24-Month STEM OPT Extension

The 24-Month STEM OPT Extension adds an additional 2 years of work authorization to the year of Initial Optional Practical Training.

This allows you to participate in up to 3 years of OPT. You must have earned a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree in a qualifying STEM field (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics).

More information about RIT’s eligible STEM degree programs

Eligibility

In order to qualify, you must be a current F-1 student on your first year of OPT.

An applicant who has completed a previous STEM degree (link to section below) may also qualify for the 24-month STEM extension. Students may participate in the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension up to two times. The extension may not be repeated at the same academic level (e.g., bachelor's master's, or doctorate).

Check with your employer to be sure your job is eligible. All the following must be true for every job you have on STEM OPT.

  • Employer is E-Verified
  • Employer will provide the student with formal training and learning objectives
  • Student will be working at least 20 hours per week
  • Student is not self-employed or an independent contractor
  • Student is not in an unpaid or volunteer position
  • There is a bona-fide employer-employee relationship
  • Student is not employed by a staffing or temporary agency to work at another company’s worksite.
  • Student is not employed through a consulting firm arrangement that provides labor for hire
  • The employer that signs the Form I-983 is the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.

If your employment situation does not meet all of the criteria above, work with your employer to see if arrangements can be made to make the employment situation eligible. For example, can your employer hire you directly instead of through a temporary or staffing agency? Can they enroll in E-Verify?

Please visit uscis.gov for additional details.

STEM Extension Based on Previously Obtained STEM Degree

You may qualify for a 24-month STEM extension based on a previously obtained STEM degree if it meets the requirements listed below:

  • Degree was from an accredited US educational institution and SEVP-certified at the time the DSO recommends you for the 24-month OPT extension
  • Degree was obtained no more than 10 years before the student obtains STEM OPT I-20
  • Degree is in a degree program category included on the current STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time of the DSO recommendation. The practical training opportunity that is the basis for the 24-month STEM OPT extension must directly relate to the prior degree.
  • Degree was actually conferred (i.e., a student who uses a prior degree cannot take advantage of the “all but thesis or dissertation” exception).

For example, an electrical engineering bachelor’s degree student who has not had a STEM extension based on that degree who later pursues OPT based on his MBA will be eligible to apply for the 24-month STEM OPT based on the Bachelor's Electrical Engineering degree.

The STEM Extension Request Based on a Prior Degree, must be included in the documents sent to optstem@rit.edu.

Applying

You can apply for a STEM OPT Extension up to 90 days before the end of their first year of OPT. No earlier than the 90th day prior to the end of your EAD card.

We recommend using this planning tool provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

Steps with the International Student Services Office

  1. Complete the OPT STEM Extension I-20 Request Form.
  2. Complete pages 1-4 of the Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students with your employer.
  3. Pay ISS 2-Year Support Administrative Fee.
    • Please pay the fee with a credit card (MasterCard or Visa). This fee will be used for ongoing ISS support to you as a graduate of RIT. Please save a copy of the emailed receipt and include it per below.
  4. Email the ISS fee receipt*, OPT STEM Extension I-20 Request Form, and Form I-983 to OPTSTEM@rit.edu no more than 90 days prior to your EAD expiration date. We will ask you to re-submit your request if received more than 90 days before your EAD expiration. If your EAD card expires within 2 weeks of submission of your documents, please indicate that in the subject of your email.
  5. Within 4-5 business days of receiving these documents, our office will issue your STEM I-20. After receiving the copy of the I-20 with the STEM OPT recommendation from us, you will sign it on the first page. This I-20 should be included with your application to USCIS for the STEM EAD card.
     

Steps with USCIS

Your application must be received by USCIS no later than the end date on your EAD card and within 60 days of the creation of the STEM I-20. Otherwise, they will deny your request.

  1. Create an online USCIS Account
  2. Apply online​​​

Application Status

Once approved, your new EAD will be mailed to the address listed on Form I-765. Government mail cannot be forwarded, so you must notify USCIS immediately if your address changes.

You may continue working up to 180 days after your 12-month OPT expires, while the STEM Extension is pending. Provide a copy of your Receipt Notice to your employer.

Reporting

If you are participating in the 24-month STEM OPT Extension you will report to our office every 6 months. Your valid F-1 status is dependent on you pursuing authorized employment and reporting all required information.

