filed Form I-765) – Answer “Yes”, and make sure to include a copy of your current OPT EAD with your STEM OPT application, as well as any EADs you have had previously, if applicable.
  • Questions 13 - 17 (Regarding SSA) – If you have an SSN, you should provide it. If you do not have an SSN, you have the option of requesting for a Social Security card to be issued on the Form I-765. In that case you must give USCIS consent to disclose your information to SSA (question 15), and you must answer a few additional questions related to the Social Security Number application (questions 16 - 17). If your response to question 14 is "No," questions 15, 16 and 17 should all be left blank according to the instructions on the form indicating you should skip to question 18.

Part 2. Information about You – Information about Your Last Arrival in the United States

  • Question 24. (Immigration Status at Your Last Arrival) – In most cases this is F-1, so enter "F-1 student." Exception: If you originally entered the U.S. in a different visa status, filed and were approved by USCIS for a change of status to F-1, and have not traveled internationally since then, please make sure to enter the correct status at last arrival!
  • Question 25. (Your Current Immigration Status or Category) – In order to qualify for STEM OPT, your current immigration status must be F-1. Please enter "F-1 student."
  • Question 27. (Eligibility Category) – The eligibility category for STEM OPT is (c)(3)(C). Please also make sure to answer questions 28.a. – 28.c.
    • 28.a. – Indicate your degree level and major (for example "Bachelor's degree in English").
    • 28.b. – Enter your employer's name as listed in E-Verify. Make sure this matches your Form I-983.
    • 28.c. – Enter your employer's E-Verify Company Identification Number, or a valid E-Verify Client Company Identification Number.

Part 3. Applicant’s Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, Certification, and Signature

  • Question 7.a. (Applicant's signature) – Please note that the Form I-765 requires an original, handwritten signature. Electronic signatures are not accepted by USCIS.
  • Question 7.b. (Date of signature) – USCIS must receive your STEM OPT application within 60 days of when your STEM OPT I-20 is issued by OISS. We also recommend making sure that the date of signature on the Form I-765 is no older than 60 days when USCIS receives your application.

Part 4. – should only be completed if you use an interpreter to help you with the Form I-765.

Part 5. – should only be completed if the Form I-765 is completed by someone else on your behalf.

Part 6. Additional Information – Use this page to report any additional information, if applicable.

Step 2: 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.

Step 3: Respond to any requests from USCIS, if applicable

If USCIS issues a Request for Evidence (RFE) for your STEM OPT application, you will receive a hard copy notification in the mail. Please read through the request carefully paying special attention to the response deadline. Contact OISS if you need any assistance, and mail in your response as quickly as possible.

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/OPTcompliance.

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/OPTcompliance.

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/OPTcompliance.

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/OPTcompliance. 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.