STEM OPT Extension

Overview & Eligibility

The STEM OPT extension is an extension of post-completion Optional Practical Training for up to 24 additional months available to students with qualifying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors and employment opportunities. To be eligible for the STEM extension, you must meet the following criteria: 

  • Be in an authorized period of post-completion OPT.
  • Have completed a degree in a qualifying STEM field. Wesleyan majors that qualify for STEM extension are: archaeology, astronomy, biology, chemistry, college of integrative science, computer science, earth and environmental sciences, economics, environmental studies, mathematics, molecular biology & biochemistry, neuroscience & behavior, physics.  
  • Have active employment or an offer of employment (must be paid) directly related to your STEM degree with an employer who uses E-Verify to confirm employment eligibility. The employer must also have an EIN and agree to certain requirements listed on the I-983 Training Plan. Self-employment and unpaid employment are not appropriate for the STEM extension period. 
  • Employment through staffing agencies may not be suitable for the STEM OPT extension. USCIS states “Staffing and temporary agencies and consulting firms may seek to employ students under the STEM OPT program, but only if they will be the entity that provides the practical training experience to the student and they have and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student.” This means that your training and supervision must be provided by the employer completing your I-983 and cannot be delegated to the client or customer of the staffing agency. See USCIS STEM OPT Employer Requirements and Responsibilities for more information. 
  • You may be approved for up to two STEM OPT extensions per lifetime. Each extension must be based on a separate period of post-completion OPT, and the second STEM OPT extension must be based on a higher degree level than the first STEM extension. 
  • Most students apply for a STEM extension based on the degree used to obtain their current OPT. However, you may apply for STEM based on a prior STEM degree in certain circumstances (consult with OISA). 
  • You may accrue up to 150 days of unemployment during STEM, but this includes any unemployment days already accrued during the initial 12 months of post-completion OPT. 

When to Apply

USCIS will accept your STEM application up to 90 days prior to and no later than your OPT end date. If your application is filed in a timely manner but is still pending approval when your OPT expires, you may work for the STEM-qualifying employer for up to 180 days while awaiting your new STEM EAD. 

How to Apply

Submit your request to OISA through the ISS Portal

Before making this request, please gather the following documents/information:

For information about money orders and paying the Form I-765 processing fee, visit the Money Order page.

Log in to your ISS Portal account by clicking on LOGIN at the top right corner of the page. Use your Wesleyan credentials to log in.

Once logged in, click on the gray house icon located at the left side of the black navigation bar. Select Site Home from the drop-down menu. You will be redirected to the ISS Portal main page.

Select F-1 Student Requests from the menu on the left side of the page, then click on 24 Month STEM OPT Extension Request from the menu choices on the next page. You will then be asked to select the term that you are making the request for.

Make sure to carefully review the Announcements and Instructions sections on the page that you are redirected to.

In order to provide OISA with the information needed to complete your request, you will need to complete the following sections and requests:

Attached Documents: You will be asked to attach a scan of your completed USCIS Form I-765. To access the form, please visit the USCIS I-765, Application for Employment Authorization website. Attach a photo of your completed USCIS Money Order for your $410 application fee and a photo of your completed OISA Money Order for your $250 STEM OPT Extension Processing Fee for OISA. Upload your most recent I-94 Record. To obtain your most recent I-94 Record, please visit U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s website. Also, upload a copy of the front and back of your current EAD card as one document. Finally, upload a completed and signed Form I-983, using these instructions.

Signature Documents: This section will ask you to review and digitally sign documents with important information that indicate your understanding. Please be aware that these are legal documents. Please contact OISA if you have any questions before clicking the buttons to digitally sign these documents.

Learning Content: Please review important information about the STEM OPT Extension in this section. It will cover important details about mailing your STEM OPT Extension application package, the OISA STEM OPT Extension fee, reporting requirements while on STEM OPT Extension, and USCIS STEM OPT Extension application materials. When you are finished reading through each topic, click the Mark as Read button at the bottom of each learning content article. You may also print each article for future reference.

Assessments: In this section, you will take a quiz to demonstrate your understanding about the STEM OPT Extension. You are allowed to take this assessment 3 times and your final score will be the highest score you receive. Your final score must be at least 80% in order to complete this assessment.

Questionnaires: Please complete the questionnaires to provide important information to OISA about your STEM OPT Extension application and status.

You can click the save button at the bottom of the form to save your answers as you go along but make sure you click the submit button to submit the information to your request.

