OPT 24-Month STEM Extension

OPT 24-Month STEM Extension

On March 11, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a new STEM Final Rule, with effective date May 10, 2016. NAFSA: Association of International Educators provides a summary of the rule and current updates and background. Detailed information for students and employers can also be found on the DHS webpage Study in the States OPT STEM Hub. See below for a summary of key points in the new STEM rule.

UC Berkeley Departments hiring  F-1 students on STEM OPT Extension should review the Hiring Scholars on F-1 OPT webpage.

Please consult with Berkeley International Office if you need help determining whether your employment qualifies as on-campus.

How to apply for STEM OPT

Eligible students may apply for a 24-Month STEM OPT Extension up to 90 days prior to the expiration of their OPT EAD. 

  1. Fully review the Berkeley International Office (BIO) 24-Month STEM Extension Tutorial for detailed instructions on both the BIO application process and submission to USCIS. Pay careful attention to the tutorial as it contains specific information as to how to complete the I-983. It is required that you view the tutorial prior to applying.
    OPT 24 month extension cover slide

  2. Log in to the Student SEVIS Update (SSU) system to submit your STEM application to BIO. (Follow all steps carefully as most  processing delays are due to failure to update all new required fields in SSU.) You must:
    1. Update all current & previous OPT employment
    2. Update your current address/email/phone
    3. Upload a copy of your OPT EAD
    4. Click the "Apply for STEM OPT Extension" link to start your application. You will be asked to identify your STEM employer, provide additional information and upload a copy of form I-983 Training Plan. 
  3. Also in your SSU Hub, submit your $300 Post-Completion Services Fee to BIO.
      • Credit/Debit Card: Make your payment in your SSU Hub by clicking "Submit your STEM OPT Payment" link at the bottom of the SSU Hub homepage.

      • Check or Money Order: Make check or money order payable to order of "UC Regents" and write your Student ID Number in the notes/memo section; submit your check or money order to BIO in person or via mail. Include a note with name, student id and reason for payment.

  4. BIO will issue you a new OPT I-20 with a 24-Month Extension recommendation. You will provide your delivery method for the I-20 in your SSU Hub form.
  5. Submit a 24-Month Extension request to USCIS. (Detailed instructions available in the STEM tutorial)
  6. The 2016 STEM Extension Rule

    2016 STEM Extension rule institutes significant changes for the F-1 STEM OPT Extension, including:

    Duration Effective May 10, 2016 the STEM OPT Extension will be for 24 months.
    STEM Application Period STEM applications may only be submitted up to 90 days prior to the initial 12-Month OPT EAD expiration.
    Eligibility for 2nd STEM Extension The new rule allows a total of 2 lifetime STEM Extensions, the 2nd after earning a new STEM-eligible degree at a higher level and obtaining a new, higher level of 12-Month OPT
    Eligible Based on Previously Earned Degree May be based on a previously earned STEM Degree
    Updated STEM Definition and CIP Categories STEM Definition and CIP Categories
    Required Training Plan and Form I-983 Requires significant responsibility of the employer to provide a training plan related to the field of study, and attestations to wages and compensation being commensurate with "similarly situated U.S. workers"
    New Obligations for StudentsSchools, and Employers 6 Month validation reports, annual evaluations, and submission of a new I-983 in case of material changes to the original I-983 are now required. Employers must agree to Department of Homeland Security site visits, as well as provide attestations to wages and working conditions
    Types of Employment Allowed
    Volunteer/Unpaid positions and self employment are NOT allowed by the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension.
    STEM-eligible employers must have e-Verify & EIN numbers and the student must have a "bona fide employer-employee relationship". To establish a bona fide relationship, the employer may not be the student’s “employer” in name only.
    • Under no circumstances would another F-1 student on OPT or a STEM OPT Extension be qualified to train another F-1 student on a STEM OPT Extension.
    • The employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student. 
    • The employer has sufficient resources and personnel available to provide appropriate training in connection with the STEM opportunity at the location(s) specified in the Form I-983.
    • The “personnel” who provide/supervise the training experience may be either employees of the employer, or contractors who the employer has directly retained to provide services to the employer; they may not be employees or contractors of the employer’s clients or customers.
    • DHS will review on a case-by-case basis whether the student will be a bona fide employee of the employer signing the Training Plan, and verify that the employer that signs the Training Plan is the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.

    Temp/Staffing Agencies, 3rd Party Worksites

    • Staffing and temporary agencies may employ students under the STEM OPT Extension program, but only if they will be the entity that provides the practical training experience to the student and they have and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student.
    • STEM OPT participants may engage in a training experience that takes place at a site other than the employer’s principal place of business as long as all of the training obligations are met, including that the employer has and maintains a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student.
    • A STEM OPT employer may not assign, or otherwise delegate, its training responsibilities to a non-employer third party (e.g., a client/customer of the employer, employees of the client/customer, or contractors of the client/customer).
    • According to prior guidance from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program If a student uses a temporary or staffing agency to place them in a training opportunity, the agency cannot complete and sign the Form I-983, "Training Plan for STEM OPT Students." Only the E-verified employer that provides the actual training relevant to the student's qualifying STEM degree is authorized to sign and complete the Form I-983. 
    Increased Unemployment Students with 24-Month STEM OPT Extensions may have up to 150 days of unemployment during the total OPT period including initial 12-Month and 24-Month STEM OPT Extension period.

     

    STEM Reporting Requirements & Address/Employment Updates

    There are significantly more reporting requirements while on STEM OPT Extension. Please see our OPT Reporting page for more information regarding your obligations during the STEM OPT Extension. This includes updating your personal or employment information, as well as how to comply with with special STEM 6-Month validation and Annual Evaluation requirements.

    Changing Employers While on STEM

    Please see our OPT Reporting page for more information regarding how to change your employer while on your STEM OPT period.

    Travel while on STEM OPT

    Please see our OPT Travel page for more information regarding what you need to travel with while on STEM OPT.

    Additional STEM OPT Extension Documents

    In some special STEM OPT Extension cases, you may need to submit additional documentation to USCIS with your STEM application. Review below to see if you will require additional documentation.

    Concurrent H-1B & STEM Applications

    Filing an H-1B and a STEM applications concurrently can sometimes cause complications in your SEVIS record. You can only apply for an OPT STEM Extension before your OPT EAD expires, even if you have received a Cap Gap Extension of your I-20 until Sept 30. If you are planning to file for an H-1B and STEM at the same time, BIO recommends including one of the following letters with your STEM Extension application to USCIS:

    • STEM/Cap-Gap Letter: Include this letter if a Cap-Gap Extension appears on your STEM OPT I-20.
    • STEM/H1B Letter: Include this letter if NO Cap-Gap Extension currently appears on your I-20, but your employer has filed for an H-1B for you and your OPT expires before 9/30.

    CIP Code/Major Name Mismatch

    In some cases, your UC Berkeley Major Name on your transcript/diploma and does not match the CIP Code name listed on page 1 of your I-20. BIO recommends that students in these “CIP Code/Major Name Mismatch” programs submit a letter of explanation with the STEM application to avoid any confusion by USCIS. If you are in one of the following programs or majors, please print the letter for your program and include it with your STEM application to USCIS.