F-1 STEM OPT Extension

Certain F-1 students who are currently authorized for post-completion OPT may qualify to apply for a 24-month extension of that OPT authorization, bringing the total OPT available to 36 months. Students should read the information below thoroughly, which includes:

Study in the States has a number of useful resources on their STEM OPT Extension Hub; their STEM OPT Reporting Requirements chart is particularly helpful.

Eligibility for STEM OPT Extension Authorization

To be eligible for the 24-month extension, a student must have received, or be completing, a degree included in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Designated Degree Program List

    • A list of STEM OPT majors at Notre Dame can be found here.

PLEASE NOTE: CIP codes are used for many purposes and are tied to Department of Education filings. They cannot be artificially changed to meet STEM OPT eligibility.

The STEM extension may be requested on the basis of the most recent degree earned from Notre Dame if the following conditions are met:

  • The student is currently authorized for F-1 Post-completion OPT and is maintaining all requirements.
  • The employment opportunity is full-time (defined by immigration regulations as more than 20 hours per week).
  • The student's employer participates in the E-Verify program (see details below).
  • The student has a Form I-20 with STEM OPT Recommendation from ISSA.
  • The student and employer have completed the Form I-983 and agree to adhere to it.
  • The student is not self-employed; the student must have a supervisor, and the supervisor must be an employee of the company. 
  • The STEM application is received by USCIS before the expiration date of the current post-completion OPT.
  • The student was not granted more than one STEM extension in the past.

More information about the requirements of the bona fide employer-employee relationship can be found on USCIS' site here.

Application Process for the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension

1. Review STEM OPT Extension information and confirm eligibility to apply.
2. Complete I-983 (pages 1-4) with employer.
3.

Submit the STEM OPT Extension I-20 Request form in ISSAlink.

  • Use the "Login for Notre Dame Graduates" link on the login page
  • Upload copies of the current EAD card and completed Form I-983
4. 

ISSA emails an updated I-20 with STEM OPT Recommendation (on page 2).

  • Review I-20 for accuracy (program information, biographical information, STEM OPT dates and employer) 
  • Be sure to sign and date the new I-20 before uploading to USCIS application.
5.

Submit STEM OPT Extension application to USCIS.

  • We recommend students file online here.
    • Read the available instructions carefully. 
  • Upload the new I-20 with STEM OPT Recommendation
  • For eligibility category, choose (c)(3)(C)
  • Be sure to have electronic copies of the following documents ready to upload:
    • your current Post-Completion OPT EAD card
    • your Notre Dame transcript - request a final transcript from the Registrar here
    • your passport biographical page (optional)
    • the most recent I-94 record
    • passport photo taken in last six months
  • This application must be filed with USCIS within 60 days of the STEM OPT Recommendation date.

Special note: Premium Processing is available for the STEM OPT Extension application; this guarantees that USCIS will respond to the petition within 30 calendar days, but it does not guarantee approval. The applicant will confirm within the application they want to apply for Premium Processing and pay for it.

Completing the Form I-983 Training Plan

The Form I-983 is used to define the formal training plan for the STEM OPT Extension experience. You will need the following information about Notre Dame to complete Section 1 of the Form I-983 is the information you will need:

  • Name of school recommending STEM OPT:  University of Notre Dame du lac
  • Name of school where STEM degree was earned:  University of Notre Dame du lac
  • SEVIS School Code of school recommending STEM OPT:  CHI214F10484000
  • DSO School Official name and contact information:  DSO listed on your current I-20, issa@nd.edu
  • Based on Prior Degree (yes/no): If you are applying based on your most recent ND degree, answer NO

Because the I-983 is an agreement between the employer and employee, ISSA cannot provide guidance on the content. Employers with questions should start by reviewing the information on the Study in the States website.  If questions remain, they should contact the company’s HR department or immigration legal staff, or the Department of Homeland Security

It is imperative that every section on pages 1-4 of this form be completed. ISSA is required by law to review the form for completion upon receipt and to provide it to SEVP if requested. If any part of pages 1-4 of the form is not complete, we are not allowed to process your request for the STEM OPT extension. DHS has provided instructions here

Any material changes to the I-983 require students to submit a new/updated I-983 to ISSA within 10 days of the change. "Material changes" may include:

  • a change of employer,
  • a change of employer or Employer Identification Number (EIN) resulting from corporate restructuring,
  • any reduction in compensation from the amount previously submitted (not tied to reduction in hours worked),
  • any significant decrease in hours of engagement,
  • any decrease in hours below the 20-hours-per-week minimum,
  • any change of site of employment or employer address.

By signing the I-983, the student and the student's employer have agreed to provide a new or updated I-983 if the above changes occur. Failure to report changes in a timely manner may result in a termination of the student's SEVIS record and the end of STEM OPT Extension.

The E-Verify Program

STEM eligible employers must be participating in the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) E-Verify program. E-Verify is a free, easy-to-use web-based system available to employers and in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Students can check the E-verify list to learn if their employer is registered with E-verify, but they should also contact their employer to confirm and obtain their E-Verify number.

