Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Who is eligible for the STEM extension?
F-1 students who completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and are currently engaged in post-completion OPT may apply for the STEM extension if they have a job or job offer from an E-Verify employer.
What is E-Verify?
It is a program operated by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration to help certify that employees hired by companies are legally authorized to work in the United States. http://www.dhs.gov/files/programs/gc_1185221678150.shtm
STEM Fields of Study:
- Actuarial Science.
- Computer Science Applications: (except Data Entry/Microcomputer Applications)
- Engineering Technologies.
- Biological and Biomedical Sciences.
- Mathematics and Statistics.
- Military Technologies.
- Physical Sciences.
- Science Technologies.
- Medical Scientist (M.S., Ph.D.).
A full listing of official STEM fields is found here: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/stemlist.htm
When do I apply for the STEM extension?
The student must ensure that the Form I-765, the supporting evidence and the fee payment ($380) reach the proper USCIS Service Center before his or her current OPT expires. USCIS recommends that students file within 90 days before the OPT ends.
How and where does a student file for the extension?
Contact the International Student Coordinator at UVM for assistance. You will need to submit another application with a Form I-765, copies of your immigration documents, proof of graduation and proof of employment or job offer with an E-Verify employer.
While you are on OPT, an employer may wish to sponsor you for the H1B visa. If you are approved, inform OIE by submitting a copy of your H1B Approval Notice from USCIS. We will update your SEVIS record.
If you are working in the private-sector and your OPT will end before October 1st, then we will issue a “Cap-Gap I-20” for you (meaning your OPT will automatically extended until the H1B begins on October 1st.)
OPT STEM Extension Application Checklist
- Photocopy of new STEM I-20
- Photocopy of your current EAD (and any/all previous EADs issued by USCIS if applicable)
Photocopy of your degree (that clearly shows graduation in a STEM field) or transcript
- Check or money order for $380: payable to “United States Department of Homeland Security”
- Photocopies of all past and current I-20s
- Two passport photos (2” x 2”)
- Photocopy of your I-94 Card
- Photocopy of your passport ID page with expiration date
- Completed Form I-765
I-765 Instructions for STEM Extension
Complete the I-765 form online. Then print it and sign it.
- Download Form !-765
- Top of page: Mark “Permission to continue employment”
- item #11: Mark “Granted” since you have previously applied to USCIS for an EAD then write the name of the Service Center you sent it to and the date it was approved.
- item #16: enter (C)(3)(C) for a 17-month STEM OPT extension
- item #17: enter your employer’s E-Verify Company or Client Identification Number; you MUST enter this information for the STEM extension – if your employer cannot provide this information, you are not eligible.
- Bottom of page (Certification): Sign your name, list your telephone, and date it in blue ink.
Mail your OPT application packet to USCIS at the following address:
If you are sending it via Express Mail
(FedEx, UPS, DHL or US Postal Service):
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business
Lewisville TX 75067
If you are sending it by normal US Postal Service options
(including Priority Mail):
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
- The OPT application must be received at the USCIS Service Center within 30 days of the date your OPT I-20 was issued (see item 10 on page 1 of the I-20 for the issue date). If your OPT I-20 is more than 30 days old and you have not yet filed the application with USCIS, contact the International Student Coordinator to reprint a new I-20.
- The application must be mailed from the United States.
- Only mail your application to the above address if your address listed on the I-765 Form is in one of these states or territories:
- Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma,Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S., Virgin Islands, or West Virginia
- If you are using an address in a different state, you must send your application to a different address. Refer to Page 10 of the I-765 instructions
- Make a copy of the application for your records before you send it.
- If you are using a friend or family’s address on the I-765 Form, be sure either your name is on their mailbox or write the current address as: c/o your friend’s name. Because of security reasons, the U.S. Postal Service will not deliver mail from USCIS to a residential address unless the name on the envelope matches the name on the mailbox.
After you apply for STEM Extension OPT – What’s Next?
2-3 weeks after submitting your OPT application, you will receive a Notification of Receipt from USCIS. In the upper left-hand corner, you will see a code beginning with EAC or something similar then followed by a set of numbers. This will be your case number. You can track the status of your case online at https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/Dashboard.do using this number.
It can take between 45 and 90 days for your application to be processed. When your application is approved, USCIS will send you an Approval Notice then an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)—a card with your picture on it and the dates you are authorized to work under OPT.
While you are waiting for your EAD Card (STEM OPT Extension application is “pending”)
- You can continue working while waiting for your new card! If you have not received notice of the approval of the STEM extension application before the current EAD card’s expiration date, your card is extended automatically. This means that the expired card will remain valid until USCIS makes a decision on the extension application or for a period not to exceed 180 days.
- Changed your address? Update your address online at https://egov.uscis.gov/crisgwi/go?action=coa or call the National Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. Do this immediately to avoid a delay in the receipt of your EAD card.
- Want to travel? You can’t until you receive your new card. Read the STEM OPT and Travel section below.
After STEM Extension OPT is approved
Things to remember
- If you change employers, the next employer must be eVerify as well
- You can not accumulate more than 120 days of unemployment during the 17 months.
- Your I-20 must be signed for travel every six months
- Make a copy of your new EAD in case it is lost or stolen
- Continue to check your UVM email while you are on STEM OPT. You are still considered an F-1 student during this period.
Note: Students who are on a STEM extension cannot meet their employment requirement through volunteer work.
Reporting Requirements Student must report to OIE (send an email to the International Coordinator) within 10 days any change of:
- Legal name
- Residential or mailing address
- Employer name and address
- Termination or loss of employment if within your OPT period
- Change of status (i.e. to H-1B)
- Transfer to another F-1 program or change of educational level
STEM OPT and Travel
If you have applied for a 17-month OPT STEM extension, and your current EAD card has expired, you can NOT travel outside the United States, even if employed, until the new EAD card is received. Once you receive your new card, you can travel but you must show the following documents upon re-entry to the US:
- Your new EAD Card
- Most recent I-20 signed less than 6-months prior
- Proof of employment
- Valid passport still valid 6-months in advance