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OPT STEM Extension Application Process

USCIS has stated that Form I-765 should be filed from within the U.S. The instructions below are for filing online. Please note that USCIS has the discretion to require biometrics appointments on a case-by-case basis for online applications though they have indicated it is not a general requirement for all applications.

Reminder: You must receive your I-20 recommending an extension of your Optional Practical Training work authorization on page 2 BEFORE submitting your application to USCIS. Failure to do so could result in the loss of your application fee, Requests for Evidence (RFEs), and even the denial of your application by USCIS.

Submit your OPT application materials to ISSS for review

  1. Log in to your InterLink account using your UniqueID and password. Go to “F-1 Practical Training” and complete the e-form request “Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM Extension Request.”
  2. Upload Form I-983. This form is your and your employer's training plan. Please note this form should be primarily completed by your employer. See instructions [PDF] from the government for more guidance. In addition, please note these tips below to avoid common errors that delay completion of your request:
    1. Make sure your name order is in the right order (pg 1 and pg 3 require your name to be listed as Surname/Given Name)
    2. Designated School Official Name and Contact Information. Review Meet the ISSS Team for a list of current International Student Advisors. (Pg 1)
    3. Qualifying Major and CIP Code should match the information listed on first page of current I-20 (Pg 1)
    4. Date Awarded should match date on diploma (Pg 1)
    5. Based on Prior Degree should generally be “No” unless you are filing your application based on a STEM degree earned prior to your most recent degree from Miami University. (Pg 1)
    6. Start Date of Employment should be your STEM start date, not your original employment start date. That is because the I-983 is only valid for your STEM authorization. (Pg 2)
    7. Employment information (name, address, EIN) should match previously submitted information submitted in OPT Reports and OPT STEM Extension Request. (Pg 2)
    8. Pg 5 should be blank. This evaluation page is meant to be completed 12 months and 24 months into the STEM extension period.

Receive your I-20 with the OPT STEM Extension recommendation

  1. ISSS will review your InterLink request after submission. Please monitor email for questions related to your request. If approved, your document will be sent to your Miami email as a PDF attachment. You must download your I-20, then sign and date page 1 in ink.

Submit your application online in the USCIS Portal

  1. Create a USCIS account (or log in to your existing account) and select "File a Form Online." Select the “Authorization for Employment Authorization (I-765)” option. 
  2. Open and follow these detailed OPT STEM Extension Online Application (I-765) Instructions to answer the questions and upload the appropriate documents.
  3. Finalize your application in the USCIS Portal, pay the required $470 government application fee by U.S-based credit or debit card and submit your application online.
    1. Your complete OPT application must be received and receipted by USCIS no more than 60 days after your OPT STEM Extension recommendation was made on your new I-20 or before the expiration of your OPT —whichever deadline is first.
    2. Be sure to make any final edits such as uploading your new I-20 signed in ink, etc. before entering your payment information.
    3. The I-765 filing fee is subject to change. To verify the current fee amount, visit I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
    4. Keep a copy of everything you submit.

What happens after my application is submitted?

You will receive a digital receipt immediately upon submitting your application. Approximately 2-4 weeks after USCIS receives your application, they will also mail a paper receipt notice to the address you used on your I-765. You can use the receipt number to track the progress of your OPT application online.

Your card should arrive at the address listed on your I-765 approximately 3 to 5 months after USCIS receives your application.

If you used ISSS’s address on the I-765 form, your documents will be sent to ISSS and you will be notified by email. You will have the option to pick your documents up from the ISSS office or to create and pay for a shipping label to have them sent to you.

Unemployment on STEM Extension

You must work more than 20 hours per week in a paid position directly related to your STEM major field of study.

You may not accrue more than 150 days of unemployment during the entire period of OPT (initial 12 month period plus STEM Extension).

STEM OPT Reporting Requirements

While on an OPT STEM Extension you are legally required to report certain information to ISSS including employment. Changes to any of the following must be reported within 10 days of the event.

  • Any change in your residential address
  • Any change in your employment or unemployment status (updated I-983 required)
  • Any material changes to your employment (updated I-983 required)
  • Any change to another immigration status
  • Any plans to depart the U.S. permanently and end your OPT before your OPT end date

To Report

  1. Login to your InterLink account and click the blue login button for "Client Services." You will need your UniqueID and password.
  2. Select "F-1 Practical Training"
  3. Complete the "Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM Extension Report" e-form.

In addition to the regular reporting requirement, all individuals approved for an OPT STEM Extension are required per government regulations to check-in with ISSS every six months, regardless of any employment or personal address changes. To comply with this requirement, please submit an “OPT STEM Extension Report” e-form.

You will also have the ability to make some updates in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Portal. However, be aware that you must still report all changes in InterLink, even if you update your record via the SEVIS Portal.

Your employer and you are also required to complete an annual evaluation (form I-983) during your extension period. The first evaluation (listed on the top of page 5) should take place 12 months into your extension period. The final evaluation and exit interview (listed at the bottom of page 5) should occur at the end of your extension period. If you change employers during the extension period, you will need to fill out the final evaluation portion of the I-983 with the previous employer as well as submit an updated I-983 with the new employer. You are required to submit this documentation to ISSS. To do so, please login to InterLink and submit an “OPT STEM Extension Report” e-form.

