OPT STEM Extensions

OPT STEM EXTENSION UPDATES
Berkeley International Office is aware of the ongoing WashTech Lawsuit August 12, 2015 OPT STEM Extension Summary Judgement ruling which would potentially vacate the STEM extension and is following the situation closely as more information becomes available. BIO is continuing OPT STEM Extension processing as usual until further notice. For background information on the lawsuit and possible impact see the NAFSA: Association of International Educators Focus on STEM summary.

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 .


UPDATE 01/23/2016: On January 23, 2016 the District Court ordered to extend the vacateur of the OPT STEM rule from Feb 12, 2016 to May 10, 2016. The extension of the vacateur will allow DHS time to review comments, publish an updated final STEM rule, and provide guidance and training to stakeholders.

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 update their email addresses online through the Berkeley International Office's Student SEVIS Update (SSU) form.

OPT STEM Extension Tutorial & Application Guide

Applying for the STEM OPT extension is similar to the initial application:

1.) Review the OPT STEM Extension Application Guide [pdf].

2.) Log into the SSU system to add or update your STEM Employer information PRIOR TO submitting your Extension Request Form.

3.) Submit the OPT STEM Extension Request Form [doc] to Berkeley International Office in person or via email.

4.) Mail your application to USCIS at the address in your region (the Application Guide includes USCIS address information).

Eligibilty

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

  1. View the OPT STEM Extension Tutorial & Application Guide for full details on the application process and maintaing status while on OPT STEM.
  2. Log into the SSU system to add or update your STEM Employer information PRIOR TO submitting your STEM I-20 request.
  3. Request STEM OPT I-20 from Berkeley International Office.
  4. Prepare and collect all application materials (see Application Guide).
  5. 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:

  • Name
  • Validate and Report Your
    Changes Online:

    Student SEVIS Update (SSU)

  • 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)