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24-Month STEM OPT Extensions

         


What is the STEM OPT Extension?

The 24-Month STEM OPT Extension provides an additional 2 years of work authorization to the year of Optional Practical Training, allowing students to participate in up to 3 years of OPT. In order to qualify for the STEM OPT Extension, the following must be true:

  • The applicant must be an F-1 student currently in their first year of OPT.
  • The applicant must have earned a Bachelor's, Master's or Doctorate degree in a qualifying STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) field.
    • View a list of qualifying major codes here. Your major code is listed on your most recent I-20.
    • An applicant who has completed a previous STEM degree may also qualify for the 24-month STEM extension.  More information can be found here.
  • The applicant has a job offer from a company enrolled in E-Verify at the time that they apply for the 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).

Procedures to Apply

Participants applying for the STEM OPT Extension are eligible to apply 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, please submit the following to OPTSTEM@rit.edu to begin the STEM OPT application process:

Within 4-5 business days of receiving these documents, our office will issue a STEM I-20, which should be included with your full application to USCIS for the STEM EAD card. A full list of application requirements can be found in the STEM Extension Packet (click the orange box at the top of this page).  There also example I-765 and I-983 forms provided on this page to assist you in completing your application forms. A signed copy of your STEM I-20 will be emailed to you upon processing.  The original will be mailed to the address provided on your STEM I-20 Request Form and may take a few weeks to arrive to you.

After receiving the copy of the I-20 with the STEM OPT recommendation from us, you will need to print it and mail a completed STEM OPT application to the appropriate USCIS office. You do not need to submit the I-983 training plan to USCIS with your application.

Your application must be received by USCIS no later than the end date on your EAD card or they will deny your request.

*An example of a degree prior to your most recent RIT degree: If you completed a B.S. in Computer Science , for example, and did not participate in the STEM extension for that degree but went on to begin a Master's program in a non-STEM field (such as Business Administration), you can apply for the STEM extension based on the B.S. degree.  Remember that the STEM Extension is only available twice.

 

 

Is Your Employment STEM eligible?

Check with your employer to be sure your job is eligible for STEM OPT. If ALL of the following are TRUE for your employment situation, you and can apply for STEM based on that job. Every job you have on STEM must meet all of these criteria.

  • 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
  • Student is not an independent contractor
  • Student is not in an unpaid position
  • Student is not in a 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 STEM. For example, can your employer hire you directly instead of through a temporary or staffing agency? Can they enroll in E-Verify?
 

For more information please read the following information:

  1. Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT)
  2. USCIS Tightens Language on Employer-Employee Relationship and Third Party Placement for STEM OPT Students
Applying for a STEM Extension Based on a Previously Obtained STEM Degree

The 24-month rule permits students to use a previously obtained STEM degree from an accredited U.S. educational institution as a basis to apply for a STEM OPT extension, even if it did not serve as the basis for the student’s standard 12-month post-completion OPT, under the following conditions:

  • The prior degree was conferred no more than 10 years before the student’s DSO recommends a STEM OPT extension in SEVIS based on that degree;
  • The prior degree was conferred by a U.S. educational institution that is accredited and SEVP-certified at the time the student’s DSO recommends the student for the 24-month OPT extension;
  • The prior 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;
  • The prior 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, a Bachelor's Electrical Engineering 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. This student would also need to meet the above requirements.

The following form must be included in the documents sent to optstem@rit.edu if you are applying for this type of work authorization: STEM Extension Request Based on a Prior Degree

Example Form I-765

Please click on the SAMPLE below for an example Form I-765.



REMEMBER TO INCLUDE ALL 7 PAGES OF THE I-765 EVEN IF SOME ARE BLANK

Tips for Completing Form I-983

All questions on the Form I-983 must be answered clearly and completely. Incomplete forms will not be accepted and may delay the processing of your STEM OPT extension application.
 

Please click on SAMPLE below for assistance.



NOTE:

Reporting Requirements for Students on a 24-Month STEM Extension

Reporting Requirements for the 24-Month STEM Extension can be found here.

 

Changing Employers While on a STEM Extension

Changing employers during the STEM OPT Extension is permitted, as long as the employment meets 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

Remember to also add an employment end date for your former employer in the SEVP portal.

 

Changing an employer after applying for the STEM OPT extension and before receiving your STEM EAD approval should be avoided, whenever possible.  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.

 

Changing Job Titles Within the Same Company While on a STEM Extension

Changing job titles within the same company during the STEM OPT Extension is permitted, as long as the employment meets the eligibility requirements for STEM OPT. Changes to job title and job responsibilities 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 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.

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