Travel while on OPT STEM Extension

It is possible to travel outside the U.S. during your approved OPT STEM extension period. It is recommended you travel with the following documents:

  • Passport (valid for at least six months from the date of your re-entry)
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp (unless using automatic visa revalidation)
  • OPT Extension I-20 with valid travel signature (given within the last six months)
  • Your unexpired OPT card
  • Proof of employment

If your application is still pending at the time of travel, government guidelines indicate that traveling outside the U.S. should still be possible. However, if you are traveling after the expiration of your 12 month employment authorization document and before receipt of your new employment authorization document, this could possibly cause confusion at the port of entry so ISSS urges caution. ISSS has learned that most individuals re-entering the U.S. on OPT are being taken to a space known as “secondary” so that the officer may further scrutinize documents. This practice is occurring due to issues with the officer’s system recognizing the OPT. Do not be alarmed. The officer just needs extra time to verify documentation but if you have all of the listed materials, your re-entry should still go smoothly.

Renewing Visa while on OPT STEM Extension

If you are renewing your visa and are currently unemployed, keep in mind that you are limited to no more than 150 days of unemployment during your 3 years of OPT (1 year of Post-completion OPT and 2 year STEM Extension combined). If you are approaching 150 days of unemployment we strongly advise you to have a job offer showing a start date before you reach this maximum. The closer to 1500 days of unemployment, the riskier it is to apply for a new visa without a job offer.

Renewing a visa is never a guarantee and keep in mind that it also can be more challenging to demonstrate nonimmigrant intent when you apply for an F-1 visa stamp while you are on an OPT STEM Extension.
Remember that since you were granted "Duration of Status" you will maintain legal F-1 status as long as your I-20 is valid and you follow the F-1 regulations, even if your F-1 visa stamp in your passport expires. However, if you depart the U.S, you must have a valid visa stamp on the day of your re-entry unless traveling under automatic visa revalidation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is my status while on the OPT STEM Extension?

You remain in F-1 status.

Do I have to use all 24 months?

The 24 months are automatic; ISSS has no way to shorten or lengthen the amount.

What is E-Verify? How do I know if my employer is E-Verified?

E-Verify is USCIS’s web-based system that electronically verifies the employment eligibility of employees. Employers who participate in the program have their own unique E-Verify number.

Not all employers participate in E-Verify, and if your employer does not participate, you will not be eligible for the extension. Please consult with your employer’s Human Resources department for more information.

Can I change employers while my OPT STEM Extension is pending?

Yes, provided the new employer participates in E-Verify. You will need to notify ISSS of any changes in your employment. You will need to submit form I-983 from the previous employer with a completed final evaluation on page 5. You will also need to submit the updated form I-983 for the new employer.

I see I may apply for the STEM extension twice. Can I go ahead and apply for my second extension after my first extension?

No. You would need to complete another STEM degree at a higher level (i.e. master’s to Ph.D.) to qualify for OPT again and then the second STEM extension.

Can I have multiple employers at the same time while on the STEM Extension?

Maybe, depending on the situation. However, each employer would need to meet the guidelines for the extension and submission of appropriate forms including the training plan. It is possible though that this might raise questions from the government which may scrutinize the application more closely to ensure that training objectives are being met at both employers.

I was previously approved for the STEM extension after my master’s degree. I’m completing my second master’s degree now. Can I have the STEM extension again?

Please note that you may be granted an OPT STEM Extension only once per degree level and the second STEM OPT request will need to be a higher degree level than the first.

How do I renew my U.S. Driver’s License?

Your driver’s license may be expiring upon the end of your original 12 month OPT work authorization period. If your driver’s license is expiring and you do not yet have your new OPT (EAD) card, please keep in mind that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in your state may allow you to renew your license with evidence that you are currently on Optional Practical Training, have requested to extend your OPT (STEM Extension), and are currently employed or have a job offer. Generally, you could take a combination of the I-20 that was issued for your STEM Extension, your current OPT card, the I-797C receipt notice showing that you have applied for the STEM Extension, as well as your job offer letter (in addition to all other documents the BMV requires to obtain your driver's license) to assist with the renewal process. It takes approximately 4-6 weeks after USCIS receives your application for the I-797C receipt notice to arrive in the mail.

Can I expedite my application?

No, it is not possible to expedite Optional Practical Training STEM Extension applications. ISSS encourages you to allow sufficient time and apply as early as you are able!

What if my Employment Authorization Document (EAD or OPT card) is lost or stolen?

In this situation, you will need to apply for a replacement card by submitting a new online application to USCIS (see OPT STEM Extension Application Process above) and selecting the "Replacement of lost, stolen, or damaged employment authorization document" option. You will need to include the following additional documents before submitting your application to USCIS:

  1. Letter detailing how the card was lost or stolen.
  2. If stolen, a copy of the police report.
  3. Copies of all OPT-related I-20s.
  4. Copy of your original EAD.

Be aware that you will have to pay the application fee again as well.

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