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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Frequently Asked Questions | OPT Application | OPT Extension | OPT Reporting | H1-B Cap-Gap


OPT Extension

The 24-Month STEM OPT Extension allows international students in F-1 status who receive a bachelor's, Master's, or doctoral degree in an approved STEM field to apply for a 24-month extension of their standard 12-month Post-OPT period, twice in a lifetime. Employment must be with an E-verify employer.

Eligibility Requirements

  • You must be in valid F-1 status on Post-Completion OPT.
  • You must not have exceeded 90 days of unemployment in the initial 12-month period of OPT.
  • Your degree should be in a STEM field specified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
  • Your employer must be registered with the E-verify federal employment verification system at the time of your application for the OPT STEM Extension.
  • You must agree to report to SIUE within 10 days of any change in employment status regarding your employment, or every 6 months if no change has occurred.


When to Apply for an OPT Extension

You must apply for the STEM OPT extension 120 days before your current Post-Completion OPT expires.

Application procedure (3 Steps):

Step 1: Request an OPT STEM I-20

Please submit the following document online to the International Affairs.

Please email the following documents to iss@siue.edu to request an OPT STEM I-20.

  • Copy of your most recent diploma in a STEM field (If diploma is not available, you can send an official transcript from the Registrar's office showing degree completion)
  • STEM OPT Employer Information Formpdf
  • Form I-983pdf (Please see Form I-983 Instruction & Instructions for Section I and complete only page 1-5). In your first 12 months on OPT extension complete page 6, and at the end of your 24 months on OPT STEM extension complete page 7.
  • A Copy of your most recent pay stub.

Once all the documents are turned in to the International Affairs, our international advisor will issue you a STEM OPT I-20. Processing time for new I-20 is 2-4 business days. The new I-20 will be mailed to you by using the mailing address on the STEM OPT Employer Information Form you just filled out.

Step 2: Assembling Your STEM OPT Extension Application

Be sure to make a photocopy of your entire application for your records after you have assembled it in the following order:

Forms:

Photocopies:

  • Photocopy of OPT STEM I-20, page 1 with student's signature.
  • Photocopy of OPT STEM I-20, page 2.
  • Photocopy of Unexpired passport biographical information page and expiration page.
  • Photocopy of F-1 visa page (The most recent one)
  • Photocopy of I-94 card (front and back) or most recent I-94 print out
  • Copy of your most recent diploma in a STEM field (If diploma is not available, you can send an official transcript from the Registrar's office showing degree completion)
  • Copy of your EAD card, front & back.

Check & Photos:

  • Check for $380 made payable to: Department of Homeland Security. (A sample check is attached here and please DO NOT sign the back of the check) 
  • 2 recent passport-style photos on white background. The photo must be 2x2 inches; the images must be no more than 1 3/8 inches from the top of the head to the chin. Your name and I-94 number must be printed in pencil on the back of the photos. For an example, see photo.

After gathering all the documents, make a copy of your application. Then place your application in an envelope with your check and pictures.

Step 3: Shipping your Stem OPT application to USCIS

It is your responsibility to make sure USCIS receives all required application materials in a timely manner. You must mail your completed application packet with TRACKING to USCIS within 15 days after your STEM OPT I-20 has been issued (the dates on the I-765, check and photos must also be less than 30 days old).


For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:

USCIS

P.O.Box 21281

Phoenix, AZ 85036


For Express mail and courier deliveries (FedEx, UPS):

USCIS

Attn: AOS

1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S

Suite 100

Phoenix, AZ 85034


While on OPT Extension

You are still considered to be in F-1 student status while on OPT Extension, so any questions or concerns can be addressed by an International Student Adviser during this period.

You must report to the Office of International Programs within 10 working days of any change to your address, employment or immigration status via the online OPT Reporting Form.

The STEM OPT extension regulations have added new reporting requirements that must be completed in order to maintain your status. The reporting requirements include a 6-month demographic information update and a 12 and 24 month self-evaluation. 

Every 6 months I will report to the Designated School Official (DSO) verifying that my details have not changed: 

My STEM OPT start date is_____/_____/_____ 

My first 6 month reporting date falls on_____/_____/_____ 

My second 6 month reporting date (12 months into extension) is_____/_____/_____ 

My third 6 month reporting date (18 months into extension is_____/_____/_____ 

My last 6 month reporting date (24 months into extension) is_____/_____/_____ 

Additionally, 12 months and 24 months into my STEM extension I must submit a self-evaluation: 

My first self-evaluation at 12 months into my STEM extension is due on_____/_____/_____ 

My second self-evaluation at 24 months into my STEM extension is due on_____/_____/_____

Traveling While on OPT Extension

You may travel while on OPT Extension. However, please keep in mind that you are still in F-1 status and that you will need the following in order to re-enter the United States:

  • A valid travel signature on your most current I-20 (within 5 months of re-entry)
  • Your unexpired Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or I-797 receipt notice
  • A letter from your employer indicating that you currently hold a job in your field of study and will be returning to the U.S. to resume employment
  • A valid passport
  • A valid F-1 visa

After completing your 24-month STEM OPT Extension

You are entitled to a 60-day grace period after the last day of OPT as indicated on your EAD. You may not work during your 60-day grace period. This 60-day grace period is to return home or to start a new program. You will need to notify the Office of International Affairs if you plan to begin another course of study after your OPT ends.

Students currently on 17-month extension:

Transition plan overview - please check the information for all possible scenarios if you currently are on or pending the 17-month extension.

For students who want to start to apply for the seven-month extension, please follow step 1 above to  request an OPT STEM I-20.

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