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24-Month STEM OPT Extension ONLINE Application - Step-by-Step Guide

On 4/12/2021, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) can now file their form I-765 online if filling under the pre-completion, post-completion and the STEM extension categories. FIU ISSS provides all the instructions and steps below. Please follow all the steps carefully- this submission is your responsibility and any mistake or omission on your part may cause your process to be denied. Please be aware that ISSS will provide courtesy advise once you have received the endorsed I-20 which we will provide.

Students can apply for the 24-month STEM OPT extension up to 90 days prior to the expiration of the first 12 months of “regular” OPT. The online application must be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of your OPT period in order to be timely filed. USCIS will not accept I-765 applications for STEM extensions any earlier than 90 days before the current (OPT) EAD expiration date.  You will apply online via the USCIS I-765 online form

IMPORTANT:DO NOT apply online for STEM OPT extension with USCIS until you have received the Form I-20 with the DSO recommendation. Filing without endorsed I-20 may get your application denied.

USCIS is the agency that will be processing your application and it is your responsibility to comply with all application requirements.

Step 1- PREPARE YOUR DOCUMENTS

1- Complete Immigration Form I-983:  Download the form by visiting the USCIS website at https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2016/i983.pdf. Complete with your employer (Pg. 1-4)

2- PAY STEM OPT Maintenance Fee in the amount of $250.00 -One-time non-refundable compulsory maintenance fee required to process your STEM Extension OPT Application and maintain your F1 student record at FIU while you are in STEM OPT. Maintenance Fee can be paid online by visiting this website https://issscart.fiu.edu/You must submit your confirmation email in order to process your STEM OPT application. Please make sure you read the OPT Maintenance Fee REFUND POLICY

3- Copy of Diploma and/or FIU transcript- Transcripts are order online via your myFIU

Step 2- SUBMIT YOUR REQUEST TO ISSS FOR ENDORSED I-20

1-Upload all the documents to the ISSS portal
Once you’ve logged into the portal, please select: F-1 Practical Training Applications > STEM OPT Endorsed I-20 Request and upload these docuemnts:
  • Completed Immigration Form I-983
  • STEM OPT Maintenance Fee confirmation email
  • Copy of Diploma and/or FIU transcript
  • Most Recent I-94
  • Passport
  • F-1 Visa
  • OPT EAD card

2-Once you upload all your documents, a DSO will process your STEM OPT I-20 – allow 5-7 business days for processing

3-A DSO will email your STEM OPT-endorsed I-20. Emails are sent to your FIU email account (please check your spam folder).

4-Make sure to sign your OPT endorsed I-20 (sign in ink and date) scan it to submit in your USCIS online application.

Step 3- APPLY ONLINE WITH UCSIS

Instructions on how to submit Form I-765 online:

To file online you will need to set up a USCIS online account. Please visit the following USCIS website to set up your account: https://myaccount.uscis.gov/

As you move through the application you will be prompted with the documents required to apply. Please have the following documents ready to upload:

  1.  Most Recent I-94: I-94 showing F/1 status
  2. Passport photo page (must be valid for at least 6 months) Special Exceptions only apply to Venezuelan citizens
  3. F-1 Visa stamp page- (visa may be expired)
  4. STEM OPT-endorsed Form I-20
  5. Any prior I-20s that have CPT (if applicable)
  6. Any prior OPT EAD card (if applicable)
  7. Copy of Diploma and/or FIU transcript
  8. Color photos – Specific instructions will be provided within the online application. Photos are accepted in .jpeg, .jpg or .png format. We recommend using the Photo Tool on that website to check your photo meets requirements.

The following guidelines relate to the most confusing parts of the form and are offered as a courtesy only.

Please consult an immigration attorney if you are unsure about any aspects of the USCIS online application.

