STEM OPT Update *Important*
Last month a U.S. District Court ruled on a case regarding STEM OPT. We know how important OPT is to international students and employers. ISSS will follow the situation carefully and provide updates as additional information as it becomes available.
On August 12, 2015, a U.S. District Court found that the Department of Homeland Security did not follow proper procedures when it enacted the regulation that created the 17 month STEM OPT extension. DHS has until February 12, 2016 to correct the error. If it does not do so, the regulation allowing for STEM OPT will be cancelled.
DHS is currently working on a new STEM OPT regulation. We will update you with new information from DHS as it becomes available. In the meantime, OPT and STEM OPT applications are still being accepted and processed as usual.
- F-1 students currently on OPT or STEM OPT should continue working. Remember to report your employment and physical address to ISSS here: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/isss/opt-employer-info/.
- ISSS will continue to assist students with OPT and STEM OPT applications.
- The court decision is effective February 12, 2016.Until that date or until a new regulation is enacted, the current regulation remains in effect.
- The regulation also allowed for automatic cap-gap extensions for F-1 students on OPT who are changing status to H1-B.It is unclear if the court order includes this part of the regulation.
If you are interested to learn more, Lexology and the National Law Review have discussions of the ruling. The links are below:
Students who are interested in applying OPT or STEM OPT extensions, can find information here: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/isss/immigration/f-1-students/employment/opt/. Applications can be submitted to USCIS up to 90 days prior to degree completion. We encourage students to apply early to allow for processing time.
If you have any questions regarding OPT or STEM OPT, please contact ISSS at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-322-2753.
Recipients of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields eligible for a one-time 17-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 29 months).
In addition, to be eligible for STEM OPT your employer must be registered in E-Verify, and agree to report to ISSS when your employment ends or is terminated. You must agree to make periodic reports to ISSS regarding your employment. Lastly, employment must be directly related to the major area of study.
ISSS facilitates the STEM OPT application process, but final authorization is processed by USCIS (Immigration). It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the application is submitted at least three months prior to their current OPT end date.
- Compile the following STEM OPT documents and submit to your International Student Adviser at least 3 months before your standard OPT end date.
- OPT STEM Extension document signed by student and employer.
- $380 check or money order payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- 2 Passport-style photos
- Form I-765 with section 17 completed – List your degree as it is shown on your I-20 which should match your transcripts and diploma – List employer’s name as it is listed in E-verify along with their e-verify number. If you are working at Vanderbilt you can find Vanderbilt’s E-Verify information here.
- Form G-1145 completed
- Copy of transcripts and diploma; I-94 front and back; passport ID page(s) including expiration date; Visa stamp; all previous EAD cards
- Once the above information is received by ISSS, your International Student Adviser will review your application materials, issue a new I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation, and finalize your STEM OPT Application Package.
- You must mail the completed STEM OPT application packet to Immigration (USCIS) WITHIN 30 DAYS OF OPT I-20 ISSUANCE to an address below:
- Address for Regular Postal Mail
USCIS, Dallas Lockbox
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
- Address for Express Mail (i.e. FedEx, UPS)
2501 S. State HWY 121
Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
- Address for Regular Postal Mail
STEM OPT HOURS & LIMITATIONS
Employment on STEM OPT must be with an E-Verify employer, related to your major area of study and commensurate with your educational level.
You may continue working with your expired standard OPT EAD while your STEM extension is pending for up to 180 days.
You may not accrue more than 120 days of unemployment during your total 29 months of OPT.
You may change employers while on the STEM extension, but the new employer must also be e-verify.
You must report any change of employment to ISSS using the online OPT Employer Information form.
You cannot travel outside the US while your STEM extension is pending.