24 Month STEM OPT ExtensionSTEM Student

Students currently authorized for Post Completion OPT who studied in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) academic fields may be eligible to apply for a 24 month extension of their OPT.  The period of Post Completion OPT would be 1 year + 24 months extension.  Students may be eligible for a 2nd STEM extension after completing a new degree at an advanced level higher than the 1st STEM extension.

Eligibility

Degree Completion:  

  • Undergraduate students must have officially graduated to be eligible for an extension.
  • Graduate students must have either graduated or completed all coursework required for graduation with only the Master’s Thesis/Project pending completion.      

Currently on Post Completion OPT:  Students must be currently approved for a period of Post Completion OPT based on completion of coursework at the Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD level.  The STEM Extension application may be submitted up to 90 days before the OPT Employment Authorization Document’s (EAD) expiration date.  All applications must be received by USCIS before the OPT end date.

Field of Study:  The degree used to apply for the extension must be one of the approved CIP codes listed in area 14, 26, 27, 40 and other codes approved by DHS.  Qualified STEM fields of study at California State University, Sacramento include:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Construction Management
  • Engineering:
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Engineering
  • Electrical & Electronic Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Software Engineering
  • Environmental Studies
  • Geology
  • Math
  • Math/Statistics
  • Physical Science
  • Physics

Academic Minor:  Students are not eligible for the 24 month STEM extension on the basis of an academic minor.  The field of study must be the student’s academic major as listed on the I-20.

Previous STEM degrees:  Students may qualify on the basis of a previously completed STEM degree if the degree was completed within the last 10 years from an US accredited institution currently authorized by SEVP (ie they are authorized in SEVIS).  The training opportunity must be related to the previous degree’s STEM field.

Employment / Unemployment:  When applying, applicants must be currently employed at least 20 hours per week in a position directly related to his/her STEM field of study.  All employers must be active participants in the E-Verify program and meet eligibility requirements.  Completion of the I983 Training Form by the OPT student and his/her employer is required to demonstrate a “bona fide” employer/employee relationship meeting new regulations.

Student Reporting Requirements:

Change Form Reporting Window
Address, Email, Phone Number 24 Month STEM OPT Extension Update Form 10 Days
Changes in Immigration Status Email alex.shigenaga@csus.edu Immediately
6 and 18 month reports 24 Month STEM OPT Extension Update Form By your unique reporting deadline
12 and 24 Month Reports 24 Month STEM OPT Extension Update Form and I-983 Training Plan Evaluation By your unique reporting deadline

I983 Training form updates are required:

  • Leaving a position:  Students must complete the I983 form self-evaluation page with their employer prior to leaving a position. The evaluation must be signed by the employer and submitted to IPGE within 10 days.
  • New employers: Students may change employers during the STEM Extension, however, changes should not be made while a STEM Extension application is pending as the application has employer specific information. Students changing jobs are required to develop with their employers a new I-983 training plan and submit it to IPGE within 10 days.
  • Material changes to the I983 Training Plan: Students are required to submit a new I983 Training form when there are changes.  “Material changes relating to training for the purposes of the STEM OPT extension include, but are not limited to, any change of Employer Identification Number (EIN) resulting from a corporate restructuring; any reduction in compensation from the amount previously submitted on the Training Plan that is not the result of a reduction in hours worked; and any significant decrease in the hours per week that a student will engage in the STEM training opportunity, including a decrease below the 20-hour minimum employment level per week that would violate the requirements of the STEM OPT extension.” (excerpt from the Final Rule, Federal Register).
  • Unemployment during STEM OPT:  Students are required to obtain a training opportunity at least 20 hours per week in a position directly related to their major STEM field of study.  An additional 60 days of unemployment are granted during the STEM extension.  Total unemployment may not exceed 150 days for the full 36 month period.  SEVIS will soon have the capability to terminate student records for exceeding the unemployment limit. It is critical students update IPGE with employment data to ensure all employment is recorded.     

Employer Requirements:  

E-Verify:  During the extension, students are allowed to accept training opportunities ONLY from employers actively registered in the E-Verify program who are considered in good standing with US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

I-983 Training Form:  Students and their employers must complete an I-983 Training Form providing a documented training plan including information about compensation, how the experience is directly related to the student’s STEM field of study, and clearly defined training goals attainable in the experience.  Material changes to the training plan require a new training I-983 form to be submitted to IPGE.

