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F-1 STEM OPT Extension

The 24-Month STEM OPT Extension is an additional benefit from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that allows international students in F-1 status who receive a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in an approved STEM field to apply for a 24-month extension of their standard 12-month Post-OPT period, twice in a lifetime. This allows international students, the opportunity to gain additional off-campus work experience in their field of study after completion of course studies.

  • F-1 student must currently be participating in a 12-month OPT, working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to your major area of study.

  • F-1 student must have successfully completed a bachelor's, master’s, or doctoral degree in a STEM field included in the STEM Designated Degree Program List. To find out if your program is in the STEM list, look for the CIP code on your I-20 under the section entitled PROGRAM OF STUDY listed under MAJOR.

  • F1 student prospective employer must be registered with the eVerify Employment Verification System.

  • Students must work more than 20 hours per week.

  • Volunteer, unpaid, staffing agency, labor for-hire arrangements, or self-employment positions are not eligible for STEM OPT extensions.  Read Federal Register for more information on the new ruling.  

  • Students are allowed 150 days of cumulative unemployment days during the post-OPT and STEM OPT 24-Month Extension periods. Periods of unemployment occur when students have a valid EAD card and are allowed to work but are not working. Student will lose their employment eligibility if they go beyond that amount.

When to Apply for STEM OPT (24-month) Extension

ISSC recommends applying for STEM extension at least 104 days prior to the OPT end date listed on the EAD card.  This will allow the ISSC up to 10 working days to process your application and will allow USCIS their standard 90 days for processing.

  • STEM extension applications must be received by USCIS before the end date listed on the EAD card or the STEM extension will be forfeited.

  • Students will be able to continue employment while the STEM extension application is pending, until a final decision on the I-765 has been made or for 180 days, whichever comes first.

How to Apply for STEM OPT (24-month) Extension

1. Submit your application materials to the ISSC through eForm self-service portal.  Have the following application materials ready to upload:

          *Incomplete applications cannot be processed.

2. Pick up the 24-month STEM OPT packet from the ISSC

  • You will receive an email notification from the ISSC of the availability of your STEM OPT I-20 and supporting documents.

  • The notification will provide detailed information on how to provide authorization for the pick-up of the materials and mailing instructions using eShipGlobal if you choose to have the STEM OPT Information Packet shipped.

3. Submit the 24-month STEM OPT application to USCIS

Submit the application to USCIS as soon as possible following the mailing instructions provided with your I-20. USCIS must receive the application within 60 days after the issuance of the STEM OPT I-20. Additionally, the application must be received before the student’s 12-month OPT expiration date.

  • $410 payment by including either
    • Form G-1450 if paying by credit card, or
    • a personal check or money order payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security"
  • Two passport-style photos (2” x 2”) with name and I-94 admission number written lightly on back with pencil

  • Copy of degree or diploma

  • Copy of recent I-94 arrival record obtained here

  • Copy of the front and back of prior EAD cards (if applicable)

  • Copy of new OPT I-20 signed by DSO and student

  • Copy of biographical page of passport (valid at least six months into the future)

Follow all mailing instructions carefully when submitting the application materials to USCIS and keep a copy of all completed applications for personal record.

Changing Employer while STEM application is pending (and post-OPT still active)

To avoid complications or delays with the STEM OPT Extension application, ISSC recommends that you do not travel or change employers while your STEM OPT Extension application is pending.  If a change in employment is unavoidable, you must complete the following:

  1. Log into your SEVP Portal account and update your current post-OPT employment
    1. correct your current employer’s end date
    2. input your new employer’s information
  2. Submit a form I-983 for the new STEM employer. 
    1. Click on Optional Practical Training in My ASU under Priority Tasks.
    2. Click on STEM Extension Employment Update
    3. Select yes for the answer to Have you previously uploaded a copy of your OPT STEM EAD card to the ISSC?
    4. When prompted to upload a copy of page 5 of form I-983 for your previous employer, upload the first page of your new I-983. You will upload the new I-983 twice within the eForm

Your SEVIS record will be updated to reflect the reported changes and an updated I-20 will be issued.

Changing Employer while STEM application is pending (and post-OPT ended)

To avoid complications or delays with the STEM OPT Extension application, ISSC recommends that you do not travel or change employers while your STEM OPT Extension application is pending.  If a change in employment is unavoidable, you must complete the following:

  1. Submit form I-983 for the new STEM employer. 
    1. Click on Optional Practical Training in My ASU under Priority Tasks.
    2. Click on STEM Extension Employment Update
    3. Select yes for the answer to Have you previously uploaded a copy of your OPT STEM EAD card to the ISSC?
    4. Submit pages 1 through 4 of form I-983 for the new STEM employer.
    5. Submit the bottom half of page 5 final evaluation completed by your former employer.

