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F-1 STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) Extension

Last updated 16-Nov-2018

General Information on 24-Month OPT Extension Based on Degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM)

pay attention to an important pointIn this document:
  • STEM OPT refers to the 24-month extension of post-completion optional practical training (OPT).
  • Designated school official (DSO) refers to both the principal designated school official (PDSO) and DSO, unless otherwise noted.

Students who majored in an eligible Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) field may qualify for a one-time, 24-Month Extension of post-completion optional practical training (OPT).

A student may request a first STEM OPT extension if:

  • Student is in a period of Active Post-Completion OPT.
  • Student’s primary or secondary major was a STEM-eligible field, or the student completed a previous primary or secondary major in a currently STEM-eligible field.
  • Student has not already had a STEM OPT extension of any duration based on the qualifying STEM degree.
  • Qualifying STEM degree was at the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral level.
  • Qualifying STEM degree was earned within the ten previous years of the date the DSO recommends the STEM OPT extension.
  • School where the student earned the STEM degree is currently:
    • SEVIS-certified
    • Accredited by a U.S. Department of Education accrediting organization
  • Student will be, or is working, for an employer enrolled in the E-Verify program.

A student may request a second STEM OPT extension if:

  • Student is in a period of Active Post-Completion OPT.
  • Student has a second STEM degree at a higher level than the one used for the first STEM OPT extension.
  • Student has not already based any portion of a STEM OPT extension on the second STEM degree.
  • Second STEM degree meets all the above requirements.

Regulations and Policy Guidance

Any STEM OPT requests entered into SEVIS must comply with applicable federal regulations and guidance. DSOs must understand the following regulations and policy guidance:
 

OPT Request Statuses

The table below lists the statuses used to identify the stages of OPT requests in SEVIS:
 
Status  Status Meaning
Requested DSO requested OPT in SEVIS on behalf of the student, but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has not yet received the Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765).
Pending USCIS has received the Form I-765.
Approved USCIS has approved the Form I-765.
Denied USCIS has denied the Form I-765.
Cancelled DSO has canceled the OPT request in SEVIS.
Withdrawn USCIS approved the student’s request to withdraw the Form I-765.

Process Overview

SEVIS will compute the start and end dates of the STEM OPT segment. The requested OPT Extension Start Date is the day following the current post-completion OPT End Date. The requested end date for this segment of OPT is 24 months after the requested start date. DSOs cannot change these dates.

During the full period of the extension, the school that recommended the STEM OPT must continue to:

The student can continue to work for 180 days after the original USCIS Employment Authorization Document (EAD) expires if:

  • Student filed a Form I-765 for the STEM OPT extension.
  • USCIS received the Form I-765 for the extension before the EAD for the original post-completion OPT expired.
pay attention to an important pointThe Request Status will be listed as “Pending” in SEVIS once USCIS receives the Form I-765.

8 CFR 214.2(f)(10) to (f)(13)​

pay attention to an important pointWhile a DSO recommends STEM OPT in SEVIS, it is the student who must apply for the work permit with the USCIS. If the STEM OPT is approved, USCIS will issue an EAD. 
 
  • DSOs should know the USCIS regulations that extend work permission in special cases while USCIS processes extension requests.
  • 8 CFR 274a.12(b)(6)(iv)-(v)

Recommend STEM OPT Extension

pay attention to an important pointStudents must submit a completed Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students to the DSO before the DSO can recommend the STEM OPT extension in SEVIS. Students must submit a new Form I-983 for every new employment/training experience they accept during their STEM OPT extension.
For more information and a tutorial on completing the Form I-983, see the STEM OPT Hub on the Study in the States site.

To recommend the STEM OPT extension after receiving the completed I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, DSOs should:

1.    Go to the Student Information page.

The Student Information page

  2. Click OPT Request from the Student Information page. The OPT Employment page opens. 

The OPT Employment page with extend circled

  3. Click Extend. The Extend OPT Employer page opens.

The Extend OPT Employer page

  4. Enter the employer information.

Note: An * (asterisk) indicates required fields. 

