STEM Extensions

New regulations for STEM OPT are effective May 10, 2016. The regulation allows F-1 students whose OPT is based on a Bachelor's, Master's, or Ph.D. degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) field to apply for a 24-month extension of OPT. A student can get a STEM extension twice in a lifetime. Review the current list of STEM-eligible majors.  The CIP code is located on your I-20 on page 1 on the section that says "primary major". 

Eligibility

  1. Already be on post-completion OPT;
  2. Must have a degree in a qualifying STEM field that meets the following requirements:
    • From an accredited-US educational institution at the time of the STEM OPT application;
    • From an institution that is SEVP-certified at the time of the STEM OPT application;
    • Must have been conferred within the 10 years preceding the STEM OPT application.
  3. The job must be directly related to the degree on which the STEM OPT application is based;
  4. The job must be at least 20 hours a week;
  5. Be employed by, or have a job offer from, an employer who is registered with the E-Verify employment verification system.
    • E-Verify is an internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in 
           partnership with the Social Security Administration.
  6. The employer must complete and sign Form I-983 Training Plan (described in more detail below);
  7. Have fewer than 90 days of unemployment while on OPT;
  8. If you have had a STEM OPT extension previously, the new STEM OPT must be based on a higher degree level;
  9. Submit the OPT application to USCIS prior to the expiration of the current post-completion OPT (USCIS must receive the application before the expiration date on the current EAD).

 How to Apply for the STEM Extension

The OIS recommends that you begin the application process for the extension 3 - 4 months before your current OPT expires. The earliest you can submit your OPT STEM extension application to USCIS is 90 days before the expiration of your current OPT card. Your STEM Extension Request Application should be submitted to the Office of International Services(instructions below) no later than 45 days before the end of your OPT to ensure we have enough time to process your STEM Extension I-20. If you have any questions related to timeline, please email ois-info@umaryland.edu.

Students who file a timely application for an extension will be able to continue employment for up to 180 days while the extension application is pending with USCIS, unless it is approved or denied, within the time frame.

Process:

  1. Log into Sunapsis and navigate to the STEM Optional Practical Training Request e-form. See Submitting requests in Sunapsis for login instructions.
  2. Gather all the required documents and upload them in the e-form for review by the OIS.
  3. Schedule a phone or in-person appointment with the OIS to go over your application and to issue an extended I-20. If you are not in the Baltimore area, you may email the documents to the OIS. The I-20 will be sent via airmail. If you wish to have the I-20 sent via FedEx, DHL, or UPS sign up for shipment at E-Ship Global
  4. OIS will provide mailing instructions with the I-20 recommending the extension for you to send your application to USCIS.

Completing the I-983 Training Plan with your Employer

The I-983 Training Plan is a requirement for students and employers to complete together. Here is some guidance on completing it:

  • All sections on pages 1-4 must be completed;
  • Page 1 – completed and signed by Student (note Employment Authorization Number is found on your employment authorization card)
  • Page 2 – completed and signed by Employer
  • Pages 3-4 – completed and signed by Employer. Suggestions:
    • Draft out a response for your employer to review and edit for the Student Role field
    • Think about your professional development goals and objectives in your position and put them in writing to your supervisor.
  • Page 5 – there are two self-evaluations for you to provide. You should complete these evaluations and have your employer sign off on them. This form needs to be uploaded in Sunapsis in the OPT Reporting Form once it has been completed and signed, and within 10 days following the conclusion of the reporting period.
    • The top portion is to be completed at the end of the first 12 months of your STEM OPT extension.
    • The bottom portion is to be completed at the end of the 24 month STEM extension.

Maintaining Status on STEM OPT

  • Report changes to your name, residential address, employer, employer address, and/or loss of employment within 10 days of the change by completing the OPT reporting form in Sunapsis. See Submitting requests in Sunapsis for login instructions.
  • Complete a validation report confirming the above information (via the OPT Reporting Form) every 6 months within 10 days of the reporting date
  • Work at least 20 hours a week
  • Adhere to the I-983 Training Plan
    • Sending a fully signed 12-month self-evaluation to the OIS (page 5 top portion)
    • Sending a fully signed 24-month self-evaluation to the OIS (page 5 bottom portion)
    • Adjust with Employer should any material changes occur. [Examples of material changes: change of EIN resulting from corporate restructuring, a reduction in compensation not tied to reduction in hours, significant decreases in hours per week worked, any change that renders an employer attestation inaccurate].
  • Do not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during the combined 12 months of post-completion OPT and the 24 months of the STEM OPT extension
    • Dates of travel outside of the U.S. while employed do not count as days of unemployment.

While traveling on OPT, students are advised to carry the following:

  • The most recent I-20, signed for travel (remember that each travel signature is valid for only six months during the period of OPT)
  • A valid F-1 visa stamp (unless traveling under Automatic Visa Revalidation)
  • A passport valid for at least six months into the future from the date of re-entry to the U.S.
  • A valid EAD card (you must wait for the OPT extension to be approved before leaving the U.S.)
  • A job offer or confirmation letter