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24-Month STEM OPT Extension


ELIGIBILITY

Recipients of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields eligible for a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 36 months).  Students are eligible for a maximum of 2 lifetime STEM OPT extensions. The second STEM OPT must be for a higher degree level.

  • Department of Homeland Security determines which STEM fields are eligible. A list of approved fields can be found at: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/eligible-cip-codes-for-the-stem-opt-extension.  Check the field of study section of your I-20 to see if your program qualifies.
  • Students who have previously obtained a degree in a STEM field are also eligible provided that the degree was from a U.S. accredited institution that is SEVP-certified at the time of the application and was earned within the last 10 years.
  • A job offer is required to apply. Your employer must be registered in E-Verify. The offer of employment must be for work that is at least 20 hours per week and paid.
  • All employment during the STEM OPT extension must be directly related to the field of study that qualifies you for the extension.
  • Your employer must agree to sign the Form I-983 Training Plan and report termination or departure of your employment if it occurs prior to the end of your approved STEM OPT period.
  • Applications must be received by USCIS prior to the end of your current OPT.

APPLICATION PROCESS

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 in a timely manner.

Please use the ISSS Portal to submit your STEM OPT extension request. (You may need to email isss@vanderbilt.edu to request a password reset if you are no longer able to log in.) The STEM OPT Extension Checklist provides an overview of the materials you will need to collect to request your STEM OPT I-20 from ISSS. Keep in mind that ISSS requires 5 days to process your application.

Remember that you must send the completed STEM OPT application packet to the appropriate USCIS filing address within the designated filing window. It cannot arrive more than 90-days before the end of your 12-month post-completion OPT or after the end date of your post-completion OPT, as listed on your EAD card. If you will send your application via USPS we strongly recommend sending it via USPS Express Mail only.

It is extremely important that you review your application before filing it with USCIS. If your application is rejected or denied due to missing materials, an out of date I-765 form, or other issues with completeness, timely filing or eligibility, you could lose your eligibility to apply for the STEM OPT extension. Based on the timing of the rejection or denial notification from USCIS, you may not be eligible to re-file your application.

WHILE YOUR APPLICATION IS PENDING

Temporary 180-day Extension of  Employment Authorization

Applicants who have timely filed a complete application for the STEM OPT extension will have an automatic 180-day extension of work authorization. This temporary extension begins the day after your 12-month OPT period ends. You will need to renew your form I-9 with your employer once your current EAD expires. You will need your STEM OPT I-20 and your current EAD card along with your passport and current I-94 admission record. It is recommended that you also have your I-797 Notice of Receipt from your STEM OPT application.

Communication from USCIS

It is important that you promptly review all communication you receive from USCIS. Within two weeks of sending your application you should receive an I-797 Notice of Receipt for your application to the address on your I-765. Please submit a copy of this to ISSS via the OPT Document Upload. Please be sure to review your receipt notice carefully. Check the spelling of your name and your date of birth. If there are any errors, contact an ISSS advisor immediately.

If you receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) or a Denial Notice, upload a copy of the communication and contact ISSS right away. These are time sensitive and have the potential to impact your legal F-1 status and your permission to remain in the US.

When your EAD card has arrived, submit a copy of the I-797 Approval Notice and the front and back of your EAD to ISSS via the OPT Document Upload. Remember that you cannot begin employment until the OPT has been approved, you have received the EAD card and the start date printed on it has arrived.