  • Click on “File a Form Online” and then select “Application for Employment Authorization (I-765)”.
  • Filing Codes:
  • E-verify Number: the number should be 5-6 digits and your Human Resources might provide you with this information. Do not confuse E-verify with EIN number. Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT) | USCIS
  • STEM degree CIP Code – Please refer to the program section of your I-20 for CIP code and STEM degree name
  • Select “Renewal permission to accept employment
  • Name: please enter your name as listed in your passport
  • Mailing address: your EAD card will be delivered via postal mail. It is important to use a mailing address that will be reliable for the next four months.
    • If it is a friend’s address, then make sure to add their name to the “In care of name” field of the form.
    • If your mailing address changes before your OPT is approved, then you must inform USCIS directly otherwise you may not receive your EAD card.
  • Physical address: enter the address where you are currently living, if it is different from your mailing address. It is OK if this changes when your STEM OPT application is pending.
  • Travel document: if you have a passport then it is unlikely that you will have a travel document
  • A-number: Type the A-number (USCIS number) from your OPT EAD card
  • Social Security Number (SSN): please enter your SSN if you have one already.
  • Employment Authorization Document or Government ID upload: we recommend you upload the biographical page of your passport, and your visa stamp (if applicable) into this section
  • I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status upload: upload your STEM OPT-endorsed I-20.
    • Make sure you have signed the I-20 – in ink – in the student certification section. Please note: Student signatures on an I-20 that are electronic (typed or other digital formats) are not accepted by USCIS.
    • The STEM OPT online application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date that the DSO issues the STEM OPT I-20. If filed with USCIS after 30 days of the STEM OPT I-20 issuance date, your application will be denied. Contact ISSS if you are applying more than 30 days since your STEM OPT was recommended.
  • Additional information: in most cases no additional information is needed in this field
  • Review any alerts or warnings and double check all data before moving to the application fee payment. Once your fee has been paid you will not be able to return to edit the form. The application fee can be paid by credit or with debit card.
  • You should receive an electronic receipt notice by email shortly after you have successfully submitted the form and paid the fee. A paper receipt notice should follow in the mail within a few weeks. If you do not receive the paper notice in the mail, then you should follow up with USCIS. Non-delivery of your receipt notice is an indication that there may be a mail issue that could later affect your STEM OPT EAD delivery.

Step 4- APPROVED STEM OPT APPLICATIONS

  • EAD CARD: Per U.S. regulations 8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(C), “a student who has timely filed an application for a 24-month STEM OPT extension with USCIS may work for the STEM OPT employer while the STEM extension application is pending, for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of his or her prior post-completion OPT EAD”. If an application for a 24-month extension is Approved, USCIS will issue an EAD with a validity period that starts on the day after the expiration date stated on the 12-month OPT EAD. You must provide ISSS with a copy of your STEM EAD Card to update your record by visiting the FIU ISSS Panther Portal.

REPORTING REQUIREMENTS:

You are required to make a validation report to ISSS every six months starting from the date your 24-month OPT starts. The report is due within 10 days of the required reporting date. Visit the FIU ISSS Panther Portal in order to submit your STEM OPT reporting

  • 6 Month Reporting: Use the eform to submit your validation report. The validation report must contain the following information: Legal Name, Residential/mailing address, Employer name, Employer address
  • 12 Month Reporting: Submit eform along with form I-983 (Pg.5) Evaluation of student progress
  • 18 Month Reporting: Use the eform to submit your validation report. The validation report must contain the following information: Legal Name, Residential/mailing address, Employer name, Employer address
  • 24 Month Reporting: Submit form I-983 (Pg.5) Final evaluation on student progress

CHANGING EMPLOYERS: When changing employers while in STEM OPT, students must update ISSS by using FIU ISSS Panther Portal and submit Form I-983 (Pg.1-4) from new employer and Form I-983 (Pg.5) from former employer.

INTERRUPTION OF EMPLOYMENT: If you experience an interruption in employment, you must report it to ISSS by using FIU ISSS Panther Portal 

Delays with your OPT Application? You have not received your receipt notice or your SEVP Portal Access information? READ HERE 

ADDITIONAL USEFUL INFORMATION
 
 

  • Definition of STEM OPT

    Practical work experience in your field of study, typically after completion of a degree for a maximum of 36 months (12 months of “regular” OPT with a 24-month extension possible).

  • Eligibility criteria for the 24-month OPT extension
    • Students who have already been approved for 12 months of post-completion OPT; and
    • Who have earned a bachelor’s or higher degree in a field included on the U.S. Government’s list of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields within the last 10 years; and
    • Who are employed in a paid job directly related to his/her field of study; and
    • Who are working for an employer that is enrolled in the U.S. Government’s E-Verify program.

    Please Note: All four of the above criteria must be met in order for a student to be eligible for the 24-month OPT extension.

  • List of degrees in STEM fields

    If a student earned a degree in a field that appears on the U.S. government’s official list of STEM fields, he/she may be eligible for the 24-month OPT extension. In order to verify that your degree is on this list, look at the code listed under “Primary Major” on page one of your I-20 and then look for that code in the CIP code column of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security STEM Majors List.

  • E-verify

    E-Verify is a database system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration. It allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly-hired employees. Your current employer MUST be enrolled in E-verify and provide you with the E-verify ID number.

    Learn More- What is E-Verify?

