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STEM OPT Extension

STEM OPT Extension

If you have graduated with a STEM major, you may be eligible to apply for a two-year extension of your OPT, known as the STEM OPT Extension.  To be eligible, you must currently be on OPT, and your employer must participate in the E-Verify program.  Please note that an MS in statistics completed through the Intercollegiate Graduate Statistics Program (IGSP) cannot be used as the basis for applying for a STEM OPT Extension.

 

STEM OPT Application Procedure

The STEM OPT Extension request process is now available online. F-1 students may submit the required E-form and upload documents via the iVols portal.

The earliest that USCIS can receive your application is 90 days before your OPT end date, and the latest that USCIS can receive your application is on your OPT end date. CGE requires two weeks to review your application. We highly recommend that you apply early.

Step 1: Determine Your Eligibility

Please make sure that the following conditions are met:

  • You have graduated with a bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD in a STEM field. You can check if the major on your I-20 is on this list on the ICE website: https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/stem-list.pdf
  • If you’ve completed an MS in statistics through the Intercollegiate Graduate Statistics Program (IGSP), you are not eligible for STEM OPT unless your primary degree program is already STEM eligible.
  • You are currently on OPT.
  • Your employer is registered in the E-Verify Program.

Step 2: Prepare Your Documents

  • I-983 Form
    • Use the I-983 instructions from the ICE website to complete the form.
    • Additional instructions are available at the STEM OPT Hub.
  • I-765 Form
  • Copy of your current I-20
  • Copy of your EAD (front only)
  • Copy of your current I-94 (available here).
  • Copy of your most recent F-1 visa
  • Copy of your passport identity page
  • Copy of official employment letters
    • We recommend submitting the original offer letter and a recent letter stating that you are still employed.
  • Official transcript showing degree and major
  • Copy of diploma (reduce copy to a single 8.5×11-inch page)
  • Two color passport-style photos taken within the last 30 days
  • Check or money order for $410, payable to “Department of Homeland Security”

Step 3: Log in to iVols and Submit STEM OPT Extension Request E-form

  1. Go to https://ivols.utk.edu/istart/controllers/start/StartEngine.cfm
  2. Log in with your NetID and password.
  3. Select the “F-1 Practical Training” option.
  4. Select the STEM OPT Extension request E-form
  5. Fill out the E-form and upload scanned copies of your documents.
  6. Submit the E-form. You will receive a confirmation email once you have successfully submitted the form.

Step 4: CGE Procedures and Mailing Instructions

  1. CGE will review your application and contact you if any changes need to be made to your application.
  2. Once the application is complete, CGE will create a new I-20 for you.
  3. CGE will notify you that your STEM OPT Extension I-20 is ready to send to you. We will inform you about shipping instructions and confirm your shipping preference.
  4. CGE will send you the STEM OPT Extension I-20 and instructions for shipping the application to USCIS.
  5. Mail your application to USCIS no sooner than 90 days before the end date of your current OPT. USCIS must receive your STEM OPT application no more than 30 days after the day your STEM OPT I-20 was issued.
  6. You should receive a receipt notice from USCIS in the mail about two weeks after submission.
  7. USCIS usually takes 90 days to process a STEM OPT application.

Important Actions While on STEM OPT

 

STEM OPT Reporting Requirements

During the two-year STEM OPT extension, students must continue to report information to CGE.

  • Report any change to your name or address within 10 days of the change. Use the Address Update e-form in the iVols portal.
  • Every six months, confirm your address and employment details. You must do this even if none of the information has changed. Use the STEM OPT 6 Month Reporting e-form to confirm this information.
  • Each year, submit a self-evaluation from page 5 of the I-983 form. Use the STEM OPT Evaluation e-form in the iVols portal.

 

Changing Employers on STEM OPT

There are several reporting requirements you need to be aware of when you change employers while on STEM OPT. Complete all requirements within 10 days of the change, and remember that you can work only for employers that participate in the E-Verify program.

  1. Report the change using the OPT Reporting Form.
  2. Complete a final self-evaluation of the job that is ending.
  3. Complete a new I-983 form with your new employer,

If you are not able to find the form you are looking for, please contact your immigration advisor. Here are some helpful documents and resources: