STEM OPT

 

To apply, read all the information below, download and complete the required forms, then submit them through Nole Start, (https://istart.fsu.edu). Do not email application forms to your advisor or drop them off at the CGE.
Betty Jensen: A-H
Angélique Stevens: I-O
Jared Tirone: P - Z

Do NOT file an online I-765 application with USCIS until you have the new I-20 with the recommendation for STEM OPT from your CGE advisor!

What is STEM Optional Practical Training?

The STEM OPT extension allows for 24 months of additional OPT employment authorization for students in specific STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields. Employment must be directly related to an F-1 student’s program of study in an approved STEM field.
Read the information below and follow the outlined steps to apply.


Eligibility Requirements

In order to be eligible for STEM OPT, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Hold valid F-1 status
  • Be in a period of regular OPT following completion of a STEM degree. Under certain circumstances, if you earned a prior STEM degree from a currently accredited SEVP-certified school, you might be eligible for STEM OPT (see your F-1 advisor for details).
    • To verify STEM eligibility, look at your I-20 for the CIP code associated with your major field of study. Then look on the list of major fields that qualify for the 24-month STEM extension: to DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List

Eligible Employment

  • Position must be paid. Volunteer or unpaid positions are not acceptable.
  • Job must be directly related to the STEM field of study listed on your I-20
  • Job must be full-time (20 or more hours/week satisfies full-time requirement)
    • Special exception during pandemic: 20 hours or more not required
  • Employer must have a valid EIN.
  • Employer must be registered with E-Verify: https://www.e-verify.gov/
  • Employer, in collaboration with you, must complete a Mentoring and Training Plan on a Form I-983. The form must show, among other things, that the employment is directly related to your STEM degree program. The employer has additional responsibilities associated with employment/training

Application Timeline

  • USCIS cannot receive the application more than 90 days prior to expiration of current OPT.
  • USCIS must receive the application before the expiration on the EAD issued for OPT.
  • USCIS must receive your application no more than 60 days after your CGE advisor entered the STEM OPT recommendation into SEVIS.
  • Authorization to work begins on the day after regular OPT ends, regardless of the date USCIS approves your STEM OPT application. It will end no later than 24 months after that date. With a timely-filed application, you may work for your E-verify employer while the extension application is pending, until adjudication or for 180 days.

Request Process (read all instructions before starting)

  1. Required: Complete the CGE's Online STEM OPT Workshop
  2. Submit Request for STEM OPT Recommendation: Download and complete the forms listed below. Then log into Nole Start at https://istart.fsu.edu, go to F-1 Student Services, and choose "Submit Forms/Applications." Select STEM OPT Request in the drop-down menu and upload all the required forms.
    DO NOT SUBMIT AN INCOMPLETE REQUEST OR YOU WILL DELAY PROCESSING! (You can save a draft if you upload some forms and need more time to complete the application.)
    Do NOT file the online I-765 application with USCIS without the new STEM OPT I-20 your CGE advisor will create

    These are the forms that you must download, complete, and have ready to upload:

  3. While waiting for the CGE to process your request, you can prepare the following:
  4. After processing your request, your advisor will email you instructions and a new I-20 with the recommendation for STEM OPT
  5. You can file the I-765 online with USCIS or mail your complete application with a paper I-765 to the correct USCIS address, https://www.uscis.gov/i-765

    To use eShip to send a paper application, follow these instructions:

    eShip Instructions

    1. Go to study.eshipglobal.com to log in or create a free account.
    2. Click on the “OPT Application” image or the “Send Packages to USCIS” button.
    3. Enter your sender address and select the appropriate USCIS location as the recipient. You can refer to this link if you would like to double check the service center. [Find the correct lockbox and the relevant address here (look under “Foreign Students”).
    4. On the University Information, Search for Florida State University (for an additional 10% discount on already discounted pricing). You will select the service option and make a payment.
    5. Print your label, attach it to the shipping envelope. You can either schedule a free pick up from your location by clicking on “Schedule Pick Up” or you can drop off your package at the nearest carrier location. If you don’t have an envelope, you can get one free of charge at the nearest shipping carrier location.