Special note: if a student launched a business through the ESTEEM program, the IDEA Center, or Innovation Park, they are not eligible to use the Notre Dame E-verify number. Their business must have it's own E-verify number to report on the I-765 application.

Tips for completing the ONLINE Form I-765 for STEM OPT  

For any fields that are not applicable on the electronic application, please leave blank; for example, questions about travel document numbers do not apply to any current ND students as they all have entered the U.S. with a passport. 

The documents needed for the online application are listed above in the application process chart. Please be sure that the information entered on the I-765 matches your identification documents (i.e. enter your name as listed on the passport)

For the following questions on the Form I-765, we have clarified the expected information:

  • What is your eligibility category? Select (c)(3)(C). 
  • What is your degree? List the degree level and major field of study as listed on page 1 of your Form I-20 (if you have two majors, be sure to list the STEM OPT qualifying degree)
  • What is your employer's E-verify company identification number of valid E-verify client company identification number? Obtain this information from your employer's Human Resources department. This is NOT the EIN number. 
  • What is your reason for applying? As this application is for a different category of employment authorization than Post-Completion OPT (c)(3)(B), select "initial permission to accept employment."   
  • Have you previously filed Form I-765. The answer is yes, as you would have filed the I-765 for Post-Completion OPT. Be sure to upload a copy of this EAD card (and any other EADs you have previously had). 
  • What is your Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record Number (if any)? Be sure to enter the I-94 Number and all Arrival information requested from THE MOST RECENT I-94 RECORD. This should match the PDF of your most recent entry. 
  • What is your current immigration status or category? Select F-1 - Student, Academic or Language Program
  • What is your Student & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Number (if any)? Enter the information directly from your. most recent I-20. The SEVIS ID is listed on the top left corner of your I-20 and starts with "N00..."
  • What is your A-Number? Enter the A-number listed on your Post-Completion OPT EAD card. 
  • What is your USCIS online account number? If the applicant previously filed an application or petition using the USCIS online filing system (i.e. the Post-completion OPT application), then they should have a USCIS online account number.
  • Do you want the SSA to issue you a Social Security card? Generally only answer yes, if you answered No to the question, "Has the SSA ever officially issued a Social Security card to you?"
  • Institution Accreditation (evidence upload) - only applies if student is applying for STEM OPT extension based on a previous degree not associated with their current OPT authorization. Most students applying will not upload this evidence.

For the required photo, we recommend students do not re-use a photo that they have previously used on a passport or visa; we also recommend that the photo was taken in the last six months. 

Though we do not recommend filing a paper application, more information about that process can be found here

Other STEM OPT notes: 

Students can also apply based on a prior STEM degree if that degree was earned in the preceding 10 years of the request at a U.S. based educational institution that is accredited; the job the extension is based on must be related to that STEM degree. 

The STEM extension is only available twice per lifetime, regardless of the number of STEM degrees earned.

Timeline for Submitting STEM OPT Extension Application

There are a few deadlines to consider with the OPT STEM Extension Process: 

  • The OPT STEM Recommendation from ISSA is only valid for 60 days. 
  • For those filing by mail, the student signature on the paper Form I-765 is only valid for 30 days.
  • Students must apply for STEM OPT before current OPT EAD expiration date.
  • USCIS can receive the OPT STEM Extension application up to 90 days before current OPT EAD expires.

Once ISSA creates your new Form I-20 with the OPT STEM extension recommendation, that I-20 and Recommendation are valid for 60 days. If you find that you must delay the application more than 60 days after the I-20 was signed by an advisor, it is important that you contact ISSA for assistance. USCIS will reject an application if the OPT request in SEVIS is more than 60 days old on the date it is received.

USCIS must receive your extension application no sooner than 90 days before your current OPT end date, but no later than that current OPT authorization end date.

While USCIS must receive your application before your OPT ends, it is not necessary for your extension application to be approved before the expiration of your current EAD card.

If your EAD card expires while your application is pending, your OPT authorization is automatically extended to allow time for processing. You may continue to work while the application is being processed for up to 180 days. It is not necessary to obtain documentation from ISSA for this timeframe.

STEM OPT EMPLOYER SITE VISITS

Since the 24-month STEM OPT rule became effective in May 2016, the Department of Homeland Security has had the authority to conduct site visits of any STEM OPT employers, either randomly or for cause.

DHS has advised that the purpose of the site visits is to ensure that STEM OPT program requirements are being met, including that the employer possesses and maintains the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences consistent with the Training Plan for STEM OPT Students on the Form I-983, to confirm that the employer is complying with the Training Plan, and that the employer is adhering to all applicable regulatory provisions that govern the STEM OPT program.

To better understand the scope of a DHS STEM OPT employer site visit by DHS, you can review the preamble of the 24-month STEM OPT Rule or the Study in the States Employer Site Visits page. Additional information about STEM OPT can also be found on the USCIS website.