Employment:  Employers must guarantee their STEM OPT student is in a position with at least 20 hours/week of training and receiving commensurate compensation (salary, duties, hours etc.) comparable to the company’s US employees in similar positions.  Employers must also agree to not replace a US worker with a STEM OPT student and verify sufficient resources are available to provide appropriate training and supervision. 

Site Visits: Employers must agree to DHS site visits and reporting requirements. 

Reporting:  Employers are required to report the termination of a STEM OPT student within 5 days of termination or departure (i.e. students absent more than 5 consecutive days without approval are considered “departed”). 

STEM OPT Reqporting Requirements

Types of employment:

EMPLOYMENT CATEGORY

24 month STEM

Direct Employee

Allowed.  All employers must guarantee at least 20 hours/ week of training directly related to the STEM field of study and submit an I983 form.  The employer must be registered in E-Verify and meets all employer reporting and verification requirements under the new rule.   

Multiple employers

Allowed.  All employers must guarantee at least 20 hours/ week of training directly related to the STEM field of study and submit an I983 form.  The employer must be registered in E-Verify and meets all employer reporting and verification requirements under the new rule.   

The final rule commentary states: “DHS, moreover, anticipates that it will be very unusual, though not expressly prohibited, for students to work with more than two employers at the same time during the STEM OPT extension period, given that each employer must fully comply with the requirements of this rule and employ the student for no less than 20 hours per week.”

Employment through a Temporary Agency or Consulting firm*

Not eligible. 

Temporary Agency or Consulting firm employment is not allowed.  All positions must provide a bona fide employer – employee relationship of training and supervision not usually demonstrated by employers such as temp agencies/consulting firms. See notes below.

Work for hire / Independent Contractors*

Not eligible. 

Eligible positions must provide a bona fide employer-employee relationship of training and supervision not usually demonstrated by employers such as temp agencies/consulting firms. See notes below.

Self Employed Business Owner*

 

Not eligible (unless supervised by an Employer). 

All STEM OPT positions must be receiving direct supervision by another person.  Eligible positions must provide a bona fide employer-employee relationship of training and supervision.  Self-employed students cannot sign their own training forms. 

Volunteer/ Unpaid Employment*

Not eligible. 

Students may not receive a STEM OPT Extension for a volunteer opportunity. STEM OPT students must be receiving compensation commensurate to that provided for US workers in similar positions.  

Excerpts from the Final Rule Commentary on multiple employers, self-employment, Temporary Agency, Consulting, and work for hire:

“Response. There are several aspects of the STEM OPT extension that do not make it apt for certain types of arrangements, including multiple employer arrangements, sole proprietorships, employment through “temp” agencies, employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, and other relationships that do not constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship. One concern arises from the difficulty individuals employed through such arrangements would face in complying with, among other things, the training plan requirements of this rule. Another concern is the potential for visa fraud arising from such arrangements. Furthermore, evaluating the merits of such arrangements would be difficult and create additional burdens for DSOs. Accordingly, DHS clarifies that students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Training Plan, and the employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience. DHS recognizes that this outcome is a departure from SEVP's April 23, 2010 Policy Guidance (1004-03).

DHS, moreover, anticipates that it will be very unusual, though not expressly prohibited, for students to work with more than two employers at the same time during the STEM OPT extension period, given that each employer must fully comply with the requirements of this rule and employ the student for no less than 20 hours per week.

DHS also clarifies that F-1 students seeking STEM OPT extensions may be employed by new “start-up” businesses so long as all regulatory requirements are met, including that the employer adheres to the training plan requirements, remains in good standing with E-Verify, will provide compensation to the STEM OPT student commensurate to that provided to similarly situated U.S. workers, and has the resources to comply with the proposed training plan. For instance, alternative compensation may be allowed during a STEM OPT extension as long as the F-1 student can show that he or she is a bona fide employee and that his or her compensation, including any ownership interest in the employer entity (such as stock options), is commensurate with the compensation provided to other similarly situated U.S. workers.”

Excerpts from the Final Rule Commentary on volunteering:

“v. Volunteering and Bona Fide Employer-Employee Relationships

The final rule clarifies issues relating to various types of practical training scenarios and whether such scenarios qualify an F-1 student for a STEM OPT extension. The rule specifically clarifies that a student may not receive a STEM OPT extension for a volunteer opportunity. The rule also requires that a student must have a bona fide employer-employee relationship with an employer to obtain a STEM OPT extension. In response to comments received, DHS clarifies that students may be employed by start-up businesses, but all regulatory requirements must be met and the student may not provide employer attestations on his or her own behalf.”