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STEM OPT Extension Request

Below is information pertaining to the STEM OPT extension.  Please read all of this information prior to applying.  It is your responsibility as the applicant to ensure you understand the below information before applying for STEM OPT. 

 

Before applying, please watch the STEM OPT Workshop

 

 

Required Policy Information for Students Applying for STEM OPT

Please review this section carefully. By submitted a STEM OPT request to the ISSS Office you are assuming responsibility for the information and requirements outlined below.

Please select each title for additional information.  You must review and understand all information before applying.  Contact ISSS if you have questions.

F-1 students with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) degrees in fields listed on the STEM Designated Degree Program List are eligible for the 24-month OPT extension (the list is available online). You can find your degree CIP code (a 6 digit code formatted 00.0000) on page 1 of your I-20. If you are not sure you have earned a degree in an eligible STEM field, please contact the ISSS Office. In addition to having earned a STEM eligible degree, the student must:

  1. Be maintaining active F-1 status and currently be authorized for Post-Completion OPT, including being fully employed by a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the STEM field of study.
  2. Have successfully completed a degree in a field on the STEM Designated Degree Program list. Additionally, the student must meet the following degree requirements:
    • Your most recent degree must be from a currently accredited SEVP-certified school (UAlbany is SEVP certified)
    • You must have received your STEM qualifying degree from a school in the U.S.; at a bachelor’s level or higher; and within 10 years of when you are applying for the STEM extension with USCIS. You cannot have previously used this degree for a STEM OPT extension.
    • The qualifying STEM degree’s CIP code (as defined by the institution which awarded the degree) must match the eligible program CIP codes on DHS’ list.
  3. At the time of application for the 24-month extension you must have a job or a job offer for employment meeting the following eligibility requirements:
    • You will work full-time (20+ hours per week) in a paid position (commensurate to other similarly situated American employers) which directly relates to the STEM degree under which you are applying for the position
    • The employer must be enrolled in E-Verify and must be willing to complete, submit, and maintain the Form I-983 Training Plan with you. Not all employers are enrolled in E-Verify. For example, the University at Albany is not enrolled in E-Verify, while the University at Albany Research Foundation is. For more on E-Verify, please read the section below.

E-Verify is a system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). It allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees. Contact your employer’s Human Resources office to determine if they are in E-Verify. ISSS does not have access to this information, but you can visit the E-Verify website.

In order for the student to be eligible for the STEM extension:

  1. The employer must be registered in E-Verify and provide proof of this to the student.
  2. The employer must develop a Training Plan (Form I-983) for the student. This plan must be submitted to ISSS. The student must report material changes within 10 days to the DSO (i.e. ISSS advisor).
  3. The employer must agree to report the termination or departure of the student to the International Student & Scholar Office within 5 business days.

If you or your employer have questions about these responsibilities, we recommend they consult the ICE-SEVP STEM OPT hub.

In addition to the reporting requirements students have while on post-completion OPT students on STEM OPT assume responsibility for additional reporting requirements, including:

  • Completing and maintaining an I-983 training plan
  • Completing 6 month check-in reports with ISSS
  • Completing an annual I-983 self-evaluation and final evaluations when ending training

Please carefully review all reporting requirements prior to applying for STEM OPT.

Students may apply no earlier than 90 days before the current OPT EAD expiration date. USCIS must receive all materials (including the new I-20 issued by ISSS recommending the student for STEM OPT) before the student's current OPT EAD expires. USCIS must also receive the request within 60 days of when ISSS prints the new I-20 requesting STEM OPT.

ISSS asks for 5-7 business days from the time a complete application is received to create an I-20 for the student to request STEM OPT. Processing time at USCIS vary and may take 2-5 months.

Students may continue working after their current EAD expires for up to 180 days while the STEM OPT application is pending, as long as the student is abiding by all STEM OPT regulatory requirements. If your STEM OPT application is denied, revoked or withdrawn you must stop work immediately.

Students are allowed to change employers while on STEM OPT as long as the new employer meets all eligibility requirements, including that they are enrolled in E-Verify. The new employer must work with the student to complete, submit and maintain the form I-983 (this must be submitted to the ISSS office). Additionally, the student must ensure that he/she completes the form I-983 evaluation with the prior employer.

Students on STEM OPT are allowed an additional 60 days cumulative unemployment, including weekends. This means that students on STEM OPT are allowed a total of 150 cumulative unemployment days between the STEM OPT and 12-month post-completion OPT periods. If you lose employment you must complete the final evaluation section on the I-983 form (section 6) and report the loss of employment to ISSS within 5 business days. SEVIS has the capacity to track unemployment.

