Guides for OPT & OPT STEM Extension

Applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT) and OPT STEM Extension is a benefit of completing a degree program in the U.S. We encourage all F-1 international student graduates to consider applying for OPT in order to gain practical experiences related to their degree. Below is more information on how to apply for OPT and OPT STEM Extension. 

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Register for Fall 2020 OPT workshops -- For juniors, seniors, and graduating students

If you plan to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) upon graduation, join the Office of Global Education for both workshops.
 

Workshop I

This workshop is designed to give you an introduction to the Optional Practical Training (OPT) application process. Anyone interested in attending this meeting is welcome. We highly recommend any juniors, seniors, or graduate students to attend prior to last beginning your last semester. 

Workshop II

You may attend this workshop after attending Workshop I. This workshop will review in detail the process and timeline for submitting an OPT application. All students who are graduating in the current semester or next semester are encouraged to attend. 

Going Virtual for OPT Workshops

In light of the limited face-to-face interactions, OPT Workshops for the remainder of the semester will be done virtually through Google Hangouts. Use the button under the schedule below to register for your workshop. You will receive an OPT Workshop Google Hangout invite via email. At the time of your workshop, use the calendar invite to join the Google Hangout. 

 

Fall 2020

Workshop I -- Overview

     

Workshop II -- The Process

  Time Location     Time Location
Friday, September 18 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Virtual   Friday, September 25 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Virtual
Friday, October 16 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Virtual   Friday, October 23 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Virtual
Friday, October 30 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Virtual   Friday, November 6 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Virtual
Friday, November 13 3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Virtual   Friday, November 20 3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Virtual
Friday, December 4 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Virtual   Friday, December 11 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.  Virtual

Index

Workshop I -- The Overview Tutorial

Workshop II -- The Process Tutorial

OPT I-20 Request Form

OPT Employer Updates & SEVP Portal 


How to Request OPT

Step 1. Confirm Graduation or Course Completion.

  • Undergraduates -- If you are applying for post-completion OPT, make sure that you qualify for graduation. You should follow all of the steps from your academic unit to officially apply for graduation. If you do not end up graduating as planned, you are still responsible for maintaining your status on OPT and finishing your coursework during your OPT validity period.
  • Graduates -- Graduate students may apply for OPT after completing coursework while continuing thesis/dissertation. Most graduate students will wait until they are close to completing their thesis/dissertation to apply for OPT. See tutorial for more information. 

Step 2. Review the OPT Tutorial. The tutorial is linked above.

Step 3. Attend Workshop I. Register for and attend Workshop I. See schedule above.

Step 4. Prepare for Workshop II. Prepare the documents listed below. Collect each document to bring with you to Workshop II. You should also bring an editable file of your I-765 to make any changes at Workshop II.

  • A copy of your passport biographical page
  • A copy of your most recent U.S. visa
  • An original check or money order, made out to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" Verify the current fee amount under "Filing Fees."
    • Note: DO NOT sign the back of your check/money order
  • A copy of your I-94 number printout, found here.
  • Two recent 2" x 2" passport-style photos, taken within the last 30 days, with I-94 number written in pencil on the back
  • The completed Form I-765, found here. Follow the OPT Workshop II Tutorial for assistance.
  • A copy of any previous EAD cards, if you have received one before
  • A job offer letter, if you have already been offered a job

Step 5. Attend Workshop II. Register for and attend Workshop II. Bring all hard copies with you to the workshop and bring an editable file of your I-765.

Step 6. Complete OPT I-20 Request. Complete the OPT I-20 Request form, found here

  • Please allow up to 10 business days for an ISSS advisor to process your request.

Step 7. Mailing/Filing Your Application.

  • Once your OPT I-20 is ready, an ISSS advisor will email you indicating your I-20 is ready.
    • Collect your I-20.
    • Check your I-20. Be sure that you have collected the proper I-20. On page 2, it will clearly indicate that OPT is "requested." Ensure that it is for full-time OPT and that the dates listed are correct. Advising slips attached to I-20s will clearly indicate the purpose for the I-20. Yours should indicate "OPT Application." If you have a doubt about your I-20, please contact ISSS.
    • SIGN your I-20.
  • Read through the "OPT Application Checklist" sheet that will be attached to your I-20 and complete a final check that you have included and signed all required documents.
  • USCIS must receive your application within 30 days of the creation of your OPT I-20. Check the date of issuance on page 1 in the School Attestation box.
  • Mail your application according to the instructions attached to your I-20 as indicated on the "OPT Application Checklist."
  • Optional: complete Form G-1145 to receive text/email notifications when your application is received. Print and attach the form to to the first page of your application. Click here for the form.