Submit a copy of your STEM EAD card

Once your STEM OPT is approved and you receive a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD) please email a copy of it to OPTSTEM@rit.edu. Please include your name and University ID in the subject of your email.

Complete the 6 month STEM validations

SEVIS requires validation of your STEM OPT employment and personal contact information every six months. The SEVP portal will notify you directly by e-mail 30 days before the 6 Month STEM Validation is due. The e-mail reminder will be sent to the e-mail address that you provide in the SEVP portal.

The ISS office has discontinued the Validation Report form, effective April 2020. Students validating the SEVP portal will need to do the following:

  1. Log into the SEVP portal.
  2. Check all employer info and personal info. Make any necessary updates.
  3. Email OPTSTEM@rit.edu to notify us that you have checked your information and it is up-to-date.
    • If you are due for an annual self-evaluation, see the section below and attach the self-evaluation to the email.

Complete the annual self-evaluations

Over the course of your 24-month STEM OPT Extension, you must submit two self-evaluations. The self-evaluations must be completed by you and signed by your employer. It should evaluate your experience during the STEM Extension, even if you were employed with the same company before your STEM OPT Extension.

Recommendations for completing the self-evaluation can be found on the Study in the States website under the Evaluation of Student Progress section.

  • Annual Evaluation #1: Complete Evaluation of Student Progress on page 5 of the Form I-983 and submit it to OPTSTEM@rit.edu by the end of your first year of STEM OPT.
  • Annual Evaluation #2: Complete Final Evaluation of Student Progress on page 5 of the Form I-983 and submit it to OPTSTEM@rit.edu by the end of your second year of STEM OPT.

NOTE: You are not required to submit the evaluation on the original I-983 form. You can send the full I-983 form with the completed evaluation or just page 5.

Employer Reporting Requirements

Employers must agree to notify ISS within 48 hours of any termination of employment or departure.

Changes While on STEM Extension

Changing Employers

You may change employers during your STEM OPT Extension. The employment must meet the eligibility requirements for STEM OPT. Changes to employer should be reported within 10 days.

In order to change employers, please submit the following to OPTSTEM@rit.edu:

  • I-983 form signed by new employer
  • Final self-evaluation (found on pg. 5 of the I-983 form) from previous employer
  • Your new job title
  • An explanation of how your employment is related to your STEM-eligible degree program

Changing an employer after applying for the STEM OPT extension and before receiving your STEM EAD approval should be avoided. If you must change employers while your application is pending, please contact us as soon as possible at OPTSTEM@rit.edu.

Please note that the RIT's ISS office does not issue new I-20s for changes to employer. Instead, your SEVP portal reflects the most up-to-date information about your employer. The next time you have an international trip planned, you can request a travel I-20. This will have the most current employer information at the time.

Changing Job Titles within the Same Company

Changing job titles within the same company during the STEM OPT Extension is permitted. The employment must meet the eligibility requirements for STEM OPT. Changes to job title, job responsibilities, or a significant decrease in compensation or work hours should be reported as soon as possible.

Please submit the following to OPTSTEM@rit.edu:

  • I-983 form signed by new employer
  • Your new job title
  • An explanation of how your employment is related to your STEM-eligible degree program

A self-evaluation is not required for changes of title within the same company. If your title changes, but there is no change in responsibilities, compensation, work hours, or your training plan, a new I-983 may not be required. Email OPTSTEM@rit.edu with questions.

Please note that the RIT's ISS office does not issue new I-20s for changes to employer.

Unemployment Limit

The cumulative Unemployment Limit is extended to 150 days once your STEM Extension is approved. However, this does not replenish any days reported as unemployed during the regular 12-month OPT. Whatever remains of the initial 90-day allotment is increased only by an additional 60 days throughout the 24 months of STEM Extension OPT. Therefore, if you are unemployed for an aggregate of more than 150 days during your complete 36 months of authorized OPT, your work permission will be terminated and your F-1 status is ended. No grace period currently exists for students who exceed this limit.

Periods of unemployment are monitored through the required OPT reporting. It is important to provide our office with timely and accurate information. Volunteer, unpaid, and part-time activities (fewer than 20 hours per week) may not be used to satisfy the employment qualification for STEM OPT reporting purposes. Please contact ISS to speak with an advisor about any specific concern.

