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 to determine eligibility and process.
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. If you are unsure if your degree qualifies, please review the Registrar's Curricula List, which includes CIP codes. 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 or on a prior STEM degree if the following requirements are met:
- The STEM degree must have been issued within the 10 years preceding the request for the extension
- The STEM degree must have been issued by an educational institution located in the US, and with US accreditation
- The job the extension is based on must be related to that STEM degree
Additional eligibility requirements for all applicants:
- The student must have maintained valid F-1 status
- The student must be currently on post-completion OPT
- The employment must be full-time (For immigration purposes, full-time is defined as more than 20 hours per week)
- The student must be offered a job by an employer currently using the E-Verify program (See details below)
- The student must not be self-employed
- The student must not have been granted more than one STEM extension in the past (The STEM extension is only available twice per lifetime, regardless of the number of STEM degrees earned)
- The STEM application must be received by the USCIS prior to the end of the initial period of post-completion OPT
- The student and employer must complete form I-983 and agree to adhere to it
The E-Verify Program
The E-Verify program is an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). 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. You can check this list to learn if your employer is registered with E-verify, but please contact your employer to confirm and to obtain their E-Verify number.
Application Process for the 24-Month STEM Extension
Step 1: Read all of the information on this page to determine if you qualify for the STEM extension.
Step 2: Submit the 24 Month STEM OPT Extension Application in ISSAlink. Once your ND netID has been deactivated, you should use the Limited Services Login on the right side of the ISSAlink login page. You will be asked to upload copies of the following documents:
- Current EAD card
- Completed I-765 form (new form released 08/2020)
- Completed form I-983 (See information below)
Step 3: ISSA will send you your new Form I-20 with STEM OPT Recommendation, along with instructions on how to complete the extension application, to the address you provided in ISSAlink. If you wish for ISSA to send you the I-20 form via express mail, you will need to arrange the shipment through eShipGlobal. Otherwise ISSA will send the Form I-20 packet via regular U.S. mail.
Step 4: Follow the instructions to complete your application and mail it to the USCIS. (The instructions will include the USCIS filing address for the application.)
Tips for completing the I-765
General guidelines for completing the Form I-765 can be found here, but the instructions below are OPT STEM Extension specific.
- Part 1: Mark the box "Renewal".
- Part 2, Item 5: If you might move while this application is pending with the USCIS, consider using your employer's address or ISSA's address in item 5.
- Item 27 should be answered "(c)(3)(C)."
- Item 28a: Write the name of your degree (Biological Sciences, Chemical Engineering, etc)
- Item 28b&c: Your employer will need to provide you with the E-Verify information. Please be sure that the number provided is the employer's E-Verify Company ID, and NOT the employer's Taxpayer ID.
- Do not answer Items 29 - 31. They do not apply to your application.
- Be sure to sign and date the form in black ink.
- Be sure to submit all 7 pages, even if you have written NONE or N/A on pages 5-6. USCIS has rejected applications that were missing pages.
- Be sure to include information about all previous OPT and CPT authorization in Part 6.
Information about Form I-983
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: Cynthia Reeves, firstname.lastname@example.org
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. 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.
Once ISSA creates your new Form I-20 with the OPT STEM extension recommendation, it is only 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 is more than 60 days old on the date it is received.
Your signature on the I-765 form is also valid for 30 days. If your signature is more than 30 days old as you prepare to submit, you can complete a new I-765 form to replace the expired form.
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.
Student Responsibilities During the OPT STEM Extension
Students will continue to have access to ISSAlink during the OPT STEM Extension and will be responsible to report the following information there:
- Report U.S. address to ISSA within 10 days of the change
- Report the name, address, and phone number of your U.S. employer, any changes in name and address of the employer, and any interruptions in the employment to ISSA within 10 days. Remember that all employment must be with an E-Verify company.
- Report OPT Participation before the 6th and 18th month marks of employment, even if no details of your employment or address have changed.
- Complete and submit the I-983 Self-evaluations (page 5) before the 12 and 24 month marks of your OPT STEM extension.
- Report a change in employer or significant changes in the I-983 Training Plan within 10 days of the change.
Again, we recommend reviewing the Study in the States STEM OPT Reporting Requirements for the student and the employer.
Failure to report the above information within the noted timelines may result in the termination of your F-1 status and OPT.
Other responsibilities for you to manage while on your OPT STEM Extension include:
- Accrue no more than an aggregate total of 150 days of unemployment during the combined 36 months of OPT.
- Notify ISSA immediately if your immigration status changes and provide documentation by e-mail at email@example.com.
- Notify ISSA if you permanently depart the U.S. before your OPT ends.
- Notify ISSA if you plan to begin a new full-time academic program before the end of your OPT. The transfer of your SEVIS record to the new school or the beginning of a new full-time program at the University of Notre Dame will end your OPT authorization.
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.