Step 8. Check your Receipt Notification. Within 2-3 weeks of USCIS receiving your application, a letter will be mailed to your mailing address as it was reported in your I-765 indicating that USCIS has received your application. A receipt number will be given to you along with the official received date. You may check the status of your application with your receipt number here. Please note that USCIS processing times are hard to predict; they could take up to 90 days or more to make a decision.

Step 9. Receive & Check your EAD Card. Your card will be sent to you soon after a decision on your application has been made. Be sure to check the date on your card. Do NOT begin working until you have received your EAD card AND the start date has occurred.

Step 10. Begin Working & Update the SEVP portal. You must begin working according to the rules of your OPT work authorization. Remember, you have 90 days of authorized unemployment as of the start date listed on your EAD card. Once you begin working, you should log into your SEVP portal and report the necessary personal and employer information.

 

STEM OPT Extension

Index

STEM OPT Extension Tutorial

STEM OPT Extension I-20 Request

STEM OPT Extension Employer Information Form

Validation Report Tutorial

6 Month Validation Report

EMPLOYERS ONLY -- STEM OPT Employee Termination Report

Frequently Asked Questions


 

How to Request STEM OPT Extension

Step 1. Update your SEVP Portal. Be sure that all previous employer information is accurate before applying for STEM Extension. Log into the SEVP Portal by clicking here. For more information about the SEVP portal, click here.

Step 2. Read the STEM Extension Tutorial. Click here.

Step 3. Determine Eligibility. You are eligible if you meet the following conditions:

  • You are currently participating in valid post-completion OPT
  • You are within 90 days of your EAD card's end date.
  • Your major CIP code, located on your I-20 next to your major, is on the list of approved STEM OPT Extension majors. You can view the list here.
  • You have been unemployed less than 90 days during your OPT period.
  • Your employer participates in e-Verify and has an e-Verify number.

Step 4. Gather the Following Documents:

  • Copy of your passport biographical page
  • Copy of your most recent U.S. visa
  • Printout of your I-94, found here.
  • Copy of your current EAD card and any other documents demonstrating OPT approval
  • Copy of your diploma -- contact university registrar by clicking here
  • Copy of your official transcripts -- contact university registrar by clicking here
  • Copy of a check or money order, made out to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security." Verify the current fee amount under "Filing Fees."
  • Two 2"x2" passport-style photos taken within the last 30 days
  • Completed Form I-765, found here. Please type your responses into the form before printing. SIGN your I-765 before uploading into request.
  • Copy of your job offer letter that includes: employer's name, job title, position; employer's email; supervisor's name and email; address of physical work location if different from headquarters
  • Completed Form I-983. 
    • To help you complete the Form I-983, we recommend reviewing the following resources:
      • Follow the instructions provided on the Department of Homeland Security's webpage regarding the I-983. Click Here for the webpage.
      • STEM OPT Form Training from Department of Homeland Security -- Click here.
    • Note: For DSO contact information, put: Jef Davis; jdavi202@kent.edu 330-672-7980. 625 Loop Road, 106 Van Campen Hall, Kent, OH. 44242. For SEVIS school code, put: CLE214F00387000

Step 5. Complete STEM OPT Extension I-20 Request

  • Complete the STEM OPT Extension I-20 Request form, found here.
  • Please allow up to 10 business days for processing

Step 6. Do NOT change SEVP Portal. After you have submitted your STEM OPT Extension I-20 Request, do not make any changes to your employer information in the SEVP portal. Address, email, and telephone updates are still permitted. If you feel that you need to update your SEVP portal, email isss@kent.edu or contact an ISSS advisor for assistance.

Step 7. Mailing/Filing Your Application. 

  • Once your STEM OPT Extension I-20 is ready, an ISSS advisor will email you indicating your I-20 is ready.
    • Collect your I-20. 
    • Check your I-20. Be sure that you have collected the proper I-20. On page 2, it will clearly indicate that STEM Extension is "requested." Advising slips attached to I-20s will clearly indicate the purpose for the I-20. Yours should indicate "STEM OPT Extension Application." If you have a doubt about your I-20, please contact ISSS.
    • SIGN your I-20.
  • Read through the "OPT STEM Extension Application Checklist" sheet that will be attached to your I-20 and complete a final check that you have included and signed all required documents. 
  • USCIS must receive your application within 60 days of the creation of your STEM OPT I-20. Check the date of issuance on page 1 in the School Attestation box. 
  • Mail your application to the correct USCIS Lockbox facility. Select the appropriate lockbox based on the mailing address provided on your Form I-765. Click here for the USCIS Lockbox address list.
  • Optional: complete Form G-1145 to receive text/email notifications when your application is received. Print and attach the form to to the first page of your application. Click here for the form. 