Field

Description

*

Explain how employment is related to student’s course of study

  • DSOs must note in this field they have seen the Form I-983 by entering text, “I have reviewed the Form I-983. It is complete, signed, and addresses all program requirements.”
  • If this STEM extension is based on a prior STEM degree, the DSO will also enter the following information in this field, “Extension based on prior STEM degree:
  • Degree name
  • Degree level
  • Degree CIP code
  • Date degree awarded
  • Name of school that awarded degree
  • Location of school that awarded degree
  • SEVIS code of school awarded degree, if available
  • Class of admission at time of degree”

Note: These remarks do not appear on the Form I-20.

 

Employment ID

  • This is auto-generated by SEVIS for each employment authorization.

*

Employer Name

  • This field displays any information previously entered into SEVIS, but can be edited.
  • Enter or update the business name of the employer.

*

Employer EIN

  • Enter the Employer Identification Number (EIN) for the student’s employer. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues EINs to employers for tax reasons.

 

Employer ID

  • This is auto-generated by SEVIS for each employer experience.

Note: If a student works more than once for the same employer, SEVIS will assign a different employer ID to each new job.

 

Job Title

  • Enter the student’s job title.

*

Start Date

  • Enter the date the student began or will begin the job. If the student will continue work for the same post-completion OPT employer, enter the actual start date for the STEM OPT.

Note: Do not enter an employer start date before the actual start date for the STEM OPT. If the employer employment dates are outside the actual dates of the OPT STEM period, SEVIS will not consider the student employed.

  • The start date will stop SEVIS’ count of consecutive days of unemployment.

 

End Date

  • Enter the date the student will stop working for the employer, if known.
  • Leave this field blank, if the end date is not known.

Note: The date entered in the End Date field will not affect the overall SEVIS-calculated STEM extension end date. Do not enter an employer end date after the actual end date for the STEM OPT. If the employer employment dates are outside the actual dates of the OPT STEM period, SEVIS will not consider the student employed.

*

Full Time/Part Time Indicator

By default, this field is pre-populated as full-time. It is not editable.

*

Employer Address

  • Click the Add Employer Address button. The Address modal opens.
  • Enter the employer address following SEVP guidance on entering U.S. addresses.
  • This field validates when Address Doctor is working.
  • Enter the Employer’s site address as shown in Section 5 of the Form I-983.

Note: The Supervisor Information section will be renamed to Employer Official in a future SEVIS release.

*

Supervisor Last Name

  • Enter the last name of the student’s supervisor, as shown in Section 5 of the Form I-983.
  • This is a required field for STEM OPT.

*

Supervisor First Name

  • Enter the first name of the student’s supervisor, as shown in Section 5 of the Form I-983.
  • This is a required field for STEM OPT.

*

Supervisor Telephone Number

  • Enter the work/business telephone number for the student’s supervisor, as shown in Section 5 of the Form I-983.
  • This is a required field for STEM OPT

*

Supervisor Email

  • Enter the email address for the student’s supervisor, as shown in Section 5 of the Form I-983.
  • This is a required field for STEM OPT.

  5. Click one of the following:

  • Extend OPT Employer: Processes the recommended OPT extension in SEVIS. An Update Successful message displays.

  • Click Print I-20 and sign page one of the Form I-20. Give the printed Form I-20 to the student. The student must also sign page one of the Form I-20 and submit a copy of the Form I-20 to USCIS, along with the Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765).
  • Click Return to Employment List. The OPT Employment page lists the requested extension.

The OPT Employment page with the requested extension listed

  • Cancel Request: Returns to the OPT Employment page without adding the OPT extension request to the student’s record.
pay attention to an important pointUSCIS highly recommends sending transcripts with the STEM OPT application if the extension is based on a prior degree.
DSOs can find additional employment authorization filing information and requirements at the USCIS Form I-765 site.