Your SEVIS record will be updated to reflect the reported changes and an updated I-20 will be issued. 

What to Expect 

  • The receipt number printed on the receipt notice will allow the student to track their application progress using the USCIS website.

  • It will take approximately 90 days to process the OPT application.

  • If the student’s application is still processing after 90 days, they may submit a case inquiry with USCIS regarding their delay in processing times.

Generally, USCIS will mail EAD card to the address on the I-765. If you requested the U.S. Post Office for mail forwarding, the USCIS mail including EAD card will not be forwarded to the new address.

If you have a new address after you submitted I-765 to USCIS, please update your new address with USCIS via https https://www.uscis.gov/ar-11 and your MyASU.

Tips for Avoiding Application Rejections, Denials, Delays, and Receiving a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS

  • Do not mail your application to USCIS prior to 90 days from the expiration date of the current OPT employment authorization.  USCIS CANNOT receive and will return the students application if received prior to 90 days before the current OPT employment authorization.  

  • The application must reach USCIS no later than 60 days after the program end date.

  • The application must be received by USCIS within 60 days of the ISSC date issued on the I-20.

  • Sign the STEM OPT I-20 on page 1, under Student Attestation. Typed or electronic signatures are not accepted on form I-983.

  • Fill out and sign the I-765 in black ink and between two lines only (Do not touch the signature line below or words above when signing. USCIS will scan the signature to put it onto the EAD card).

  • Include two passport-style, color photos with a white background taken no earlier than 30 days before submitting to USCIS (follow the instructions on the I-765).

  • Lightly print the student’s name and I-94 admission number on the back of each passport-style photo with a pencil. Do not staple them together.

  • Fill out a personal check or money order. Including the date, payable to the Department of Homeland Security and write the amount in numbers ($410.00) and words (four hundred ten dollars and 00/100), and must be signed.

  • Follow the mailing instructions and checklist provided by ISSC when picking up the STEM OPT packet.

If a change of address is unavoidable, you must inform the USCIS and the ISSC of the new address by filing an online change of address with USCIS. Also update your address at My ASU.

If for any reason you receive your materials back from USCIS or the postal/shipping service, do not resend the materials. Double check the signature dates on the I-20 and contact ISSC immediately if you need a new or updated form I-20 for the resubmission of the application.

I-765 application should be resent no later than 20 days after the ISSC signature on the I-20.

Maintaining F-1 Status While on the STEM OPT 24-Month Extension 

While on 24-Month OPT STEM Extension, students must continue to maintain F-1 status and STEM OPT complete reporting requirements by doing the following:

  • Submit a copy of the EAD card, report student information changes, and report employment status through the Optional Practical Training link found under the Priority Tasks Box in the student’s MyASU account.

  • Do not exceed the 150 day aggregate period of cumulative unemployment allowed during the post-OPT/STEM OPT Extension periods (periods of unemployment occur when students have a valid EAD card and are allowed to work but are not working).

  • Report to the ISSC within 10 days any changes in name, address, employer’s name and address, and updated status or interruption of employment.

  • Update LOCAL address through MyASU within 10 days of move.

  • When changing employment while on a 24-month OPT STEM Extension, students must submit a new Form I-983 from the new employer to ISSC.

    • To do so, go directly to your MyASU page.  In your priority task box you will find a link titled “Optional Practical Training”. Scroll down to the section named “REPORTING DURING STEM OPT EXTENSION” and you will find a drop-down named “OPT STEM Employment Update and/or Upload EAD Card”.  Please update your employment and upload the new form I-983.  ISSC will then update the student’s record to reflect these reported changes.

Check My ASU and your ASU email account on a regular basis for immigration updates.

Employment Restrictions

Employment TypeRestrictions
Multiple employers A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to his or her degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
Work for hire This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment, where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. The company for whom the student is providing services, must be registered with E-Verify. If requested by DHS, the student must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract period and the name and address of the contracting company. 18 SEVP Policy Guidance 1004-03 Update to Optional Practical Training.
Self-employed business owner A student on a 24-month extension can start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must register his or her business with E-Verify and work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program.
Employment through an employment agency, temp agency, or consulting firmThis is not qualifying employment during the STEM extension period.
Volunteer or unpaid work This is not qualifying employment during the STEM extension period

60-Day Grace Period After OPT 

You are allowed a 60-day grace period following your OPT expiration date to leave the U.S., change your status, transfer your F-1 to a new school, or pursue new degree program at ASU.