Students can view an Unemployment Counter in their SEVP Portal account. This Unemployment Counter is used by SEVP to track the number of days of unemployment a student is eligible for and has accrued. Students may be sent emails by SEVP or have their SEVIS record automatically terminated (therefor ending F-1 status and OPT), based on this counter. Please contact the ISSS office if you have questions about the Unemployment Counter. 

Travel outside of the U.S. while your STEM OPT application is pending can be risky. Please consult with ISSS if you need to travel while your application is pending. Once you have received your STEM EAD card you will need the following to re-enter the United States after travelling: a valid I-20 signed for travel within the past 6 months from the date of re-entry to the U.S; passport with at least 6 months validity remaining; valid F-1 visa; valid EAD(s); proof of continuing employment with STEM eligible employer (e.g. contract, offer letter, letter from employer, etc…); and proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Based on updated USCIS guidance regarding unlawful presence and NTAs (“Notices to Appear) OPT denials could have potentially serious consequences. If you receive a denial, RFE (request for evidence), or NTA please contact ISSS immediately so that you can be referred out to an immigration attorney as appropriate. Individual circumstances may determine how you should proceed. Generally, if your STEM OPT is denied and you are past your eligible filing period should make plans to depart the United States immediately. Unlawful presence may begin accumulating. Unlawful presence can result in bars from entry to the U.S. Individuals who accrue more than 180 days but less than one year of unlawful presence and depart voluntarily may be barred for 3 years. Individuals who accumulate one year or more of unlawful presence may be barred for 10 years (whether they left voluntarily or were removed). USCIS has previously stated that they may issue NTAs for denied applications. An “NTA” is a notice to appear before an immigration judge for deportation proceedings. As of August 2018 that policy has been delayed. 

OPT STEM Extension Application Procedures

Step 1 – Request a New I-20 from ISSS to Apply for STEM OPT

International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) will assess a fee on students/alumni applying for an I-20 requesting STEM OPT.  To review additional information about this fee please click here.  This fee will be charged on a tiered rate system based on the time the completed STEM OPT Request EForm application is submitted to ISSS:

  • Students who submit a complete STEM OPT Request EForm 90 to 31 days prior to the expiration of their post-completion OPT EAD card will be charged $200
  • Students who submit a complete STEM OPT Request EForm 31 to 7 days prior to the expiration of their post-completion OPT EAD will be charged $300
  • Students who submit a complete STEM OPT Request EForm 7 to 1 day prior to the expiration of their post-completion OPT EAD will be chargedb.  ISSS requires 5-7 business days for processing, so students submitting requests with less than 7 days remaining on their post-completion period risk not receiving their I-20 in time to file with USCIS.  The assessed charge does not mean the request can or will be expedited; normal processing times should still be expected.

The fee will not be refunded after an I-20 requesting STEM OPT has been issued.

Only complete applications will be accepted. Please be prepared to submit the following documents along with your STEM OPT Request EForm:

  1. A screenshot of your receipt email for the STEM OPT Filing Fee
    • Click here to pay the fee
    • Click here for step by step instructions on how to pay the fee
    • Please pay the correct fee amount based on when you are submitting your request to ISSS.  See above tiered rate descriptions for more.
  2. Completed I-983 Form
  3. A copy of your current OPT EAD card, front and back
  4. Current I-94
  5. Employer's E-Verify Number
  6. If filing with USCIS by mail: Completed I-765 Form 
    • If you intend to file your I-765 online (recommended) you will need the I-20 requesting STEM OPT from ISSS before filing  with USCIS online, so ISSS will not collect the I-765 from you before you request the I-20 to file with USCIS.  You may download a copy of the online filed I-765 from your USCIS account after you file with USCIS, which you are welcome to share with ISSS for your student file. 
    • Please review the resources under the Supplemental Instructions and Forms section to help you complete your I-765
    • ISSS does not review the I-765 form for accuracy; the student is responsible for completing the form correctly, so please follow your form according to all USCIS instructions. 

To submit the STEM OPT Extension Request EForm to obtain an I-20 requesting STEM OPT please follow these steps:

  1. Click here to navigate to the AccessISSS online system. Login with your UAlbany NetID (ex: AA123456) and password.
  2. Watch this recording to help you navigate to the EForm menu.
  3. Select the "STEM OPT Extension Request EForm" from the EForm menu.
  4. This EForm will ask you to upload supporting documents. If you need assistance, please review the File Upload Instructions webpage.
  5. All updates related to your EForm will be communicated over email. Please allow up to 5-7 business days for processing.