When you have completed each section of the 24 Month STEM OPT Extension Request, click the Submit button at the top of the page.

If you start a request in the ISS Portal but are unable to complete it, you may return to this request at a later time. Do not start a new one. To return to an existing request, please go to your ISS Portal User Home Page.

After Submitting Your Request

Submit your OISA fee payment: Please submit your money order for the $250 OISA fee payment via the OISA secured drop box outside of 023 North College or via mail to OISA, Room 024, North College, 237 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459. Please note that OISA will not process your STEM OPT Extension Request until your fee payment has been received.

Receive your I-20 with STEM OPT Extension Recommendation: After OISA processes your request, you will receive an updated I-20 with STEM OPT Extension recommendation along with a list of materials to submit to USCIS.

Send your application materials to USCIS: Send all STEM OPT Extension application materials by certified mail with return receipt requested, or express mail, to the applicable USCIS Lockbox location. Use the Procedures for Filing your STEM Application document to make sure you include everything required in your OPT application.

Please Note: USCIS will accept your application up to 90 days before your current OPT expires, and no later than your current OPT expiration date, and within 60 days after OISA recommends your extension.

Reporting Requirements

Please print out and review the STEM Extension Reporting Requirements chart on the Study in the States website.

Student Reporting Requirements:

After Receiving Your EAD Card

Upon receiving your EAD card from USCIS, you will be required to return to your 24 Month STEM OPT Extension Request in the ISS Portal to complete a Questionnaire. This Questionnaire will require you to upload a copy of both the front and back of the card in one document. This is a requirement of maintaining your status while on the STEM OPT Extension. To return to this request, select the 24 Month STEM OPT Extension Request listed in the My Records section of your ISS Portal Home Page.

Report new employment or changes to current employment within 10 days of the change

To submit your employment information, log in to your ISS Portal account and select F-1 Student Requests from the menu on the left side of the page, then click on OPT Employment Update from the menu choices on the next page. You will then be asked to select the term that you are making the request for.

Make sure to carefully review the Announcements and Instructions sections on the page that you are redirected to.

In order to provide OISA with the information needed to complete your request, you will need to complete the following sections and requests:

Signature Documents: This section will ask you to review and digitally sign documents with important information that indicate your understanding. Please be aware that these are legal documents. Please contact OISA if you have any questions before clicking the buttons to digitally sign these documents.

Questionnaires: Please complete the questionnaires to provide important information to OISA about your employment, unemployment, and status. You will be able to upload your Form I-983 through the appropriate questionnaire. Carefully read the instructions on this questionnaire before doing so.

You can click the save button at the bottom of the form to save your answers as you go along but make sure you click the submit button to submit the information to your request.

When you have completed each section of the OPT Employment Update, click the Submit button at the top of the page.

If you start a request in the ISS Portal but are unable to complete it, you may return to this request at a later time. Do not start a new one. To return to an existing request, please go to your ISS Portal User Home Page.

Report changes in personal contact information

Report changes in personal contact information, including physical street address, email address, and telephone number, within 10 days of the change. You should also complete an AR-11 form to notify the USCIS of any change in your address. 

To submit changes in your personal contact information, log in to your ISS Portal account and select F-1 Student Requests from the menu on the left side of the page, then click on Address Update Request from the menu choices on the next page. You will then be asked to select the term that you are making the request for.

Make sure to carefully review the Announcements and Instructions sections on the page that you are redirected to.

In order to provide OISA with the information needed to complete your request, you will need to complete the following sections and requests:

Signature Documents: This section will ask you to review and digitally sign documents with important information that indicate your understanding. Please be aware that these are legal documents. Please contact OISA if you have any questions before clicking the buttons to digitally sign these documents.

Questionnaires: Please complete the questionnaire to provide important information to OISA about your current U.S. mailing address, U.S. physical address, U.S. phone number, and personal email address. You will also be asked to answer a questionnaire to determine your student status.

You can click the save button at the bottom of the form to save your answers as you go along but make sure you click the submit button to submit the information to your request.

When you have completed each section of the Address Update Request, click the Submit button at the top of the page.

If you start a request in the ISS Portal but are unable to complete it, you may return to this request at a later time. Do not start a new one. To return to an existing request, please go to your ISS Portal User Home Page.

Submit a Validation Report every six months during the STEM period

You must submit a Validation Report every six months (6 month, 12 month, 18 month, and 24 month) during the STEM period even if there are no changes to employment.

