STEM Extension

Recipients of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering,Mathematics) fields may be eligible for a one-time 24 months extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 29 months). The 24-month Stem Extension OPT is adjudicated (approved) by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The end result of filing for the OPT 24 month STEM extension is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) which shows dates students are able to work legally in the United States.

Documents for OPT STEM Submission Request:
  • I-765 “Current” form; complete and signed
  • Money order or cashier’s check endorsed to: US Department of Homeland Security (Verify the current I-765 fee with USCIS to make sure amount is correct; this is your responsibility not Atlantis University’s)
  • Complete the I-983 form, to include the employers signature, your signature and submit to the DSO for approval (The OPT STEM extension application cannot be submitted without the approval of the I- 983 from by the DSO)
  • I-20 form with OPT STEM recommendation and endorsed by Atlantis University’s DSO
  • A copy of your previous I-20
  • A copy of your STEM degree
  • 2 passport photos(2 x 2 inches; white background)
  • A copy of our Passport and US Visa
  • I-94 with travel history
  • A copy of your EAD card and social security card
  • An employment offer letter on companies letterhead with companies e-verification code, companies EIN number, your job title & description & supervisors contact information(complete name, phone # & e-mail address)
Eligibility for the STEM OPT Extension
Have been granted OPT and currently be in a valid period of OPT;

· Have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a school that is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency and is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) when you submit your STEM OPT extension application.

o Previously obtained STEM degrees: If you are an F-1 student participating in a 12-month period of post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree, you may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree earned from a U.S. institution of higher education to apply for a STEM OPT extension. You must have received both degrees from currently accredited and SEVP-certified institutions, and cannot have already received a STEM OPT extension based on this prior degree. The practical training opportunity also must be directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree.

For example: If you are currently participating in OPT based on a master’s degree in business administration but you previously received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, you may be able to apply for a STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor’s degree as long as it is from an accredited U.S. college or university and the OPT employment opportunity is directly related to your bachelor’s degree in mathematics.

STEM degrees you obtain in the future: If you enroll in a new academic program in the future and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level, you may be eligible for one additional 24-month STEM OPT extension.

For example: If you receive a 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor’s degree in engineering and you later earn a master’s degree in engineering, you may apply for an additional 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your master’s degree.

· Work for an employer who meets all the requirements listed below in the STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities section.

· Submit the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization up to 90 days before your current OPT employment authorization expires, and within 60 days of the date your designated school official (DSO) enters the recommendation for OPT into your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.
STEM Extension Overview

STEM Extension Overview

  • Only one 24 months STEM extension is granted PER LIFETIME regardless of additional degrees awarded or level of degrees.
  • New STEM extension EAD card begins the day after the expiration of the 12 month EAD card and ends 24 months later, no matter the date of adjudication.
  • 24-month extension will be granted in one EAD card period and cannot be split into smaller periods.
  • It is possible to change employers during the 17 months. The new employment must meet the STEM extension requirements.
  • Students whose applications are received before the EAD card expires will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending until they receive the final decision from USCIS on the application or for 180 days, whichever comes first. It is possible to change employment while application is pending, as long as the new employment meets STEM extension requirements.
  • If extension application is denied, student will still have the 60-day grace period after expiration of the 12-month EAD card.
STEM Extension Requirements

STEM Extension Requirements

  • Must currently be on post-completion 12 months OPT
  • Verified completion of a degree on the STEM Designated Degree Programs List.  The CIP code is found on top of page 3 of the I-20, next to “Primary Major.”
  • Employment Requirements:
  • Paid or unpaid
  • At least 20 hours per week
  • Directly related to field of study and appropriate to degree level obtained
  • Employer Requirements:
  • Registered with the U.S. Government E-Verify employment verification system
  • Agrees to report any termination of employment within 48 hours to OIS.
Types of Eligible Employment

Types of Eligible Employment

  • Multiple employers – Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student’s degree program.
  • Short-term multiple employers – Students may work for multiple short-term employers but cannot work more than one full-time job.
  • Work for hire – This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship.
  • Self-employed business owner – Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must work full-time. The student must be able to prove to DHS that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student’s degree program.
  •  Employment through an employment agency
Applying for OPT
-You may apply for post-completion OPT as early as 90 days before your program end date. We encourage you apply as early as possible.
-You do not need a job offer to apply but you are limited to 90 days without employment during your post-completion OPT period.
-You get to choose the start date you want, in the 60-day period following your completion date. It is not an easy decision if you don’t have a job offer at the time of application. You may want to delay the start date to the 60th day after your program ends to maximize the time you spend in for job-hunting, but you would not be able to start work until the approval date. Once you choose dates and submit your application to us for your OPT I-20, you cannot change them.
-Submit the following forms to the DSO:
  • I-765
  • A copy of your current I-20
  • Most recent I-94 & travel history
  • A copy of your passport & US Visa
  • 2 passport photos(2 x 2 inches; white background)
  • A copy of your Social Security card with University offer letter (if applicable)
  • Money order or cashier’s check endorsed to: US Department of Homeland Security (Verify the current I-765 fee with USCIS to make sure amount is correct; this is your responsibility not Atlantis University’s)
  • I-20 form with OPT recommendation & endorsed by the DSO
What is OPT?

What is OPT?

OPT (Optional Practical Training) is a benefit of F-1 student status that allows you to work off-campus in your field of study to gain practical experience. OPT after you graduate is referred to as post-completion OPT in regulations. Post-completion OPT extends your F-1 status even though you are no longer an enrolled student. It also extends the F-2 status of any dependents who are with you. You get 12 months of OPT for each higher degree level you complete (Bachelor's, Master's, and PhD Degree). If you’re a student in in certain STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), you may be eligible for an extension of OPT for an additional 24 months.
Applying for a STEM OPT Extension
To apply for an extension, you must properly file:
  • Form I-765 with the application fee on or after May 10, 2016,
  • Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, endorsed by your DSO on or after May 10, 2016, and A copy of your STEM degree.
If you file your extension application on time and your OPT period expires while your extension application is pending, USCIS will extend your employment authorization for 180 days
Limited Period of Unemployment to Maintain Status

Limited Period of Unemployment to Maintain Status

  • An additional 30 days of unemployment time will be available during the extension, combined with the 90 days granted during initial 12-month.  The aggregate total allowed is 120 days during the possible 29 months.
  • Students must report immediately to OIS any changes in employment through the OPT employer information update form.
  • OIS and DHS strongly recommends that students keep evidence for each job regarding the position held, dates of position, the job title, supervisor name and contact information and a description of the job.
Travel Issues while on STEM Extension

Travel Issues while on STEM Extension

Required documents to re-enter the U.S. while on STEM extension:

  • STEM extension OPT I-20 with page 3 endorsed for travel; travel endorsement cannot be more than six months old
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp
  • Valid passport
  • STEM Extension EAD card
  • Job offer letter or statement of employment from company