OPT STEM Extension

F-1 students with degrees in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) may be eligible for an extension of their Post-Completion OPT work permission. The extension permits those on OPT to apply for an additional 24 months of full time work authorization. As with the orginal OPT application, OPT STEM is recommended by an advisor at the International Center, but final approval is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

Eligibility

To qualify for the 24-month extension, you must:

  • Have earned a bachelor’s, masters, or doctoral degree from a school that is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency and is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) when you submit your STEM OPT extension application.
    • Students may be eligible to have two STEM OPT extensions during their time in the U.S.
  • Have been granted OPT and currently be in a valid period of OPT
    • Students currently in a non-STEM degree can be eligible for a STEM OPT extension based on a previous STEM degree obtained in the U.S. from an accredited institution
  • STEM degree has been obtained and is listed on the OPT STEM List
  • Work for an employer who meets all the requirements listed and will agree to the following:
    • Be enrolled in E-Verify and remain in good standing.
    • Will report material changes to the STEM OPT student’s employment to the DSO as soon as possible.
    • Will implement a formal training program to augment the student’s academic learning through practical experience.
    • Wil provide an OPT opportunity that is commensurate with those of similarly situated U.S. workers in duties, hours, and compensation.
    • Will work to complete the Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. In this form, employer must attest that:
      • They have enough resources and trained personnel available to appropriately train the student;
      • The student will not replace a full or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker; and
      • Working for the company will help the student attain his or her training objectives.

24-Month OPT STEM Application Instructions

  1. Complete the 24-Month OPT STEM Extension Tutorial
  2. Complete OPT STEM Extension Checklist
  3. Meet with your employer to complete the Form I-983
    • The I-983 will not be returned to you and does not need to be mailed to USCIS. The I-983 is retained by the International Center for SEVIS reporting purposes.
  4. Submit application to UCI International Center
    • Submit the application to the International Center during an Employment Hand-In Session (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9am to 11am)
    • Call 949.824.7249 to make an appointment if you cannot make the sessions listed above.

Pick-Up Your OPT STEM Application for Mailing to USCIS

Processing time is seven business days (day one starts the day after you submit your complete application). Only if your application is ready early will the International Center email you. Otherwise it is your responsibility to keep track of when the seventh business day is to pick up your finished application. You can pick up your I-20 in these ways:

  1. Come to the International Center on the seventh business day and present a valid photo ID (e.g. UCI Student ID)
  2. Make arrangements with an advisor to have your new I-20 mailed to you. Pay for mailing through eShip Global (you will need to create an account first) and notify the advisor you are working with once you've paid.
  3. Friend pick-up with authorization form and their photo ID

Mail your application to USCIS (instructions will be provided when you pick up your OPT application from the IC) within 30 days from the date your I-20 was issued.

Include a check or money order to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Please see the fee schedule here.

Maintaining Status While on OPT STEM

Employment

  • Employment must be paid.
  • Employment must be a minimum of 20 hours per week.
  • Employment must be directly related to your course of study.
  • Must report new employment and changes to employment to the International Center
  • Limitation on Unemployment for the STEM OPT Extension. Students approved for the 24-month STEM OPT extension may not accrue more than a total of 150 days of unemployment throughout their entire 36 months on OPT. Time spent outside the United States, if not employed by a U.S. employer, is counted towards the 150-day period of unemployment. To count as “employed” a student should be able to provide evidence, acquired from the student’s employer, to verify that he or she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of reported employment.
  • Unemployment Caution: SEVIS records will automatically terminate students who have no employment reported for 150 days. Be sure that you have reported your employment information to the IC. If you have any concerns, you can always contact an International Student Advisor.
  • Non-paid and volunteer work is not permitted on the STEM OPT extension.

Mandatory Reporting Requirements

The OPT STEM requires you to submit several updates during the 24-month duration to maintain valid F-1 status. You will be submitting 6, 12, 18, and 24-month updates to the International Center.  Please see requirements here.

Travel During OPT

Traveling during OPT will require you to have a valid EAD card, an I-20 with a travel signature signed by a DSO from UCI within the last six months, and proof that you are returning after your travel outside of the U.S. to resume employment. For more information about travel risks during OPT, please click here.

Additional Resources

Study in the States

Study in the States Overview and Tutorial for Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students

Study in the States web site: STEM OPT Help Hub

SEVP STEM Extension Overview (including list of eligible fields of study)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students

Instructions for Completing Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students

WEEKLY EVENTS


Travel Signature

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CPT/OPT Walk In

Tuesday, Wednesday,Thursday
9 - 11 a.m.
International Center


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Every Friday 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
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