Eligibility

F&M graduates with the following majors (not minors) may qualify for a 24 month STEM extension of their post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT):  

  • Math, Computer Science, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Biology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, BFB: Animal Behavior, BFB: Neuroscience, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, Geosciences, and Psychology*.
    • *Note: only Psychology majors finishing in December of 2018 and later will qualify.

Additionally, Joint majors, or Special Studies majors do not count.  

Each of the majors listed above have a corresponding CIP code determined by the Department of Education, which is what qualifies students for the STEM extension. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) determines which codes qualify for the STEM extension. The Registrar at F&M determines which CIP code applies to each F&M major.  (Therefore, these are not negotiable.)

Other required elements for eligibility:

A. You must have valid F-1 status (active SEVIS record) and currently be on post-completion OPT to apply for a Stem Extension of your OPT.  You will not be eligible if you apply during the 60 day grace period that follows OPT.

B. To qualify for an OPT STEM Extension your employer must also be enrolled in E-Verify to confirm the employment eligibility and identity of all new employees. This is a federal internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration.

C. You must have secured paid employment in your field of study and you must be working at least 20 hours per week.  Self-employment will not qualify.

D. The job must provide formal training and learning objectives directly related to your qualifying STEM major.  You must be able to complete Form I-983, which you can find here:

https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2016/I-983.pdf

SPECIAL Note:  If you don’t use your OPT STEM extension now, you may be able to use it in the future after your next degree following post completion OPT to gain work experience directly related to to your qualifying undergraduate STEM major.  Your current International Student Services Office would assist you with this process, not Dean Haile.

Application Procedure 
Application Details
  • You should apply for a STEM extension of your OPT no more than THREE months before the end of your current period OPT.
  • The application process will be very similar to when you applied for OPT as a senior. 
  • Please compile the documents listed in the STEM checklist (below) for Dean Haile to review no less than four weeks before your OPT ends.
  • You can find an example of the I-765 and other materials on the F&M Only portion of the International Programs Google Drive. Click on OPT Resources, and then the STEM folder. Email the office for this access to this private folder, please.
  • Email Dean Haile all documentation in no more than two PDF’s (including pictures and check/money order).  You may also fax these materials to (717)358-4557 should you not have access to a scanner.  Dean Haring will respond with any suggestions within 3-5 business days. She will also issue your new I-20, which will be emailed to you so you can print out a copy for your application, which you will send to USCIS. The original new I-20 will be mailed to you, which will become your current I-20.
  • Some helpful application links: 

USCIS Processing 

You will receive a receipt in the mail from USCIS acknowledging receipt of your OPT application materials at the Service Center within 2-3 weeks of mailing your materials. It will contain a receipt number, which you can use to track the status of your STEM extension request here:   

https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus

Processing typically takes 90 days.  You should not inquire about the status of your OPT Stem extension until 90 days have passed from the date your materials were received.  That is the amount of time given to USCIS for processing.

You may begin/resume employment immediately for up to 180 days while your materials are being processed.

STEM Extension Reporting Requirements 

A.  Using the following qualtrics form you must (by law) report to us the following within 10 days:  https://fandm.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_5cMgE3Dl40V2usB

  1. Change in name

  2. Changes to US and foreign address

  3. Name of employer, and any change in employer’s name

  4. Employer’s address, and any change in employer’s address

  5. Details regarding your employment (hours worked, position)

B.  Please email a front and back copy/picture of your new Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to Jessica Haile jhaile1@fandm.edu.

C.  You must check in with Dean Haile every 6 months by email at jhaile1@fandm.edu to affirm that your employer, US address, and employer’s address hasn’t changed. This will trigger Dean Haile to validate your SEVIS record, keeping it active and maintaining your lawful F-1 status in the US.

D. You must also turn into Dean Haile an annual self-evaluation about the progress of the training experience.  This is part of the I-983.  You will turn one in after 12 months, and the final evaluation will be due after 24 months.

Unemployment

 

You are entitled to 60 additional days of unemployment during your STEM extension.  You may add to that any unused days of unemployment from your original period of OPT (90 days maximum).

A student who never used any unemployment could actually have 150 days of unemployment to use during a STEM extension.

Travel During STEM Extensions

You still need the following documents to re-enter the US during STEM OPT.

  1. Valid F-1 visa

  2. Valid passport  - It must be valid 6 months into the future.

  3. Current I-20 with a travel signature no older than 6 months (email jhaile1@fandm.edu for a new I-20 if  your signature has expired)

  4. USCIS Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for the STEM Extension

  5. Employer letter explaining the position to which you will return

You may not travel internationally until your new EAD for the STEM Extension arrives.

Considering Changing Employers ??? 

Keep in mind that your new employer must be enrolled in E-Verify before you begin working. You will also need to submit to Dean Haile a new Form I-983.

Remember to notify us of your new employer, employer’s address, and US address if that changed using this qualtrics form:  https://fandm.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_5cMgE3Dl40V2usB