Step 8. Pending Application. While your application is pending, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • You will receive a Form I-797 C, Receipt Notification, in the mail within approximately 2 weeks of USCIS receiving your application. Keep this for your record. 
  • You are able to work for up to 180 days past your current OPT EAD card’s end date.
  • We do NOT recommend changing your employer while your STEM extension application is pending. However, if you do, please email isss@kent.edu immediately. 
  • Check the status of your case-- You can check the status of your case using your receipt number through this link, click here.
  • USCIS usually takes 90 days for OPT/STEM OPT applications. However, these processing times can vary depending on the specific service center processing your application. If you believe your application has reached the normal processing time, we recommend you reach out to USCIS to request an expedited case. The request to expedite is based on "Case Outside Normal Processing Time." Click here for the request. The university cannot control nor influence the processing times of USCIS.  
  • See below for Frequently Asked Questions.

Step 9. Validation Reports & Maintaining your Status.

FAILURE to report every 6 months may result in the TERMINATION of your status.

  • Review the Validation Report Tutorial
  • Report Address Changes. You must update your physical address where you live within 10 business days. You should update your address through the SEVP Portal.
  • Report Employer Changes. Any major changes to your employment should be reported within 10 business days to ISSS, using the STEM OPT Employment Information Report here.
  • Validation Reports. You must report employment every 6 months, even if there have been no changes, click here.
    • 6 months = continuous reporting, no I-983 necessary
    • 12 months = continuous reporting, updated I-983 required with "Evaluation on Student Progress" completed at the top of page 5.
    • 18 months = continuous reporting, no I-983 necessary
    • 24 months = continuous reporting, updated I-983 required with "Final Evaluation on Student Progress" completed at the bottom of page 5.
  • You can view your reporting requirements and dates in your SEVP student portal

STEM OPT Extension for Previously Earned STEM Degrees

If you are currently on OPT and have previously earned a STEM degree for which you did not apply for a STEM OPT Extension, you may be eligible for a STEM OPT Extension of your current OPT. You must meet this requirements:

  1. Your most recent degree must be from a SEVP certified school. Note: this degree does not have to be STEM.
  2. Your previous (STEM) degree must have been earned within the last 10 years.
  3. The previous (STEM) degree must be on DHS's STEM program list found here.
Additional information can be found on the Study in the States DHS website here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I change employers while my STEM extension application is pending?

ISSS does not recommend changing employers, because it can delay the processing of your application. However, if you cannot avoid it, then you must complete a new I-983, report your new employment to ISSS, and then email an updated I-765 with your new employer's information, along with a letter (written by you) explaining the changes in employment, dates, and receipt number to ISSS@kent.edu so that we can send it to USCIS.

Can I get a new driver's license while my STEM extension application is pending?

In many states, the BMV/DMV will not give you a new driver's license until you receive your new EAD.

Can I travel while my STEM extension application is pending?

If your current EAD is still valid, then you may travel using your current EAD, I-20 with travel signature, and visa.

If your EAD has expired and your application is still pending, you should not travel. Wait until you receive your new EAD.

What do I need to report when I change employers?

Every time your employer changes, you must report it to us within 10 days using the employer information form, along with a new I-983.

I am a doctoral student/PhD candidate and I applied for OPT before finishing my dissertation. I have not yet graduated. Can I apply for the STEM Extension?

Applying for the STEM extension requires a copy of your official transcripts and diploma. If you have not yet graduated, you will not be able to apply.

Can I work multiple jobs on the STEM extension?

There are currently no regulations that prevent students from working multiple jobs while on STEM extension. However, each job must meet the requirements of the 24-month extension, and an I-983 must be completed by each employer.

Can I work remotely while on STEM extension?

According to section 4 of the I-983, employers must provide on-site supervision and training for employees on STEM extension. Additionally, ICE must be able to make site visits if necessary. This is not possible for remote positions.

I work for Kent State University. Can I apply for STEM extension?

Kent State is not an e-verified employer. Unfortunately, you cannot apply for STEM extension based on your employment with Kent State, nor can you work for Kent State if you have already been approved for STEM extension.