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24-Month STEM OPT Extensions


 

**NEW ONLINE APPLICATION**

USCIS now accepts online applications for pre-completion, post-completion, and STEM OPT. While this process is still new and does not increase the speed in which the 24 Month Extension of STEM OPT is granted, it offers the benefit of providing applicants with an immediate receipt of their application, helpful instructions and tips from USCIS to avoid common mistakes, and online fee payment. ISS recommends online application filing over paper filing due to the ability to make application updates through the USCIS portal.

To apply for STEM OPT online, students must do the following:

(1) Follow the instructions listed under Procedures to Apply below to request a STEM I-20 from our office

(2) Gather the documents listed in the STEM Extension Packet above (excluding a paper Form I-765 and Form G-1145), and

(3) Create an online account with USCIS

How to Create a USCIS Online Account
Tips for Filing Forms Online

Paper applications mailed to the Chicago lockbox will continue to be accepted and processed by USCIS.

NOTE: Proof of institution accreditation is not required unless you are applying for the STEM extension based on a degree earned prior to your most recent RIT degree.  For more information, please review the section below entitled Applying for a STEM Extension Based on a Previously Obtained STEM Degree.


 

**NEW FEE FOR STEM OPT SUPPORT STARTING NOV. 9, 2020**

ISS will begin collecting a $100 2-Year Support Fee from OPT participants requesting an I-20 for their 24-month STEM OPT Extension application on or after Nov. 9, 2020.  Applicants who request their STEM I-20 prior to Nov. 9, 2020 will not be charged the $100 fee.  The STEM I-20 cannot be requested prior to 90 days before the expiration of your EAD card.  More information about the fee is provided in the Procedures to Apply and Filing Fees sections below.


 

 

What is the 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, 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 follow the steps below to begin the STEM OPT application process:

  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.
    • Digital signatures are accepted.
    • Instructions for the I-983 can be found here. Sample completed I-983 can be found here.
  3. **Applications submitted to OPTSTEM@rit.edu on or after Nov. 9th, 2020** Pay the RIT STEM OPT Administrative Fee.
    • ISS requires a non-refundable $100 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.

*NOTE: The RIT fee receipt does not go to USCIS

*NOTE: We will ask you to re-submit your request if received more than 90 days before your EAD exipration.

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).  A signed copy of your STEM I-20 will be emailed to you upon processing.

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

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

Filing Fees

Form I-765 Fee

Information about the I-765 filing fee is available here under the Filing Fee section.

The eligibility category for STEM OPT is (c)3(c) and does not require a biometric fee. If you pay the biometric fee, your application will be returned to you for re-filing.

 

ISS 2-Year Support Fee

Congratulations on your ongoing employment as an RIT Alumnus! We look forward to providing services to you throughout these next two years under RIT’s F-1 program. RIT has approved ISS to collect a one-time $100 fee to partially defray operating costs while supporting you during STEM OPT. Please read all of our emails and review all instructions on our website about your obligations during STEM OPT. You might receive alerts warning you about deadlines. We are here for you if you have questions.

This fee will need to be paid by credit card (MasterCard, Visa, or Discover) here.

 

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

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, 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.

Frequently Asked Questions About STEM OPT

STEM OPT FAQs can be found here.

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