Early Completion and Leaving the U.S. or Change of Status

  • If you decide to leave the US before your OPT expiration date, please report to the ISSC so that we can update your record accordingly. This update will invalidate your OPT employment authorization and your OPT I-20 and EAD card will be no longer valid.

  • If you change your status before your OPT expiration date, please report to the ISSC so that we can update your record accordingly.

 

STEM OPT (24-month) Extension FAQs

Can I apply for 36 months of Post-OPT if I am a STEM student?

Can I apply for 36 months of Post-OPT if I am a STEM student?

No. You have to apply for the 12-month Post-OPT first. You can only apply for the additional 24 months to a previously approved Post-OPT.

What types of employment are allowed for students during a STEM OPT 24-month Extension?

What types of employment are allowed for students during a STEM OPT 24-month Extension?

If you are authorized for a STEM OPT 24-Month Extension, you must work at least 20 hours per week for an eVerify employer in a position related to your STEM degree.

Volunteer, unpaid, or self-employment positions are not eligible for STEM OPT extensions.

Can I send my application to other Service Centers while I am living in Arizona?

Can I send my application to other Service Centers while I am living in Arizona?

No. You must submit the STEM OPT 24-Month Extension application to the appropriate lockbox designated by USCIS, based on the mailing address you listed on your I-765. For Arizona residents, applications must be submitted to Phoenix lockbox. For other locations, please check USCIS I-765 USCIS I-765 lockbox addresses (at the bottom of the webpage).

What if I change my address while my STEM OPT 24-month Extension application is pending?

What if I change my address while my STEM OPT 24-month Extension application is pending?

If a change of address is unavoidable, you must inform the USCIS and the ISSC of the new address. For information on filing an online change of address with USCIS, go to the USCIS website. Update the address within your My ASU account. The U.S. Post Office will not forward your EAD card to a new address (you must update the address with USCIS).

Can I change employers while my STEM OPT 24-month Extension application is pending?

Can I change employers while my STEM OPT 24-month Extension application is pending?

To avoid any complications or delays with the STEM OPT 24-Month Extension application, ISSC recommends that students do not travel or change employers while STEM OPT 24-Month Extension application is pending.

However, if the change in employment is inevitable, please do the following when changing your employment while STEM OPT 24-Month Extension is pending:

  • Student must submit a new Form I-983 to ISSC within 10 business days of the start of employment.

    • To do so, go directly to your My ASU page.  In your priority task box you will find a link titled “Optional Practical Training”. Scroll down to the section named “REPORTING DURING STEM OPT EXTENSION” and you will find a drop-down named “OPT STEM Employment Update”.  Please update your employment and upload the new form I-983.

    • ISSC will then update the student’s record to reflect these reported changes.

What if I don’t get the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) within 90 days as indicated in the Notice of Action?

What if I don’t get the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) within 90 days as indicated in the Notice of Action?

You can track the status of your application online. You will need your WAC number found on the Notice of Action (receipt) in order to check your status.

If case status shows approved, you must wait for your EAD card.

If it has been more than 90 days since USCIS received your application, and you have not received an approval, then submit a case inquiry at the bottom of the Case Status Page.

Can the student work with an expired employment authorization document while STEM OPT 24-month Extension application is pending?

Can the student work with an expired employment authorization document while STEM OPT 24-month Extension application is pending?

Yes. Students who file a timely application for the STEM OPT 24-Month Extension will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending, until a final decision on the I-765 or for 180 days, whichever comes first.

Can I travel while my STEM OPT 24-month Extension is pending?

Can I travel while my STEM OPT 24-month Extension is pending?

Traveling while a STEM OPT 24-Month Extension application is pending, is not recommended but it is allowed.  Re-entry to the U.S. is at the discretion of the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration officer.  See the necessary documents needed for traveling while on STEM OPT 24-Month Extension on the next question.

Can I do a second STEM OPT 24-month Extension?

Can I do a second STEM OPT 24-month Extension?

Yes. STEM students are eligible for two lifetime extensions of STEM OPT 24-Month Extension.

What will happen if I accrue more than 150 days of unemployment during my STEM OPT 24-month Extension?

What will happen if I accrue more than 150 days of unemployment during my STEM OPT 24-month Extension?

