STEM Optional Practical Training is a 24-month extension of standard 12-month OPT work authorization that is available to students with specific degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
To apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension:
Your STEM OPT application must be received by the USCIS no later than your current OPT end date as shown on your EAD card. You can apply as early as 90 days before this OPT end date. Allow at least two weeks for the OISS to prepare your STEM OPT application before it will be ready to submit to the USCIS.
To complete the STEM OPT Request E-Form above, you will need to gather the necessary documents in PDF format:
You also need to know whether you will want to e-file, or physically mail-in your application. OISS staff will review and finalize your application, and contact you via e-mail when the application is ready to be submitted to the USCIS. In general it takes the OISS about 5 - 10 working days to review your OPT application.
The STEM OPT application fee for the USCIS is $410. If you choose to e-file your application you can play that fee online. If you chose to physically mail your application then you can pay with a check (see sample below), money order, or a U.S. based credit card through form G-1450.There is an additional fee of $280 for Tulane University, to provide STEM OPT application processing and continuing immigration support for the duration of your STEM OPT extension. At this time the Tulane fee is only payable via credit card.
After you submit your STEM OPT application to the USCIS you will receive your STEM OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) and other STEM OPT-related mail to the mailing address you indicated on the I-765 form.
USCIS processing time varies from 3 to 5 months. Once you have received your USCIS receipt notice, you can check the status of your application at www.uscis.gov.
If granted, your STEM extension will begin on the day after the end date of your 12-month OPT and the extension will end 24 months later, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved. If your standard 12-month OPT ends while you are waiting to receive your STEM EAD card, you may continue to work for 180 days.
Under STEM OPT, your employer must be registered with the federal E-Verify system, and must provide you with formal training and learning objectives stated in your Form I-983. You must work a minimum of 20 hours per week, and if you have multiple employers you must submit a Form I-983 to OISS for each employer. Self-employment and volunteering are not valid forms of employment under STEM OPT.
As of May 2018, USCIS has taken a more limited interpretation of the employer-employee relationship which excludes staffing agencies/third-party worksite placements because they may not be able to demonstrate a bona fide employer-employee relationship. This interpretation affects multiple employer arrangements, sole proprietorships, employment through ‘‘temp’’ agencies, employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, and other similar relationships After careful review and consideration of the regulations, our immigration attorneys have recommended that our institution not accept a Form I-983 Training Plan which proposes placement of a STEM OPT student at a third-party site. You may also read about it on the USCIS website.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the authority to visit your STEM OPT worksite to confirm that the information reported on your Form I-983 training plan is accurate. Site visits may include interviews with you and your supervisor and a review of your training plan and other documentation. In general, the DHS will notify the employer at least 48 hours in advance of a site visit. However, if the visit is triggered by a complaint or other evidence of noncompliance with program rules, the DHS may conduct a site visit without notice.
You are allowed 60 days of unemployment under STEM OPT, plus any unused portion of the 90 days of unemployment granted under standard 12-month OPT. In other words, if you did not use any unemployed time during your standard 12-month OPT, you have a total of 150 days of unemployment under STEM. If you exceed 150 days of unemployment under STEM, your F-1 status may be automatically terminated in SEVIS.
The OISS has created a suite of E-Forms to make your STEM OPT reporting requirements easier to meet. You can see the entire line-up here.
If you lose or leave a job, you must complete a new Form I-983 and you must report this to the OISS via the 'STEM OPT: Reporting 6/12/18/24 Month or End of Employment' E-Form.
If you need to update your current employment information, address, or contact information while you are on STEM OPT, you must report it via the 'STEM OPT: Update Current Employment Information' E-Form.
You must report any changes to your employment or personal information within 10 days.
You must also submit reports on the following schedule even if no information has changed:
Please note that the OISS will be accepting any STEM OPT report sent via e-mail to email@example.com until February 1st, 2023. After that date you will need to use the above E-Forms to complete your reporting. If you submit a form or an e-mail and you believe that your report is close or past the due date, please e-mail your specific advisor as well to notify them.
Family Emergency Contact (Family members only, not friends/roommates):
On August 2020 SEVP conducted a review of immigration records and mailed out physical notices directly to students who had not reported employer information and exceeded 90 (Post-Completion OPT)/150 (STEM OPT) days of unemployment. If students did not report within 15 days of the notice date, SEVIS would terminate their records. The termination reason is for exceeding the permissible periods of unemployment while on OPT, and it would be noted on the record which could potentially impact immigration benefits in the future. You can read our September 8th communication with more details here.
Due to this change in procedure from SEVP, OISS will complete records of students who abandon their OPT. In other words if you are reaching the end of your 90 (Post-Completion OPT)/150 (STEM OPT) unemployment limit, have not been able to find employment, are planning to leave the US, change statuses, or any other situation that would imply you are no longer going to continue your OPT, please let us know immediately so that we can determine whether we need to complete your record, and so that you can avoid a potential auto-termination in the future.
If you leave the U.S. under OPT or STEM OPT, you will need the following to re-enter:
If you require a new I-20 travel signature, email firstname.lastname@example.org at least two weeks advance to allow enough time to mail the document to you.