Travel Outside the US

Authorization for the STEM OPT Extension extends your eligibility for valid F-1 status and ability to travel. In order to document your status while traveling, you must show an unexpired EAD card. While your application is pending, you may continue to travel using your current EAD card authorizing your regular 12- month OPT. Once that card expires, do not travel until the new STEM Extension EAD card is received.

Travel at any time during F-1 OPT requires the following documents:

  1. Valid passport
  2. Current I-20, signed for travel by an ISS advisor within the past six months.
  3. Valid F-1 visa stamp
  4. Unexpired EAD card. You may also be asked to demonstrate that you are using your OPT appropriately, by showing proof of current employment.

Frequently Asked Questions

You should give yourself enough time to compile your application materials and receive the STEM OPT I-20. Processing time for the STEM I-20 is 4-5 business days. We recommend waiting no less than 1 month before your initial OPT ends to request your OPT I-20. The sooner you apply for STEM OPT, the sooner you will receive notification from USCIS if there is an issue with your application.

If there are not enough characters to type your degree name on the I-765, that is okay. You can abbreviate your degree title, use the “add text” feature in Adobe (or another PDF writer), or handwrite (in black ink) the full degree title. Your full degree title will be on your transcript and/or diploma, so no need to worry about it not fitting on the I-765 form.

Yes. You can continue to work while your current application is pending, even if you have yet to receive your receipt notice. It is better to apply closer to 90 days before your current EAD card expires so that you have your receipt notice throughout your grace period while your STEM application is pending with USCIS. But you can continue working, even without the receipt notice.

If you can avoid it, it is better to change STEM employers after your STEM application is approved by USCIS. However, we know that changes to employment can be unpredictable. Please email OPTSTEM@rit.edu as soon as possible. We will have to issue a new I-20 and send all of your updated documents to USCIS.

To our knowledge, the report will continue to show as past-due if it was submitted after the deadline. If you have not submitted your validation report by the due date, we have up to 30 days to process the validation in SEVIS after the due date.

If your STEM application is denied, you have the option to appeal the decision made by USCIS. An appeal does not guarantee the approval of your application and can be quite expensive. You may want to attempt an appeal with the assistance of an immigration attorney. You should stop work immediately once you receive a denial notice.

If you do not wish to appeal the denial of your STEM application, contact our office to discuss your options. If you do not wish to return home, you may choose to do one of the following:

  • Apply for and obtain acceptance into a new academic program at another school or RIT before 60 days from the date on your denial notice. If you wait too long, your SEVIS record will automatically be cancelled and your F-1 visa status will need to be reinstated.
  • Apply for a change of status to another immigration status.
  • If you have a valid visitor visa in your passport, you may consider leaving the US and returning in that visa status. Depending on how you leave the US, you may need a visa for the country to which you depart (ex: Canada).

Yes. That self-evaluation will be in reference to your new employer, even if you have not been employed with them for the full year.

If you have received approval for another status, we have to close out your F-1 visa status on or after the date your new status becomes effective. Please send the following items to OPTSTEM@rit.edu:

  • Final self-evaluation (p. 5 of the I-983 – form must be completed by student and reviewed and signed by employer)
  • Written notice of approval of new status (I-797A)

Once an ISS advisor processes the STEM recommendation in SEVIS and issues the STEM I-20, the ability to edit the SEVP portal is limited. More details

You cannot change your own employer in the SEVP portal once the STEM I-20 has been issued. DSOs, instead, have to edit employer information on your behalf. This includes changes to an Initial OPT/post-completion OPT employer end date. A complete change of a STEM employer requires new paperwork.

Slight changes to the STEM employer, such as address, supervisor contact information may be editable in the portal. For minor changes, log into your SEVP portal to see what information you can edit prior to sending updates to OPTSTEM@rit.edu.

Material Changes, such as new company structure that changes the EIN#, updated learning objectives, and other changes that impact the I-983 training plan will require a new I-983.

Changes to STEM employer while an application is pending involves a different process. Contact OPTSTEM@rit.edu for guidance.

You can access the SEVP portal for 6 months after your STEM OPT has ended. You will not be able to make edits to the portal after STEM OPT ends. We recommend saving a screenshot or PDF printout of your SEVP portal so that you have access to that information later, if needed.