    If you have any questions or concerns around this mailing option or need further assistance with shipment creation, pick up or delivery, please reach out directly to UEMS support team (studentsupport@eshipglobal.com) for immediate assistance.

    • USCIS will send an I-797 Receipt Notice to the address you used on your I-765
    • USCIS will send an I-797 Approval Notice and an Employment Authorization Document/EAD to the address you used on your I-765 (Normal USCIS processing time is 3-5 months)

    Reporting Requirements and Other Responsibilities (VERY IMPORTANT)

    • You must submit 6-months updates (even if there are no changes in employment or personal information), reporting them to the CGE using the online STEM OPT Reporting/I-983 Submission Form. Your CGE advisor will acknowledge the updates in SEVIS. Failure to submit the reports could result in termination of your F-1 status.
    • You must complete two annual self-evaluation, one within 12 months of the STEM OPT start date and the second one at the end of STEM OPT (both part of the Form I-983). These are part of the 12-month and 24-month reports. Submit them through the online STEM OPT Reporting/I-983 Submission Form.
    • You must report any material changes to the Form I-983 information by completing and submitting a new Form I-983 to the CGE through the STEM OPT Reporting/I-983 Submission Form. Changes include:
      • Change in employer
      • Any change of the employer's Employer Identification Number, resulting from a change in employer's ownership or structure.
      • Any reduction in student compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked.
      • Any significant decrease in hours per week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity.
      • Changes to the employer's commitments or student's learning objectives as documented on the I-983.
    • You must report personal information changes (legal name, address or telephone) in the SEVP Portal that you created when USCIS approved your regular OPT.
    • You must report loss of employment to your CGE advisor and submit a final evaluation through the STEM OPT Reporting/I-983 Submission Form.
    • The unemployment limit is an additional 60 days during STEM OPT, for a total of 150 days for combined OPT and STEM OPT unemployment
    • Notify your CGE advisor if you end STEM OPT and leave the U.S. or change status
    • The employer has additional responsibilities associated with employing your through STEM OPT, as indicated on form I-983.

    Resources

    Study in the States STEM OPT Hub: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub

    USCIS Information on OPT and the H-1B Cap Gap: https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-the-united-states/temporary-workers/h-1b-specialty-occupations-and-fashion-models/extension-of-post-completion-optional-practical-training-opt-and-f-1-status-for-eligible-students

    Check your Case Status Using your I-797 Receipt number: https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do


    STEM FAQ

    Can I be self-employed or start my own business?

    No! Self-employment doesn’t qualify for STEM OPT extension. STEM OPT requires an employer-employee relationship. Student cannot complete the I-983 on their own behalf - must have employer who can make the required attestations. Work for Hire (contractual relationship) is also not permitted.

    What if I need to make changes to my Training Plan?

    If you need to make material changes to your Training Plan, you and your employer must both sign the modified version of the Training Plan and file the updated version with your International Student Advisor as soon as possible. Material changes may include, for example, a significant decrease in hours per week that you will be engaging in the practical training or a reduction in compensation without a reduction in hours worked.

    I am currently on post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree but I also have a prior degree in a STEM field. Am I eligible for the 24-month STEM extension based on my previous degree?

    You may be eligible for the 24-month STEM OPT extension if you meet all of the other eligibility requirements and you did not previously complete a STEM extension based on that degree. In order to be eligible, you must have earned a degree in an eligible field at an accredited and US government-certified school within the last 10 years.

    Am I eligible for a second STEM OPT authorization?

    Yes, but only if you have a second STEM degree at a higher education level than the first STEM degree, AND the second STEM extension does not immediately follow the first extension. The STEM extension must always follow the conclusion of the Standard OPT period.

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