24-Month OPT STEM Extension
OPT STEM EXTENSION APPLICATIONS FILED WITH A START DATE ON OR AFTER MAY 10, 2016
On March 10, 2016, the regulations for STEM OPT changed. The new regulations are effective on May 10, 2016 for all students requesting OPT STEM extension to start on May 10, 2016 or later. Following is important information that every student considering a STEM Extension must understand.
Before applying to USCIS for a STEM OPT extension, a STEM OPT student must download, complete, sign and submit the Form I-983 to their DSO. The STEM OPT student and their prospective employer must work together to complete this form. STEM OPT students and their employers are subject to the terms of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations and Form I-983 instructions, effective as of the start date requested for STEM OPT, as indicated on the form.
Students are responsible for facilitating the completion of this form, submitting it with their STEM OPT application and returning it to their DSO, who will upload it to the student’s SEVIS STEM OPT request. DHS maintains the discretion to request and review all documentation for eligibility concerns.
The STEM OPT student must complete Section 1 of the Form I-983 and work with their prospective employer to complete Sections 2-6. For more detailed information about these sections, please visit the Employers and the Form I-983 resource page. STEM OPT students are also responsible for completing annual self-evaluations, described below.
The STEM employer must be registered in the E-Verify system. Please verify with your employer’s Human Resource Department that they are a registered E-Verify employer.
1. Is your degree in one of the major fields of study that is STEM eligible? Your degree code on your I-20 must be on the CIP Code List.
2. How do I complete the Form I-983?
See the instructions on the Study in the States I-983 overview.
3. I have reviewed the instructions. What should I do next?
You and your employer work together to complete the I-983 Form. Here are some pointers.
4. What do I do if there are changes to the initial agreement?
Material Changes to the Form I-983
Both STEM OPT students and employers are obligated to report to the DSO material changes to, or material deviations from, the student’s formal training plan.
Material changes or deviations may include, but are not limited to:
- Any change of the employer’s Employer Identification Number, (i.e., the company’s Federal Tax ID number) resulting from a change in the employer’s ownership or structure.
- Any reduction in student compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked.
- Any significant decrease in hours per week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity.
- Changes to the employer’s commitments or student’s learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983.
So long as the STEM OPT student and employer meet the regulatory requirements and the modified Form I-983 meets the specified requirements, the student’s employment authorization will not cease based on a change to the plan.
5. Would you explain how the employer will Evaluate a Student’s Progress?
The evaluation of a STEM OPT student’s training progress is a shared responsibility of both the student and the employer.
The STEM OPT student is responsible for conducting an annual self-evaluation based on their own progress. The employer must review and sign the self-evaluation to attest to its accuracy. Although not required, employers may elect to attach and submit their own evaluation of a student’s progress.
Once completed and signed by the appropriate individual in the employer’s organization, the STEM OPT student must return the “Evaluation of Student Progress” to their DSO, who will upload it to the student’s SEVIS record.
6. Do I have work authorization while STEM extension is pending?
If you successfully file the application for your 24-month OPT extension prior to the expiration of your current 12-month OPT period EAD, you may continue employment even if your previous EAD card is expired until your OPT extension is processed or until 180 days has passed, whichever is sooner.
7. What does my DSO need to know?
Information reporting requirements are more strict during the 24-month OPT extension. Take special care to comply with these obligations. Failure to do so can jeopardize the validity of your OPT and your legal visa status in the U.S.
- You must report any change of address to your DSO within 10 days of moving to your new residence. Your address must describe where you live. It cannot be a P.O. Box or an office address.
- If the name or address of your employer changes, you must report this information to the DSO within 10 days of the change.
- If you experience an interruption in employment, you must report it to the DSO. Students are allowed a maximum of 150 days of unemployment time, which is cumulative, including the 12 month OPT and the 24 month STEM extension.
- You are required to make a validation report to the DSO every six months starting from the date your 24-month OPT extension is approved. The report is due within 10 days of the required reporting date.
The validation report must contain the following information:
- Legal name
- Residential/mailing address
- Employer name
- Employer address
- Confirmation that you are currently employed by the employer named