It takes up to 5-7 business days for an ISSS advisor to process your request. A new I-20 requesting the STEM OPT extension will be created. The new I-20 will be delivered to you as per your instruction on the STEM OPT Extension Request E-Form.

Step 2 – Submit your Complete Application to USCIS to Request STEM OPT

There are two ways to file your request for a STEM OPT with USCIS with USCIS: online (recommended) or by paper. Regardless of how you file, USCIS must receive your request within 60 days of the date the I-20 requesting STEM OPT is issued by ISSS and/or before your post-completion EAD end date (whichever date comes first). USCIS processing takes approximately 90 days, and may take longer. 

Filing Online (Recommended)

To file online, please log in to your USCIS.gov account or create an account if you have not already done so..  You must electronically submit your I-765 within 60 days of when the I-20 requesting STEM OPT was issued by ISSS and/or before your OPT EAD card expires, whichever date comes first.   Please watch this video about how to access and complete the online I-765.  If you have previously set up a USCIS online account please check the mailing address associated with your USCIS account and update it if needed before submitting the new I-765 requesting STEM OPT.

 

In addition to completing the form fields on the electronic I-765, you will need to upload the following documents.  Please be sure to follow the file requirements and be sure that your uploads are clear and easily readable:

  1. Passport photograph meeting all USCIS specifications
  2. Scan of your current I-94 (either the screengrab of the electronic form or a photocopy of both sides of the paper I-94).
  3. Scan of all previous EAD cards, including current EAD, front and back
  4. Scan of identity pages in passport, including expiration date (optional if uploaded EAD, but highly recommended)
  5. Scan of F-1 visa stamp (optional if uploading EAD card and passport)
  6. Scan of the new Form I-20 requesting STEM OPT— Remember to sign your I-20!
  7. Scans of any previous I-20s authorizing CPT or OPT (including CPT/OPT authorizations for prior institutions, degree levels, or SEVIS IDs).
  8. Transcripts: You must include a photocopy of your transcript or diploma proving that you earned a STEM degree and the date conferred. UAlbany diplomas typically only state the degree level, not the specific degree field, so you should send the UAlbany transcript instead. If you are applying for the STEM OPT based on a prior degree, you must also include the transcript or diploma for your most recent degree for which you are currently on OPT. You can order a UAlbany transcript online.
  9. Optional but Recommended: Official job offer letter on company letterhead with an employer’s signature.
  10. If filing based on a prior degree (i.e. not the degree you are currently on post-completion OPT for), you will also be asked for evidence of institutional accreditation and SEVP certification.  Please contact ISSS for additional information.

When submitting the EForm online, you will be directed to pay.gov to pay the DHS filing fee by credit card, debit card, or through a bank account withdrawal.

Premium Processing: USCIS announced premium processing for F-1 students for form I-765.  Students can request and pay for premium processing by filing a form I-907 online. Students should note that:

  • The premium processing fee is optional.  The only required fee is for regular processing for the I-765 form for OPT/STEM OPT.
  • The premium processing fee is in addition to the regular filing fee for the I-765. 

Filing by Mail

If you do not plan to file online please click here for further instructions to file by mail.

Step 3—While the application is pending with USCIS:

  • Track the status of your application and current processing times through USCIS using the case number on your receipt notice (if you filed by mail) or through your USCIS.gov account (if you filed online).
  • Authorization is granted by the EAD card (Employment Authorization Document). The EAD will be mailed only to the address listed on Form I-765. Government mail cannot be forwarded, so you must notify USCIS immediately if your mailing address changes.
  • You may continue working up to 180 days after your 12-month OPT expires while the STEM Extension is pending, as long as you are in compliance with all STEM OPT regulations during what would be the STEM OPT period of authorization. Provide a copy of your Receipt Notice to your employer.
  • If you file online you can view electronic communications from USCIS on your online account.  Paper versions of these notifications will still be mailed to you.  You can also respond to requests for evidence and information through the online account, but please contact ISSS first for guidance.
  • If you file by mail, you will receive a receipt notice in the mail approximately 2-4 weeks after your case is received at the lockbox.   The receipt notice will have an electronic case ID code that is valid for 90 days.  You can use this code to add the case to a USCIS online account and track it through the online system as well.
  • Save all mail you receive from USCIS for your permanent records.
  • Your EAD card will be delivered by mail regardless of how you file.

Supplemental Forms and Instructions

 

 

Disclaimer:
The information contained in this web site/form is provided as a service to international students, faculty and staff at the University at Albany. It does not constitute legal advice. We try to provide useful information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site or any associated site or form. Neither the University at Albany nor ISSS is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. Nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel; students may wish to consult an immigration attorney on the specifics of their case as needed.