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F-1 STEM (OPT) Extension

STEM OPT Extension

ISSS Disclaimer 

Introduction: What is the STEM OPT Extension?

F-1 STEM students who have elected to pursue 12-months of OPT in the United States can request to extend the OPT period by 24 months (STEM OPT extension) if the degree used to obtain the 12-month OPT is eligible for the extension.

The field of study/degree must be on the CIP code STEM Designated Degree list published by ICE at the time of eligibility for the STEM OPT Extension. If your degree is not present on the list at the time of application, you will not be able to take advantage of the 24-month extension.

STEM OPT extensions require additional oversight and the implementation of formal training plans by employers by use of the form I-983. It also adds wage and other protections for STEM OPT students and U.S. workers and allows for extensions only to students with degrees from accredited schools that are SEVP approved. STEM OPT extensions may only be applied to students employed by employers who participate in E-Verify as well.

There is a limit of two STEM-OPT extensions during an F-1's academic career. These must be at different education levels.

STEM OPT may be based on most recent STEM degree or a STEM degree earned prior in the F-1's academic career in the U.S. To use the STEM Extension benefit based on a prior degree, the degree must have been issued by a currently SEVP-certified and accredited educational institution and must have been conferred within 10 years preceding the date the DSO recommends STEM-OPT. The STEM degree must be from a currently accredited U.S. college or university that is SEVP approved.

An updated I-20 and recommendation in SEVIS to apply to USCIS for the STEM OPT Extension can only be requested from ISSS. You must be within the 90 days prior to your current EAD card expiration to request OPT from ISSS and apply to USCIS. USCIS must receive your STEM extension application by the end date on your 12-month OPT EAD card. NOTE: Students cannot apply for the STEM Extension during the grace period (after the end date of the regular 12-month OPT).

As long as USCIS receives a complete and timely application that includes the STEM OPT Extension recommendation on the I-20you may continue working for up to 180 days while you are waiting for USCIS’ decision on your STEM OPT extension. Once the I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation is issued by ISSS, you have 60 days to send the application to USCIS, but the application must be received by USCIS by the expiration of your current 12-month OPT EAD card (whichever is sooner).

More information concerning the OPT STEM Extension from USCIS can be found in the link here: OPT Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT).

To find out more information about the STEM OPT Extension, please continue reading each part below and consider attending one of our STEM OPT Extension workshops to become familiar with the process and to get your questions answered. Meetings will be arranged via zoom. 

If you are interested in joining the meeting, please email us by 12pm on the day of the event prior to the workshop: isss-students@mail.wvu.edu. Please include your full name, student ID number, and note which workshop date you would like to attend. We will then provide the zoom meeting info in a follow up e-mail.

STEM OPT Extension Workshops

Be sure to attend one of our workshops to become familiar with the STEM OPT process and to get your questions answered!

July 23, 2024 
                                                           
2:30-4:30pm           *Online Meeting        
July 29, 2024  

2:30-4:30pm *Online Meeting
August 13, 2024

2:30-4:30pm *Online Meeting
August 26, 2024

2:30-4:30pm *Online Meeting
September 10, 2024

2:30-4:30pm
*Online Meeting
September 23, 2024

2:30-4:30pm *Online Meeting


 | Part 1: Planning for the STEM OPT Extension


Student Eligibility Requirements:

  • Currently on a 12-month post-completion OPT and working in a job directly related to your field of study that can meet STEM OPT employment requirements and regulations.

  • Employment must be in a job with an employer registered with the E-Verify Employment Verification System

  • Graduated from WVU with a STEM Designated Degree (the CIP code must match the one on your I-20, however, if the CIP code has changed over the course of your studies and does not currently match, a DSO will update the CIP code on your I-20 during their review and when the newly updated I-20 is provided to you for application to USCIS).

  • You must not have been unemployed or will be unemployed for more than 90 days during the 12-month post-completion OPT.

  • You are within 90 days of your current 12-month OPT EAD card expiration and your EAD card has not yet expired. Please note that all applications to USCIS for the STEM OPT Extension must be received by USCIS by the end date of your current 12-month OPT EAD.