Record-keeping Requirements during STEM OPT

During the STEM OPT, DSOs must maintain the following in the student’s file:

  • All Forms I-983 training plans submitted by the student
  • All self-evaluations submitted by the student

Report Requirements during STEM OPT

There are three types of student reporting requirements while on the STEM OPT extension:

  • General Reporting: Any changes in the student’s legal name, address, employer, or employment status within 10 days of the change.
  • Validation Reporting: A 6-, 12- and 18-month validation report to the DSO that confirms the student’s name, address, employer name and address, and employment status are correct.
  • Self-Evaluations: Self-evaluations are submitted to the DSO at the end of any employment and at the 12- and 24-month marks from the start date of the STEM extension. A concluding self-evaluation occurs at the end of any period of employment, regardless of its duration, for example; 14 months.

Icon - Pay attention to an important pointDSOs can only submit the concluding evaluation in SEVIS at either the 12- or 24-month mark.

General Reporting

During the STEM OPT extension period, such as the initial 12 months of post-completion OPT, the student must:

  • Students must report any changes to the DSO in the student’s legal name, address, employer, or employment status within 10 days of the change. Students on STEM OPT can also use the SEVP Portal to change personal contact information and existing employer information. However, they must submit any new employer information to their DSO on the Form I-983.

DSO Actions:

  • Use the Personal Information link on the Student Information page to update the student’s name or address changes in SEVIS.
  • Use the OPT Request link on the Student Information page to update the employer or employment status changes in SEVIS. 

 For additional related information, see:

Validation Reports

During the STEM OPT extension period, the student must make a 6-, 12- and 18-month validation report to the DSO that confirms the student’s current name, address, employer, and employment status are correct.

DSO Action: Use the Report OPT Employment link on the Student Information page to report the validation has been completed. ​

pay attention to an important pointDSOs can only access the Report OPT Employment function during the three separate reporting windows. (See Deadlines for Validation Reports and Self-Evaluation.)
SEVIS will auto-terminate the student record, if the following statements are true:

  • Student is in a period of active STEM OPT extension.
  • SEVIS record was not updated to reflect the validation report.
  • Date is 46 days after the reporting deadline.

Note: This auto-terminate functionality is currently disabled but will be enabled in a future release. However, even though the auto-terminate is not on now, a government official can still terminate a record at any time.

The DSO is required to report the student’s participation within 21 days of the established report date.

Planning Tool for 24-Month Extension of STEM OPT
This interactive tool provides a customized reporting schedule for a student.

Self-Evaluations

Students must report the progress they have made toward the training goals outlined on the Form I-983 for a particular employer. The student creates the self-evaluation; and then the employing supervisor must confirm and sign each self-evaluation. DSOs must keep these self-evaluations in the student’s file. The timelines for submission include: 

  • Student still works for original employer: The student must submit the first assessment within 12 months of the STEM OPT start date, and a second, final assessment that recaps the training and knowledge acquired during the complete training period.  
  • Student changes employers:
    • Must  submit the first assessment within 12 months of the OPT STEM start date
    • Must submit a self-evaluation no later than 10 days of the ending of employment with current employer.

Deadlines for Validation Reports and Self-Evaluations

DSOs must validate a student’s employment data three times during the STEM OPT extension. Validation reporting is done in SEVIS. Paper documentation is NOT mailed to SEVP. Timelines include:

Activity Timeline
Validation Reports due
  • 6 months after start of STEM OPT Extension
  • 12 months after start of STEM OPT Extension
  • 18 months after start of STEM OPT Extension
Self-evaluations due
  • 12 months after STEM OPT start date  (midway)
  • 24 months after STEM OPT start date (final)
  • At conclusion of training opportunity (final; usually at 24 months, but possible any time during the period of authorized employment)
Report link displays in SEVIS
  • 30 days before each report due date
Report link no longer displays in SEVIS
  • After DSO submits validation report
  • 31 days after reporting deadline

Icon - Pay attention to an important point 

  • If a DSO receives an early report of concluding employment from a student, the DSO must edit the OPT employer information to shorten the employment end date to reflect the last date of the training. If the student does not have any other employers, SEVIS will begin to count days of unemployment.
  • SEVIS only allows a DSO to report receipt of the conclusion of employment evaluation from a student during the window for 12- or 24-month reporting. Since unemployment has been accounted for by the entry of the employment end date, whichever window is the earlier of these two reporting alternatives is sufficient for reporting.

