STEM OPT Extension

STEM OPT Extension (or STEM OPT) is an employment benefit that grants an extended period of work authorization in addition to a currently approved Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization period.  As of May 10, 2016, the extension period is 24 months.  Please see the DHS Study in the States STEM OPT Hub for full information: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub.  STEM OPT is granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (US CIS) and authorizes eligible F-1 students to work an additional amount of time anywhere in the U.S. as long as they meet the STEM Eligibility requirements which include:
  • Currently on post-completion OPT and have completed a STEM OPT-eligible degree (as determined by DHS) in the U.S.  If you look on page 2 of your I-20, you will see your name and primary major listed at the top of the page.  The CIP code listed with your major must match the DHS STEM OPT list exactly in order to be eligible for the STEM OPT Extension.  For the full list of DHS Approved STEM OPT majors, please see: https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2016/stem-list.pdf
  • Employed directly by an employer(s) that is enrolled in USCIS's E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.
  • Working in a job directly related to your STEM OPT major field of study and at a level commensurate with your educational level at a minimum of 20 hours per week.
  • Employer(s) and Student must agree to fulfill all of the 24-Month STEM OPT requirements and submit a completed Training Plan (I-983 Form) with all relevant information and signatures from Employer and Student. For more information and access to the form, please see: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/form-i-983-overview
  • Must be paid employment, no volunteer/unpaid employment allowed on STEM since information about compensation is required for the I-983 form.
  • Cannot be self-employed as sole owner due to I-983 requirements.  DHS Language: “STEM OPT students may participate in entrepreneurial ventures where the student is an employee. However, they may not act as their own employer or as the signatory for the employer for the purposes of this form.” 

"Important Notice: Currently, USCIS charges a fee of $410 for the I-765 form. Please make sure that you pay the correct fee as an incorrect amount could result in a denial/rejection. This fee is subject to change at any time."

 

24-Month STEM OPT Extension Application Procedures

Step 1: Apply to International Services to establish eligibility and receive DSO Recommendation

Please submit the following documents to our office to start the application process.  It is recommended that you apply to our office within 90-120 days before your current OPT expires to allow for sufficient processing times for both our office and USCIS.  If you are not in or near Baton Rouge or cannot turn the documents in person, you should mail them to the following address:
International Services
Attn: Employment Coordinator
101 Hatcher Hall, LSU
Baton Rouge, LA  70803
 
Required Application documents for 24-Month STEM OPT Request:
Our office processes the application materials in the order that they are received.  We will provide mailing instructions so that you can send your packet to a USCIS Service Center for their review and decision.  Please remember that USCIS must receive the 24-Month STEM OPT Application packet no later than 60 days after the DSO Recommendation date AS WELL AS no later than the end date of your authorized OPT period, whichever comes first.  If you have any questions about this process, please email isoemp@lsu.edu.
If you wish to request expedited mail for receiving your STEM OPT Extension documents, please see our website regarding the UEMS/EShip Global service http://www.lsu.edu/intlpro/is/prospective-students/eship.php
Please note, you will be required to submit proof of your U.S. degree when you mail the packet to the government for their part of the processing.  USCIS will accept: copies of official transcripts or a copy of your diploma that indicates level and program of study.

 

Step 2: Apply to USCIS Service Center for review and adjudication of STEM application

Please remember that the standard processing time for USCIS Service Centers is currently 60-90 days.  Students who file a timely application for the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension will be eligible to continue employment while the extension application is pending, until a final decision on the I-765 or for 180 days, whichever comes first.  The beginning date of the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension will be the day after the end date of the initial post-completion OPT employment authorization, and ends 24 months later, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved.  Students should not travel outside of the U.S. if their employment authorization document (EAD) has expired and their STEM OPT Extension request is pending.

  

H-1B Cap-Gap Extension

The H-1B Cap-Gap Extension can be applied to F-1 students who are currently on OPT or their STEM OPT Extension and whose employer has applied for a Change of Status to the H-1B visa.  Employers fall into two categories when they file for an H-1B, depending on the type of company or institution.  Universities and non-profits may be considered “Cap-Exempt”, which means that they can file for an H-1B anytime during the year and choose a start date that is appropriate for them.  Other public and private companies fall under the H-1B Cap, which means that there are a limited amount of H-1Bs that can be granted each year and a very specific application period.  These Cap employers must apply on April 1st of each year and the H-1B would start on October 1st.  The Cap-Gap Extension was created to help students working for a Cap Employer who are on valid OPT or STEM OPT at the time of the April 1st application, but their OPT will expire before October, which would otherwise leave a gap in their employment authorization.  The Cap-Gap Extension would allow a student in this situation to possibly get an extension to their OPT time so that they can continue working up until the H-1B start date in October.  No travel is allowed during the Cap-Gap Extension period, but the student can stay in the U.S. and work continuously until their H-1B begins.  F-1 students whose H-1B is filed during their 60-day grace period would be eligible for an extension of stay in the U.S., but not an employment extension.  Please see the links below for more information about H-1B and the Cap-Gap Extension.