STEM OPT

Some students in science, technology, engineering or math programs may be eligible for a 24 month OPT extension.

The 24 month extension is available upon completion of 12 months of OPT. The STEM extension is granted in one 24 month period; it cannot be “split” into 2 periods. The employment start date for a STEM extension is the day immediately after the day on which your initial OPT expires.

For details on this, review the information available at the US government website’s STEM OPT Hub.



Student Requirements:

  1. Completed a degree in qualifying STEM program
    • The STEM designated degree program list includes all STEM fields qualifying an F-1 student for a STEM OPT extension. DHS determined a “STEM field” is a field included in the U.S. Department of Education's Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) taxonomy within the two-digit series containing engineering (CIP code 14), biological sciences (CIP code 26), mathematics (CIP code 27), and physical sciences (CIP code 40), or a related field.

    • The CIP Code assigned to your degree is the number that follows your Major on page 1 of your I-20.

  2. Currently engaging in post-completion OPT (students on pre-completion OPT are not eligible)
  3. Will be employed by an E-Verify employer
  4. The student and the E-verify employer complete a Form I-983 Training Plan

    • F-1 students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Form I-983 because F-1 students may not provide employer attestations on their own behalf. However, STEM OPT applicants can participate in a start-up or small business so long as all regulatory requirements are met. The employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.
  5. Maintain valid F-1 status
    • Report to the Sluztker Center any changes within 10 days of change through the OPT Students Information Update Form changes to:
      • Legal name
      • Address
      • Employer name and address
    • Validate their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System information every six months with the Slutzker Center including: 

      • Legal name
      • Address
      • Employer name and address
      • Status of current employment/practical training experience
  6.  STEM OPT students must do an annual self-evaluation and must report to the Slutzker Center about the progress of the training experience. Students mut sign the self-evalation prior to submitting it to the DSO, who will include it in the student's record.
  7. Have not accrued more than 90 days of unemployment. 
  8. Submit a timely STEM extension application. 

Employer Requirements

  1. The employer must participate in USCIS's E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.
  2. The employer must report to the Slutzker Center when an F-1 student on a STEM OPT extension terminates or otherwise leaves their employment before the end of the authorized period of OPT. The employer must report this change to the Slutzker Center no later than five business days after the student leaves employment. For more information about employer requirements, please visit our Employer Reporting Requirements page.
  3. Both the student and employer are obligated to report to the student's DSO any material changes to, or material deviations from, the student's formal training plan, Form I-983.
  4. These requirements mandate that the company remains in good standing with E-Verify and has the resources to comply with the proposed training plan.

Requesting STEM Extension Recommendation from the Slutzker Center

If you are eligible for a STEM extension, please submit the following to lescis@syr.edu with “Attn: STEM Extension Application” as the subject of your email. Attach PDF copies of the documents listed below:

Please anticipate that processing of your application by the Slutzker Center will take a minimum of two business days from the date it is received and may take longer. We are unable to respond to inquiries concerning pending applications unless they have been pending for more than two days. Please only send your application to the lescis@syr.edu account, not to individual advisors. Duplicate submissions increase processing time for everyone. 

 

The Slutzker Center will issue a new I-20 recommending STEM OPT. For shipping options, please visit our Document Shipping Options page.


Submitting your STEM Extension Application to USCIS

A complete application should include:

  • Check or money order for $410 made out to the "Department of Homeland Security"
  • Two 2 x 2 passport style photographs taken within the past 30 days with your name and I-94 number written gently on the back of your photos;
  • Completed Form G-1145 (if you would like E-Notification of your application)
  • Completed and signed Form I-765 (original);
  • Official transcripts or copy of your diploma if it indicates the program of study;
  • A copy of your EAD card (front & back) and any previously issued EAD cards related to your current status;
  • A copy of pages 1 and 2 of the newly issued I-20 (with recommended OPT Extension dates) signed on the bottom of page one by you;
  • Copies of ALL of your previous I-20's;
  • A copy of the electronic printout of your I-94 or the front and the back of your I-94 card.
  • A copy of your visa;
  • A copy of your passport biodata page.

Send your completed application to the appropriate USCIS Service Center based on the address you provided on Form I-765 (see page 11). USCIS must receive your STEM Extension application no more than 90 days before your OPT expires and no later than the date your OPT expires.  

Maintenance of F-1 status while on STEM Extension

  • Cannot accrue more than 150 days of unemployment over the 36 month OPT period (OPT + STEM OPT).
  • Can change employers but ALL employment during STEM Extension must be with an E-Verify employer. 
  • STEM extension reporting requirements - During the STEM extension period, you must report the following via the OPT Students Info Update website within 10 days of any change to:
    • your legal name
    • your residential or mailing address
    • your email address, or
    • your E-Verify employer's name or address.
    • Status of current employment/practical training experience.
    • your I-983 Training Plan
  • You must also confirm this information on this website every 6 months, even if there are no changes.

Students who file a timely application for the STEM extension can continue working for their E-Verify employer (while the application is pending) until either (1) receipt of the STEM EAD card or (2) 180 days, whichever comes first.

Submit a copy of new EAD card to lescis@syr.edu; please title email “STEM EAD card copy”.

Tips for completing the Form I-765

  1. Check “Renewal” of my permission to accept employment”
  2. On Line 16 (see below) - enter "( c ) ( 3 ) ( C )".
    Item 11
  3. On Line 17 (see below) - enter the major (not degree level) listed on your current I-20 and E-Verify employer's name and ID number.
    Field 17

Cap Gap Relief

SCIS Cap Gap Webpage
Cap Gap Frequently Asked Questions