The Report OPT Participation link appears in the Employment/Training section on the left-hand side of the Student Information page.

The Report OPT Participation link in the Employment/Training section on the left-hand side of the Student Information page.

Report STEM OPT Participation and Receipt of Self-Evaluations

To report (validate) STEM OPT participation and receipt of self-evaluation:

1. Click the Report OPT Participation from the Student Information page. The Report OPT Participation page opens.

Report OPT Participation screen

Icon - Pay attention to an important point At the 12- and 24-month marks, SEVIS displays two checkboxes on the Report OPT Participation page – one for the validation report and another for the self-evaluation. You must check both boxes before SEVIS will allow submission.

Report OPT Participation: You must check both boxes before SEVIS will allow submission.

2. Review the information displayed on the screen:
        a.    If the employer address or information is wrong, correct the information:

  • Add any missing employer.
  • Edit incorrect information in an employer record.
  • Delete all employer information, if the student never worked there.

        b.    If the student’s address is wrong, update the address on the Personal Information page, which is accessed from the Student Information page.
        c.    If the address and employer information is correct, click the checkbox to verify that the student has confirmed his or her current address and employment.
3. Click the self-evaluation checkbox to indicate receipt of the student’s self-evaluation for either the 12- or the 24-month reporting deadline.

4. Click either Report OPT Participation or Cancel:

  • Report OPT Participation:  Verifies the student has confirmed his or her current address and employment information, and you have received the self-evaluation. 
    • A message indicates that the update was successful. 

  • Click Return to View Record to view the Student Information page.

Note: The Student Information page will no longer display the Report OPT Participation link.

  • Cancel: Returns the user to the Student Information page without validating the student’s information.

STEM OPT Extension and Unemployment

Students authorized for STEM OPT must be employed by an E-Verify-certified employer. A student on STEM OPT can be unemployed for a total of 150 days. This includes any of the remaining 90 days of unemployment allotted from the standard post-completion OPT.

Icon - Pay attention to an important point

  • Student whose record lacks employer information is considered unemployed.
  • DSOs must enter new employer information into SEVIS based on the student’s completed Form I-983.
  • Students on STEM OPT can edit most employer information via the SEVP Portal, but not the employment start date.
  • SEVP officials can manually terminate a student who accrues more total days of unemployment than regulations allow.
  • See the Unemployment Counter article on the SEVIS Help Hub for more information.

H-1B Cap Gap Extension of STEM OPT

SEVIS will automatically extend STEM OPT if:

  • On or after April 1,(as directed by USCIS timely filing rules), an employer files an eligible H-1B petition to change the student’s status.
  • Requested start date for the H-1B is October 1.
  • Student’s OPT or STEM OPT extension ends on or after April 1, and the H-1B petition was filed with USCIS before the EAD expired.

Correcting OPT Data: Correction Requests and Data Fixes

If OPT information in SEVIS does not reflect applications filed with or decisions made by USCIS, DSOs can ask to have the record corrected. There are two ways to correct data in a student record.

Method What Can be Fixed
Correction Request This option is used to request changes (using SEVIS) for the following:
  • Status of OPT Request
  • Employment Start Date
Help Ticket 
(Data Fix)
This option is used for more complicated data fixes and requires DSOs to call the SEVIS Help Desk (1-800-892-4829). Types of OPT-related data fixes include:
  • Adding retroactive OPT to a record
  • Changing the OPT request status for an OPT request that is already in Approved status
  • Any data fix that cannot be submitted in a correction request

Icon Guide

See the SEVIS Help Icons on the SEVIS Help Hub for a quick-reference of the icons used in this user guide.