Do not exceed the 150 day aggregate period of cumulative unemployment allowed during the post-OPT/STEM OPT 24-Month Extension periods (periods of unemployment occur when students have a valid EAD card and are allowed to work but are not working). You must continuously search for employment until you have secured a job, to avoid jeopardizing your immigration status.

Will I have to pay U.S. taxes for income earned while on practical training?

Will I have to pay U.S. taxes for income earned while on practical training?

In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. for fewer than six years are exempt from social security (FICA) and Medicare taxes as long as you continue to declare non-resident status for tax purposes (see Internal Revenue Service Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, which you can order by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM or download at www.irs.gov). You should be sure to bring this to the attention of your employer because many employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax laws.

Unless you qualify under a tax treaty between the United States and your home government, your earnings as an F-1 student will be subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes, and employers are required by law to withhold those taxes from your paychecks. By April 15 of each year, you must file a federal income tax return and a Form 8843, Statement for Exempt Individuals, covering the prior calendar year – whether you owe more taxes or not.

What documents are necessary when traveling during the STEM OPT 24-month Extension period?

What documents are necessary when traveling during the STEM OPT 24-month Extension period?

To re-enter the US, you will need a valid EAD card, STEM OPT 24-month extension SEVIS I-20 endorsed by an ISSC designated school official within the last six months, a valid passport, a valid visa and proof of employment.

For more information on travel, please read through Travel While on F-1 OPT (https://issc.asu.edu/travel/student-fj/f1-opt)

How can I get the travel endorsement on the I-20 while on OPT?

How can I get the travel endorsement on the I-20 while on OPT?

  1. Before submitting Travel Signature Request eForm, make sure your employment and local address are updated.

  • Submit Travel Signature Request eForm through ISSC eForm self-service portal. Then, follow the step-by-step instructions to submit the eForm for travel signature request. Once you click the ‘submit’ button, you will see a screen indicating that you successfully submitted your request. Processing time is 10-14 working days. Please plan accordingly.

  • If you are not in Phoenix metro area, please read detailed information on how to provide authorization for the pick-up of the OPT I-20 with travel endorsement or using eShipGlobal. (https://issc.asu.edu/support-services/students-faculty-scholars/document...)

    How do I apply for a visa renewal while on STEM OPT 24-month Extension period?

    How do I apply for a visa renewal while on STEM OPT 24-month Extension period?

    Since you remain in F-1 status while you are on STEM OPT 24-Month Extension period, the same F-1 visa renewal information applies.

    Submit your STEM OPT 24-Month Extension SEVIS I-20 to ISSC for travel endorsement at least 10-14 working days prior to departure. Documents for visa renewal purposes include: STEM OPT 24-Month Extension SEVIS I-20 with updated travel signature, passport, valid six months into the future, valid EAD card and proof of employment.

    For more information on travel, please read through Travel While on F-1 OPT (Link to Travel While on F-1 OPT)

    Can I enter the US on a different visa status and continue to work on STEM OPT 24-month Extension?

    Can I enter the US on a different visa status and continue to work on STEM OPT 24-month Extension?

    No. Do not enter the US on any visa other than F-1 or you will lose your F1 status and your STEM OPT 24-Month Extension will be invalidated.

    Do I need to keep my previous I-20s since I have the STEM OPT 24-month Extension SEVIS I-20?

    Do I need to keep my previous I-20s since I have the STEM OPT 24-month Extension SEVIS I-20?

    Yes. You must keep all I-20 forms and all your immigration documents indefinitely for possible use in the future. The ISSC does not retain student’s original I-20s.

    How will I receive immigration updates from ISSC during the STEM OPT 24-month extension period?

    How will I receive immigration updates from ISSC during the STEM OPT 24-month extension period?

    You will receive periodic immigration updates from ISSC through ASU email. Your ASU email will be active during the OPT period.

    If you have problems receiving ASU emails while on STEM OPT 24-Month extension, please contact ASU Help Desk directly.

    Can I start my new degree program while on STEM OPT 24-month extension?

    Can I start my new degree program while on STEM OPT 24-month extension?

    No. If you decide to pursue new degree program, your STEM OPT 24-Month Extension will be invalidated. If you will start new degree program at ASU, you have to request to new degree I-20 from the ISSC before the new degree program start date or  before the end of the 60-day grace period following the STEM OPT expiration date, whichever is earlier.

    If you will start new degree program at another institution, you have to request for SEVIS transfer out from the ISSC. This must be done before the end of the 60-day grace period following the STEM OPT expiration date.