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To be eligible for the 17-month STEM OPT extension, you must:

  • Be in valid F-1 status on Post-Completion OPT.
  • Not have acquired more than 90 days of unemployment on Post-Completion OPT since April 8, 2008.
  • Have no previous 17-month STEM OPT extension granted (only one extension per student, regardless of degree level).
  • Have earned your most recent degree in a STEM field specified by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).
  • Have an offer of paid employment from an employer registered in the E-Verify program; such employer agrees to report your departure or termination of employment.
  • Agree to make reports 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

You must apply for the 17-month STEM OPT extension before your Post-Completion OPT expires. It is not recommended you apply more than 120 days before your Post-Completion OPT expires.

Application Procedures

Gather the following documents and bring or send them to the International Student Services office:

  • STEM OPT Employer Information Form
  • A personal check made out to "Department of Homeland Security" for $380
  • Two color passport photos (2"x2", write name and SEVIS number on back of both photos; must be taken within 30 days)
  • Form I-765
  • A photocopy of the new I-20 the ISS advisor will process for you
  • Photocopy of passport information and expiration page
  • Photocopy of visa page
  • Photocopy of I-94 card (front and back)
  • Copy of your most recent pay stub
  • Copy of your most recent diploma in a STEM field (If diploma is not available, you can send an official transcripts from the Registrar's office)
  • Copy of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card-front & back)

The ISS office should receive an official USCIS receipt notice within a month of mailing your packet. After receiving this, you may have this to check on the status of your application in the Case Status Online section of the USCIS website. If you do not receive a receipt notice within 5 weeks of mailing your packet, you should advise the ISS office.

Once you have applied for the 17-month STEM OPT Extension:

  • You may continue your OPT employment while your extension request is pending for up to 180 days.
  • You may not accumulate a total of more than 120 days of unemployment for 29 months of OPT.
  • Any employment during the 17-month STEM OPT Extension period must be with an employer registered with the E-Verify program.

While on OPT

  • You are still considered to be in F-1 student status while on OPT, so any questions or concerns can be addressed by an ISS advisor during this time.
  • You must continue to verify your address information in SEVIS within 10 days if there has been a change.
  • If you change to a different visa status, please inform ISS so that your records can be updated.
  • If you terminate your OPT early, please inform ISS so that your records can be updated.
  • You will probably be required to pay federal, state and local taxes. For more information, please contact the Internal Revenue Service.

Travel on OPT

You may travel while on OPT. 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 U.S.:

  • A valid travel signature on your most current I-20 (within 5 months of re-entry)
  • Your unexpired 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 17-month STEM OPT Extension

  • If an H-1B application is pending or approved for your H-1B cap-subject employer, you may continue your employment until your employment start date (October 1 of the following fiscal year) or until your application is denied. You will need an updated I-20 from IES to prove your work authorization during this period.
  • You are entitled to a 60-day grace period beyond the last day of training as indicated on your EAD. You may not work during your 60-day grace period. You will need to notify IES if you plan to begin another course of study another program after your OPT.

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