  • Application procedures for students and checklist

    Students must apply for the 24-month STEM Extension OPT up to 90 days prior to the expiration of the first 12 months of “regular” OPT. Please follow the instructions provided above.  The application is norw an ONLINE process and our ISSS Team will provide you with the endorsed I-20 for you to submit your STEM OPT Extension to USCIS directly.

    IMPORTANT TO KEEP IN MIND:

    1. Please make sure you read the OPT Maintenance Fee REFUND POLICY
    2. ISSS will prepare a new I-20 for you. In most cases your I-20 will be ready in 5-10 business days. We will notify you via email once it is ready. If you are located close to FIU, you may come to the office to pick up your new I-20. If not the ISSS email will include the I-20 and instructions that include mailing information.
    3. Sending your application: We recommend mailing you application via US Postal Service (USPS) The address you use on the I-765 determines where you should send your application (see I-765 instructions).
    4. If your OPT extension is approved, you must send a photocopy of your new EAD card to ISSS at isss@fiu.edu
    5. Follow all the steps described above to ensure gurateed success of the process.
  • Application time frame for the 24-month OPT extension

    Students must read all the instructions on this page to get started with the STEM OPT Extension submission prior to the expiration of the first 12 months of “regular” OPT. The application must be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of the first OPT period in order to be properly (timely) filed. USCIS will not accept I-765 applications for STEM extensions any earlier than 90 days before the current EAD expiration date.

    Work authorization status while STEM extension is pending: If you successfully file the application for your 24-month OPT extension prior to the expiration of your current 12-month OPT period EAD, you may continue employment even if your previous EAD card is expired until your OPT extension is processed or until 180 days has passed, whichever is sooner.

  • Reporting requirements during the 24-month extension

    Students approved for the 24-month OPT extension have additional reporting requirements in order to maintain their status and work authorization. Students must report to ISSS within 10 days if there is any change of:

    • Legal name
    • Residential or mailing address
    • Employer name
    • Employer address, and/or
    • Loss of employment

    Students must make a validation report to ISSS every six months to confirm name and address, employer name and address, and continuation of employment. The report is due within 10 days of the six-month reporting date. Use the OPT Validation Form to submit your validation report.

  • Types of employment allowed during an OPT STEM extension

    A student authorized for a 24-month extension must work at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify employer in a paid position directly related to his or her DHS-approved STEM CIP code.

    For students who are on a STEM extension, this employment may include:

    • Work for one or more employer. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to each individual student’s degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
    • Multiple employers. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to each individual student’s degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
    • Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. The company for whom the student is providing services must be registered with E-Verify. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
    • Self-employed OR–Staffing Agency. There must be an employer/employee relationship between you and the employer. Self-employment or employment with a staffing agency will not qualify for employment – making you ineligible for STEM OPT.
  • Starting and ending dates

    The start date of the 24-month OPT extension will be automatically set to the day after the expiration of the current 12-month OPT authorization. The end date will be 24 months later.

  • Approval

    If an application for a 24-month extension is approved, USCIS will issue an EAD with a validity period that starts on the day after the expiration date stated on the 12-month OPT EAD.

  • During the 24-month OPT extension

    How to maintain your F-1 status

    Information reporting requirements are more strict during the 24-month OPT extension. Take special care to comply with these obligations. Failure to do so can jeopardize the validity of your OPT and your legal visa status in the U.S.

    • If you experience an interruption in employment, you must report it to ISSS. Students are allowed a maximum of 150 days of unemployment time, which is cumulative including the 12 month OPT and the 24 month STEM extension.
    • You are required to make a validation report to ISSS every six months starting from the date your 24-month OPT extension is approved. The report is due within 10 days of the required reporting date. Use the OPT validation form to submit your validation report. The validation report must contain the following information:
      • Legal Name
      • Residential/mailing address
      • Employer name
      • Employer address
      • Confirmation that you are currently employed by the employer named

    Ending Your OPT

    Your F-1 status remains valid until 60 days after the expiration of your EAD card. During this 60-day grace period, you are no longer authorized to work, however you may legally stay in the U.S. If you depart the U.S. during the 60-day grace period, you are no longer eligible to re-enter under your previous F-1 visa status.

    • If you plan to return home after the end of your OPT, please make sure that you depart the U.S. before the end of your 60-day grace period.
    • If you decide to abandon your OPT and depart the U.S., please submit a departure form located at the ISSS website under forms
    • If you plan to change your visa status, we recommend you begin this process before your OPT is expired. Notify the Registrar’s Office if your immigration status does change during the OPT period.

    For more information, access our Summary of STEM OPT Extension Policies

    For additional information about the 24 month STEM OPT and employer form 983 visit Study in the States.