OPT STEM Extensions
OPT STEM EXTENSION UPDATES:
Berkeley International Office is aware of the WashTech Lawsuit August 12, 2015 OPT STEM Extension Summary Judgement ruling and is following the situation closely as more information becomes available. Since the ruling does not go into effect until February 12, 2016, BIO is continuing OPT STEM Extension processing as usual until further notice.
UPDATE 10/19/2015: On Oct 19, 2015 DHS (Dept. of Homeland Security) published a new proposed STEM OPT rule . The public will have 30 days to comment on the proposed rule. The new rule can only become effective after analysis of public comment and later publication of a final rule, which may include substantive alternations or changes. We hope that a final rule will be published and go into effect prior to the Feb 12, 2016 deadline, but students should discuss future employment plans carefully with their employers and legal counsel. NAFSA: Association of International Educators offers a good summary of the proposed rule and current updates here: http://www.nafsa.org/stemoptrule .
We will keep our clients up-to-date regarding the impact of the WashTech ruling and new DHS STEM OPT proposed rule via the BIO website and/or email notifications. F-1 students on OPT are reminded to keep their email addresses up-to-date at http://ssu.berkeley.edu.
The OPT STEM Extension is a one-time, 17-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 29 months) available to F-1 students who are:
- Recipients of a U.S. Bachelor’s, Master’s, and/or Doctoral degree in a STEM designated degree program (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).
- Currently authorized for OPT and have not exceeded 90 days of unemployment.
- Applying based on the same degree as OPT, not a previous degree.
- Employed or have an offer letter related to the student's field of study from an employer who is participating in the USCIS E-Verify progam (see information below).
- Applying before the end date of your current 12-month OPT expiration date.
Only one 17-month STEM extension is granted per lifetime regardless of additional degrees awarded or level of degrees.
What is E-Verify?
- E-Verify is an Internet based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA) that allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees.
- A list of employers who have self-reported participation in E-Verify is maintained by USCIS but students are advised to confirm with employers directly regarding eligiblity.
- An employer's participation in E-Verify is voluntary and is currently free to employers. If your company wants to participate in E-Verify, see the DHS web site.
When To Apply
- USCIS must receive the completed application by the end date of the student's current 12-month OPT.
- Due to any potential technical delays, Berkeley International Office (BIO) recommends that students submit the OPT STEM Extension I-20 Request Form to BIO at least 2 weeks before their current OPT EAD expires.
- Students may apply as early as 120 days/4 months before their OPT EAD end date.
- OPT will be automatically extended for up to 180 days while the STEM OPT application is pending, however, to travel, students must have an unexpired EAD card. See more about Travel and Re-entry to the U.S. while on OPT.
- Berkeley International Office recommends that students apply early.
How to Apply
- View the OPT STEM Extension Tutorial & Application Guide for full details on the application process and maintaing status while on OPT STEM.
- Request STEM OPT I-20 from Berkeley International Office.
- Prepare and collect all application materials (see Application Guide).
- Mail completed application to USCIS before the end date of the current 12-month EAD. You are required to be physically present in the US to mail the application.
Mailing instructions may be found in the Application Guide.
Reporting Requirements while on OPT STEM
While on STEM OPT, students must validate their information every six months and update Berkeley International Office within 10 days of any changes to the following information:
- Residential Address
- Phone & Email Address
- Employer Information
- Start Date of Employment
- More than 10 days of unemployment
- Date of departure from the U.S. (if students leave prior ro the OPT STEM end date)