7.4.4 F-1 STEM OPT Extension

7.4.4 F-1 STEM OPT Extension

An F-1 student who received a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) from an accredited and SEVP- certified school may apply for a 24-month extension of their optional practical training (OPT). Employment must be directly related to the student’s major area of study. The employer must be enrolled in and be in good standing with E-Verify. The E-Verify company identification number is required for the student to apply to USCIS for the STEM extension using Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. A STEM student may change employers or work at a different hiring site for the same employer, but the new employer or new hiring site must be enrolled in and be in good standing with E-Verify before the student begins their STEM OPT with the new employer or hiring site.

The EAD issued to the F-1 STEM OPT student states “STU: STEM OPT ONLY.” The following documents establish a student’s identity and employment authorization for Form I-9:

  • Unexpired EAD or
  • For certain instances where students have timely- filed Forms I-765 pending, an expired EAD presented with Form I-20 endorsed by the student’s designated school official recommending a STEM extension.

If the student presents an expired EAD and an endorsed Form I-20 recommending a STEM extension, the employer should enter the following information under List A in Section 2:

  • EAD document title;
  • EAD document number;
  • Date the EAD expired in the expiration date space; and
  • “180-day ext.” in the Additional Information field.

The expired EAD with an endorsed Form I-20 is acceptable until USCIS makes a decision on the student’s application, but for not more than180 days from the date the student’s initial OPT EAD expires. Employment authorization must be reverified after 180 days from the date the EAD expires to continue employment.

Acceptable Forms I-20 for STEM OPT students must have all Employment Authorization fields completed. These fields include: employment status, employment type, start and end date of employment, and the employer’s name and location.

  • Employers have specific responsibilities when providing practical training opportunities to STEM OPT students. Some employer responsibilities include:
  • Enrolling in E-Verify and remaining in good standing before employing an F-1 STEM OPT student.
  • Implementing a formal training plan to augment the student’s academic learning through practical experience.
  • Completing the employer’s portion and certifying Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.
  • Reporting to the DSO and updating Form I-983 if there are any changes to or material deviations from the student’s formal training plan.
  • Reporting to the DSO when a student’s employment is terminated for any reason before the end of the authorized extension period.

Additional employer requirements and information on an employer’s responsibilities are available at studyinthestates.dhs.gov.

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