At the 12-month and 24-month points of the STEM period, submit a self-evaluation (page 5 of the I-983), signed by you and your employer along with your Validation Report. A Final Evaluation on Student Progress is also required if you depart from any employer before the end of the STEM period.

To submit your validation report, log in to your ISS Portal account and select F-1 Student Requests from the menu on the left side of the page, then click on STEM OPT Extension Validation Report from the menu choices on the next page.

You will be redirected to a page where you can submit information necessary to complete this report. Once on this page, scroll down to the section titled Student STEM OPT Validation Information. Make sure to carefully read the instructions before proceeding. You will then select which validation report you are submitting (6 months, 12 months, 18 months, or 24 months), upload your Form I-983, and provide information about your employer and employment.

It is then important to read the two Statements of Understanding and acknowledge that you understand and agree with the statements. You may do so by clicking each of the I Agree boxes below the statements.

When you have completed each section, click the Update button at the bottom of the page to submit your STEM OPT Extension Validation Report.

Employer Reporting Requirements:

  • Your employer is responsible for maintaining an E-Verify number and using E-Verify to confirm the employment eligibility of its staff. 
  • Your employer must notify OISA within 5 days of your departure or termination from employment. To meet this reporting requirement, they should email oisa@wesleyan.edu.
  • Your employer must be willing to complete the Evaluation of Student Progress at the 12-month point of your STEM period and the Final Evaluation on Student Progress at the 24-month point and/or upon your departure from the company.

What is E-Verify?

E-Verify is used by some employers to determine the employment eligibility of their employees through an online system. It is important to note that not all employers use E-Verify. If you plan to work for a specific employer during your STEM period, you must first ensure that they are enrolled in E-Verify. If they are not, they are not a STEM-eligible employer.

Never assume that a company uses E-Verify based on size or number of employees. Further, some companies may only use E-Verify for certain positions or departments. Always confirm with the employer beforehand that they are in fact eligible to hire STEM participants for the position in which you will be working. More information on E-Verify can be found on Study in the States

Employment Changes

Common employment changes can be tricky to report while on STEM. Please refer to the guidance below, which is separated by Pending STEM Extension and Active STEM Extension. Remember to report all changes within 10 days to OISA through the ISS Portal.

Pending STEM Extension

Changing Employers

Submit the OPT Employment Update through the ISS Portal to report the new employer details. Include the last date of employment with the prior employer. Include a new I-983 Training Plan (pages 1-4) signed by you and your new employer. OISA will issue an updated I-20 and send a copy to USCIS on your behalf to update your application. 

Loss of Employment, No New STEM Employer

Submit the OPT Employment Update through the ISS Portal to report your loss of employment. Your SEVIS record will be updated accordingly. If you have lost the employment on which your STEM application is based and do not have an offer with a new qualifying employer, your application may be denied.

Active STEM Extension

Employment Ending and No New Employment

Submit the OPT Employment Update through the ISS Portal to report the end of employment. Include a Final Evaluation on Student Progress (page 5 of the I-983). 

Employment Ending and Starting New Job

Submit the OPT Employment Update through the ISS Portal to report the new employer details. Include the last date of employment with the prior employer. Include a new I-983 Training Plan (pages 1-4) signed by you and your new employer. Include a Final Evaluation on Student Progress (page 5 of the I-983) from the prior job. 

Adding Second or Multiple Employers

Submit an OPT Employment Update through the ISS Portal and I-983 for each new employer. Please note that any additional employer must also be enrolled in E-Verify and your role must be related to your degree program.

Same Employer but Changes to Terms of Employment (ex. work site change, change in duties, change of supervisor, etc.)

Submit the OPT Employment Update through the ISS Portal indicating that you are reporting a change to your current employment information. Include an updated I-983 Training Plan (pages 1-4). 

 

Information for Employers

By employing an F-1 student visa holder with an OPT STEM Extension, you are providing a valuable training opportunity and will in turn benefit from the skills, knowledge, and cultural competence that they will bring. As the STEM employer, you are not responsible for filing any government petitions or paying any visa-related fees. You are, however, responsible for completing and adhering to an individualized training plan for your STEM employee. You are also responsible for reporting to the Wesleyan OISA any termination or end to employment within 5 days of the event. To report a STEM employee’s departure, please email oisa@wesleyan.edu.

STEM Resources

Completing the Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students

Travel on Post-Completion OPT and OPT STEM Extension

Study in the States STEM OPT Hub

Study in the States STEM Extension Reporting Requirements chart