STEM OPT Extension Request Eform

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. 

Purpose: These forms are for students applying for a STEM OPT. Additionally, we have included links to relevant USCIS forms, such as the I-765 and G-1145.
Students are required to report changes to their personal information and employment to ISSS within 10 days of any change. Please use the STEM OPT Reporting EForm to report any changes and keep your information in MyUAlbany current (phone number, email, and address).

 

General Information and Instructions

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.

24 Month STEM Eligibility Requirements:

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 (list is available online, here ). 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 in status and currently authorized for Post-Completion OPT, including working full-time for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to your STEM field of study.
  2. Have successfully completed a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral 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 are working 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 e-Verified 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.

What Is E-Verify?

E-Verify is an Internet-based 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.

Employer Obligations for STEM Extension:

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 STEM OPT hub online, here.

When to apply for the STEM extension:

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

How long is the OPT application process?

ISSS asks for 5-7 business days from the time a complete application is received to complete part 1 of the application process-- the processing of the I-20 requesting STEM OPT. Processing time at USCIS is estimated to be 90-150 days. However, processing times vary widely depending on the time of year and other factors. 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.

Can I travel while my application is pending?

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: valid I-20 signed for travel within the past 6 months for travel; passport valid for 6 months into the future; valid F-1 visa; valid EAD(s); proof of continuing employment with STEM eligible employer (e.g. contract, offer letter, letter from employer, etc…)

Unemployment Periods While on STEM OPT:

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.

Changing Employers on STEM OPT:

Students are allowed to change employers while on STEM OPT, as long as the new employer meets all eligibility requirements, including that they are an e-Verified employer. 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.

Reporting Requirements While on STEM OPT:

  • Keep the “Help USCIS Serve You Better” EAD card cover sheet. (If you ever need to request another card, you should submit this sheet). Keep any EAD cards permanently for your personal records.
  • Keep the following information up to date in your MyUAlbany (update with 10 days of any changes):
    Legal name; residential address (SEVIS USA address); email address; phone number.
  • Notify ISSS about the following information within 5 business days of any of the following changes: Changes to employer/company name; address of employer, including work site location; when employment changes or terminates (start and end dates); change in status (e.g.) change of visa status, permanent residency, etc…); Material changes to I-983 Training Plan, including, but not limited to: change in employer’s EIN, reduction in student compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked, any significant (continued…) decrease in hours per week student engages in training opportunity, changes to the employer’s commitments or student’s learning objectives as documented on form I-983. Student is required, with their employer’s cooperation, to submit an amended I-983 reflecting these changes to the ISSS Office.
  • Every 6 months, complete the STEM OPT Reporting E-Form to meet your 6 month check-in requirement.
  • Submit the annual self-evaluations evaluations on the Form-I-983 training plan (Section 6). The first should be done within the first year of STEM employment with the I-983 employer. The final evaluation should be done at the end of the second year of STEM employment or when your employment with that employer ends, whichever comes first. Submit annual self-evaluations using the STEM OPT Reporting E-Form.

OPT Denials

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 60 day grace period and/or have no other status allowing you to remain in the U.S., you 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. With these new/updated policies, it is imperative that you take advantage of your full 90 days advance time period to submit an OPT application.

 

OPT STEM Extension Application Procedures

Step 1 –Submit the following documents to ISSS.

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

  1. Completed I-983 Form
  2. A copy of your current OPT EAD card, front and back
  3. Current I-94 (cardstock version in passport if most recent, or electronic version )
  4. Employer's E-Verify Number.
  5. Completed I-765 Form - If you intend to file by mail with USCIS please upload a copy of your I-765 form. If you intend to file your I-765 online you will need the I-20 recommending  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 from ISSS and 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 read the USCIS Instructions
    • Please also review the ISSS Abridged Instructions and Sample I-765 below under the Supplemental Instructions and Forms section
    • 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. 
  6. Copy of your paper G-1145 form (if filing by mail to USCIS)
    • If you will file online a G-1145 is not required

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

Step 2 – Submit your complete application to USCIS:

There are two ways to file your request for a STEM OPT with USCIS with USCIS: by paper or online.  Regardless of how you file, USCIS must receive your request within 60 days 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 by Mail

Please make copies of everything you mail to USCIS before mailing.  If filing by mail please select a mailing option which allows you to confirm delivery (as evidence that your case was received within 60 days of when the I-20 requesting STEM OPT was issued and/or before your post-completion EAD card expires, whichever date comes first.  

