STEM Extension FAQs
Working in the US
- U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act
- UNPAID Internships or Volunteering and Optional Practical Training
- Optional Practical Training General Information
- OPT Undergraduate Application
- OPT Graduate Application
- Employment/Personal Updates
- STEM Extension FAQs
- 24 Month STEM Extension Request
- Academic Training
- Obtaining a Social Security Number
- J-2 Work Permission
Note: More information on the new 24 month STEM extension, including transition plans, can be found on Study in the States' website here.
Who is eligible for a STEM extension?
F-1 students who have completed degrees in certain approved STEM fields may be eligible for a STEM extension. To qualify for a STEM extension, the student must:
- Be currently authorized for an initial 12-month OPT period at the time the STEM extension request is filed with USCIS
- Have completed a STEM qualifying degree program within the past 10 years in the United States (Please see list of qualifying degrees here.) This may include a previously earned STEM degree, as long as you have not previously applied for a STEM extension using that degree. Please contact ISSS for more information on previously earned degrees.
- Work at least 20 hours per week, paid employment, with an e-Verified employer in a position directly related to skills and knowledge learned from the STEM qualifying degree and the employer and student-employee must abide by the terms of the I-983 training plan
To apply with USCIS, students must first request a new I-20 with recommendation for a 24-month STEM extension from the ISSS Office. Request forms and instructions are available here. Please note: USCIS must receive your application in its entirety before you current 12 month authorization period ends. Students applying prior to May 10, 2016 must apply for a 17-month STEM extension first. Students applying on or after May 10, 2016 will be eligible to apply for the 24-month STEM extension. You are responsible for ensuring that you allow ample processing time for our office and for USCIS to receive the application before your current authorization period ends.
Students with Pending 17-month STEM extension on May 10, 2016
You will be issued an RFE (Request for Evidence) by USCIS. You will need to submit a request form, along with a completed I-983, to the ISSS Office so that we can issue you a new I-20 recommending a 24 month STEM extension. You will then be required to submit a photocopy of the new I-20 along with an updated I-765 to USCIS in response to the RFE.
Students with Approved 17-month STEM extension on May 10, 2016
If you are currently in an authorized 17-month STEM extension on May 10, 2016, you may be eligible to apply for an additional 7 months. To be eligible, students must have at least 150 calendar days remaining on their 17-month OPT period at the time the additional 7 month request is filed with USCIS. The process will be as follows:
- Starting May 10, 2016, eligible students can request a new I-20 from ISSS recommending the additional 7 month STEM extension. Students must submit all forms as needed to the ISSS Office first, including the completed form I-983.
- Students must submit all required documents to USCIS no earlier than May 10, 2016 and no later than August 8, 2016 and/or 150 days before the current STEM EAD expires, whichever comes first
I graduated with two degrees and one is STEM. Can I apply for the STEM extension?
Yes, as long as your employment is directly related to the STEM qualifying degree.
Do I need a job to apply?
Yes, you will need to have a job offer from an e-Verified company and completed I-983 in order to apply for the extension with USCIS.
What is E-Verify?
E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. The E-Verify program is operated by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. Your employer must provide an E-Verify number for your I-765 to be included with your STEM extension application.
Your employer should also notify the ISSS Office of your termination, departure, or unexplained absence for 5 business days.
What if I am unemployed?
You are allowed a total of 120 days unemployment combined for the initial OPT and 17-month STEM extension periods, including weekends. You are allowed up to 150 days cumulative unemployment between the initial 12 month OPT and 24 month extension.
Can I travel?
You should not travel outside the United States while your STEM extension application is pending. Once the application is approved you will receive a new EAD card. You will need this new EAD card, along with a valid I-20 (signed for travel in the past 6 months), a valid passport, a valid visa, and proof of employment upon return to re-enter the United States.
How should I report to ISSS?
You should send our office a copy of your new EAD card once your STEM extension is approved. You should also update us on any changes in personal and employment information and status within 10 business days of the change, including, but now limited to: address changes, employer changes (including employer name, address, start date, and e-Verify number), loss of employment, changes in legal name, changes to you contact information, materials changes to the Form I-983, or any other changes to your status. You are still required to check-in with our office every 6 months while on STEM extension, even if none of your other information has changed, and to complete the required annual evaluations on your I-983 form.