24 Month OPT STEM Extension

Certain F-1 students who are currently authorized for post-completion OPT may qualify to apply for a 24-month extension of that OPT authorization, bringing the total OPT available to 36 months. Students should read the information below thoroughly to determine eligibility and contact ISSA before beginning the STEM application process.

Eligibility

To be eligible for the 24-month extension, a student must have received, or be completing, a degree included in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Designated Degree Program List. The current list of STEM degrees can be found at http://www.ice.gov/sevis/stemlist.htm.  A list of all Notre Dame degrees, and their corresponding government (CIP) codes, can be found here.  If you are unsure if your degree qualifies, please contact ISSA for assistance.  (Please note that CIP codes are used for many purposes, and are tied to Department of Education filings.  They cannot be artificially changed to meet STEM OPT eligibility.)

The STEM extension may be requested on the basis of the most recent degree earned from Notre Dame, or on a prior STEM degree if the following requirements are met:  

  • The STEM degree must have been issued within the 10 years preceding the request for the extension
  • The STEM degree must have been issued by an educational institution located in the US, and with US accreditation
  • The job the extension is based on must be related to that STEM degree

Additional eligibility requirements for all applicants:

  • The student must have maintained valid F-1 status
  • The student must be currently on post-completion OPT
  • The employment must be full-time  (For immigration purposes, full-time is defined as more than 20 hours per week)
  • The student must be offered a job by an employer currently using the E-Verify program (See details below)
  • The student must not be self-employed
  • The student must not have been granted more than one STEM extension in the past  (The STEM extension is only available twice per lifetime, regardless of the number of STEM degrees earned)
  • The STEM application must be received by the USCIS prior to the end of the initial period of post-completion OPT
  • The student and employer must complete form I-983 and agree to adhere to it  (See details below)

The E-Verify Program

The E-Verify program is an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). E-Verify is a free, easy-to-use web-based system available to employers and in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. You can check this link to learn if your employer is registered with E-verify, but please contact your employer to confirm and to obtain their E-Verify number.

Application Process for the 24-Month STEM Extension

Step 1:  Read all of the information on this page to determine if you qualify for the STEM extension.

Step 2:  Submit the 24 Month STEM OPT Extension Application in ISSAlink.  (Once your ND password has been turned off, you should use the Limited Services Login on the left side of the ISSAlink login page.)  You will be asked to upload copies of the following documents:

  • Current EAD card 
  • Completed new I-765 form (See tips below)
  • Completed form I-983 (See information below)

Step 3:  ISSA will send your new I-20 form, along with instructions on how to complete the extension application, to the address you provided in ISSAlink.  If you wish for ISSA to send you the I-20 form via express mail, you will need to arrange the shipment through eShipGlobal.  Otherwise ISSA will send the I-20 via regular U.S. mail.

Step 4:  Follow the instructions to complete your application and mail it to the USCIS.  (The instructions will include the USCIS filing address for the application.)

Tips for completing the I-765

  • Above item 1, mark the box "Renewal of my permission to accept employment".
  • If you might move while this application is pending with the USCIS, consider using your employer's address or ISSA's address in item 3.
  • Item 11 should be answered "Yes".  Be sure to add the location and dates, which are located on your EAD card.
  • Item 16 should be answered "(c)(3)(C)."
  • Your employer will need to provide you with the E-Verify information for item 17.  Please be sure that the number provided is the employer's E-Verify Company ID, and NOT the employer's Taxpayer ID.
  • Item 18 should be left blank.
  • Be sure to sign and date the form in ink.

Information about form I-983

Form I-983 is a form that will be used to define the formal training plan for the remainder of the OPT experience.   You may access the form and find detailed instructions here.  Section 1 requires some information about Notre Dame.  Here is the information you will need:

  • Name of school recommending STEM OPT:  University of Notre Dame du lac
  • Name of school where STEM degree was earned:  University of Notre Dame du lac
  • SEVIS School Code of school recommending STEM OPT:  CHI214F10484000
  • DSO School Official name and contact information:  Roy Bronkema, issa@nd.edu

Because form I-983 is an agreement between the employer and employee, ISSA cannot provide guidance on the content.  Employers with questions should start by reviewing the information on the Study in the States website.  If questions remain, they should contact the company’s HR department or immigration legal staff, or the Department of Homeland Security

It is imperative that every section on pages 1-4 of this form be completed.  ISSA is required by law to review the form for completion upon receipt.  If any part of pages 1-4 of the form is not complete, we are not allowed to process your request for the STEM OPT extension.

Timing

Once ISSA creates your new I-20 form for the STEM extension, it is only valid for 60 days.  If you find that you must delay the application more than 60 days after the I-20 was signed by an advisor, it is very important that you contact ISSA for assistance.  USCIS will reject an application if the OPT request is more than 60 days old on the date it is received.  Your signature on the I-765 form is valid for only 30 days.  If you find that your signature is too old, you can complete a new I-765 form to replace the expired form.

USCIS must receive your extension application no sooner than 90 days before your current OPT end date, but no later than that end date.  While USCIS must receive your application before your OPT ends, it is not necessary for your extension application to be approved before the expiration of your current EAD card.  If your EAD card expires while your application is pending, your OPT authorization is automatically extended to allow time for processing.  You may continue to work while the application is being processed for up to five months.  It is not necessary to obtain documentation from ISSA for this timeframe.

Student Responsibilities During the STEM Extension

  • Continue to report U.S. address to ISSA within 10 days of the change by completing the OPT US Address Report eform in ISSAlink.
  • Report the name, address, and phone number of your U.S. employer, any changes in name and address of the employer, and any interruptions in the employment to ISSA within 10 days by completing the Add New OPT Employment and End Existing OPT Employment eforms in ISSAlink.  Remember that all employment must be with an E-Verify company!
  • Every six months you must report to ISSA by completing the STEM Extension Validation Report in ISSAlink, even if no details of your employment or address have changed.  This is required by the OPT regulations.  Failure to complete this step may result in the termination of your F-1 status and OPT.
  • If you change employers, or if there are substantial changes to the I-983 training plan that was submitted earlier, you must submit an updated I-983 in ISSAlink within 10 days of the change.  Failure to complete this step may result in the termination of your F-1 status and OPT.
  • You must complete an official self-evaluation before the 12 and 24 month marks of the STEM extension and submit these to ISSA via ISSAlink.  These should be completed on page 5 of the I-983 form that is on file with your employer.  Failure to complete this step may result in the termination of your F-1 status and OPT.
  • Accrue no more than an aggregate total of 150 days of unemployment during the combined 36 months of OPT.
  • Notify ISSA immediately if your immigration status changes and provide documentation by e-mail at issa@nd.edu.
  • Notify ISSA if you permanently depart the U.S. before your OPT ends.
  • Notify ISSA if you plan to begin a new full-time academic program before the end of your OPT.  The transfer of your SEVIS record to the new school or the beginning of a new full-time program at the University of Notre Dame will end your OPT authorization.
For questions, please contact ISSA at issa@nd.edu or 574-631-3825.

Updated 06/08/2016

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