You will need to mail the following documents:

  1. A money order, certified check or personal check made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security:
    • The filing fee is $410.
    • For more information on how to write the check, visit: https://www.uscis.gov/fees
    • Students may fill out a form to request a credit card payment. This form is called the G-1450. For more information, click here.
  2. Cover letter addressed to the USCIS processing center 
  3. Original completed Form I-765 with your original signature in ink -- all 7 pages must be included
  4. Form G-1145 E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
  5. Photocopy of the new Form I-20 issued for OPT (do not send the original) — Remember to sign your I-20!
  6. Photocopies of any previous I-20s authorizing CPT or OPT (including CPT/OPT authorizations for prior institutions, degree levels, or SEVIS IDs).
  7. Photocopy of your current I-94 (either the print-out of the electronic form or a photocopy of both sides of the paper I-94)
  8. Photocopy of identity page in passport
  9. Photocopy of F-1 visa stamp
  10. A photocopy of all previous EAD cards, including current EAD, front and back
  11. Transcripts and/or Diploma: 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 here.
  12. Two passport style photographs. For complete photo requirements, please review this website. We recommend writing your name and I-94 number on the back of the photos in pencil.
  13. Optional but Recommended: Official job offer letter on company letterhead with an employer’s signature.

Note: Take a copy of the entire application before sending for your records. We recommend sending documents by certified mail with a return receipt OR express mail (so that you have a tracking number) to the U.S. Service Center with jurisdiction over your current residence. USCIS must receive the application within 60 days of when the new I-20 was printed or before your current EAD card expires, whichever comes first.. You do not need to send the form I-983, though USCIS can request the information on the form I-983 at a later date if needed.

We recommend sending documents by certified mail with a return receipt OR express mail (so that you have a tracking number) to the U.S. Service Center with jurisdiction over your current residence. Please keep a copy of the receipt showing that the application was delivered. USCIS must receive the application within 60 days of when the new I-20 was printed.  You do not need to send the form I-983, though USCIS can request the information on the form I-983 at a later date if needed.

Students should use the filing address currently listed for the foreign student category on the USCIS website here: https://www.uscis.gov/i-765-addresses.  There is usually a different address listed depending on if you send the address via USPS (United States Postal Service) or private service (UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc…).  Sometimes, there are different addresses listed depending on which state you live in.

As of an update on January 8, 2021, USCIS has listed the Chicago Lockbox as the filing location for F-1 student I-765 applications:

USCIS Chicago Lockbox

U.S. Postal Service (USPS):

USCIS
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

USCIS
Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

Filing Online

To file online, you must first create an account on https://www.uscis.gov/.  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.   You can see a recording of how to access the online I-765 under Supplemental Forms and Instructions, below.

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. Copy of your current I-94 (either the screengrab of the electronic form or a photocopy of both sides of the paper I-94).
  3. A photocopy of all previous EAD cards, including current EAD, front and back
  4. Photocopy of identity pages in passport, including expiration date (optional if uploaded EAD, but highly recommended)
  5. Photocopy of F-1 visa stamp (optional if upload EAD card and passport)
  6. Photocopy of the new Form I-20 issued for STEM OPT— Remember to sign your I-20!
  7. Photocopies of any previous I-20s authorizing CPT or OPT (including CPT/OPT authorizations for prior institutions, degree levels, or SEVIS IDs).
  8. Transcripts and/or Diploma: 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 here.
  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 $410 filing fee by credit card, debit card, or through a bank account withdrawal.

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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

STEM OPT Extension Request EForm

Now that you have reviewed and understand all of the above information, you may submit a STEM OPT Request Eform:

1.) Click here to go to the AccessISSS online system.
2.) Click the "Login" button under the International Student & Scholar AccessISSS Log-In header. To see a screenshot, click here.
3.) Enter your NetID (ex: AA123456) and password.
4.) On the left-hand panel, click "Student Services." To see a screenshot, click here.
5.) Select the "STEM OPT Extension Request" from the list of forms. To see a screenshot, click here.
6.) Complete the Eform. If you need to return to the form later, click "Save Draft."  You can then find the draft again later under the “Requests” tab on your AccessISSS profile homepage (for a screenshot, click here). If you are done and ready to submit the form for ISSS review, click "Submit." To see a screenshot, click here.
7.) This form will ask you to upload supporting documents. If you need assistance, please review the File Upload Instructions webpage.
8.) All updates regarding your form processing will be communicated over email. Please allow up to 5-7 business days for processing.

 

 

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.