  • You and your employer must agree to and be able to complete the form I-983 training plan which establishes a training plan for you and periods of evaluation.

  • In order to qualify for an extension of post-completion OPT based upon a STEM degree, all of the requirements in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) must also be met concerning your employment including the following:

    • The job must be directly related to the degree that qualifies the student for the STEM OPT extension. 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(C)(4)
    • The job must assist the student in reaching his or her training goals. 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(C)(10)(iii)
    • The STEM OPT opportunity must be more than a "job;" the employer must also provide the training described on the Form I-983 Training Plan. The employer should have sufficient resources and personnel available to provide the training specified in the Form I-983 ( 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(C)(10)(i))
    • The job's compensation and working conditions must be "commensurate with terms and conditions applicable to the employer's similarly situated U.S. workers in the area of employment." 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(C)(8)

Employer Eligibility Requirements:

  • Must be enrolled in E-Verify.

  • Must have an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

  • Ensure that the Terms and Conditions of the STEM-OPT opportunity including compensation, duties, and hours are commensurate with those of similarly-situated US workers.

  • Employer must sign and attest to the following on the Form I-983:
    • Employer has sufficient resources and trained personnel available at the location specified to provide appropriate training in connection with the opportunity.
    • Student on STEM-OPT will not replace a full or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker.
    • Opportunity will help the student attain his or her training objectives.

  • Employer’s signatory on the Form I-983 must be an individual authorized to serve as “Official Representing the Employer”.

  • Employer must provide a salary and full-time (20 or more hours) of employment.

  • Site Visits: DHS will conduct site visit at worksites with notice 48 hours in advance. Notice may not be given in instances of an investigation based on a complaint. Investigators will seek to verify employer’s attestations on the Form I-983.

 | Part 2: The STEM OPT Extension Request Process with ISSS

Introduction:

ISSS requires a draft of the I-765 to be submitted while requesting the STEM OPT Extension, but do not file the Form I-765 online or through mail with USCIS until you have received your updated Form I-20 recommending the STEM OPT Extension from the WVU ISSS office. Doing so will be problematic and may lead to rejection or denial of your STEM OPT Extension.

You must currently be employed or will be employed prior to your unemployment days expiring at a job/position that meets current U.S. STEM OPT regulations for valid STEM OPT employment. With regular 12 month OPT, you may be able to justify a looser connection between job and degree and find employment and perform duties that relate to your degree, however, for a STEM OPT extension, the regulations require that this connection be much more exact, logical, and precise (see eligibility requirements above). 

Establishing the certainty that the connection between the qualifying job and major meet regulations can sometimes be difficult to prove if seeking employment for the STEM extension where the connection is not readily apparent.

The information submitted on your I-983 with your STEM OPT Extension Request and in any OPT Employment Updates will help determine if the above regulations are met and if ISSS can place the recommendation in SEVIS in order to provide the updated I-20 for application to USCIS. 

If ISSS cannot determine a logical connection between degree and the job specifics on the form I-983, ISSS reserves the right to consult with your academic department to help determine if the employment meets regulatory standards and if your degree is required for employer and the work being performed. It will be up to the applicant to submit further evidence to establish the connection between degree obtained and job duties being performed and you will be contacted by ISSS during the request process if a connection cannot be readily established or is not apparent.

Once your request to ISSS is complete and application is sent to USCIS, please be aware that the USCIS has a right to request further evidence or adjudicate the application at their discretion based on information submitted about employment and in SEVIS.

You may begin the STEM OPT Extension process 90 days prior to your 12-month OPT EAD card expiration date. We cannot process the STEM OPT Extension request prior to the 90 days before expiration. If your EAD card expires and you have not yet finished the request process with ISSS or the application to USCIS was not received by the 12-month OPT EAD expiration, you are ineligible for the STEM OPT Extension. Please take all precautions in submitting a timely request to ISSS to ensure enough time to gather application materials and for USCIS to receive your application by the current EAD card expiration date. 


Steps for Submitting an STEM OPT Extension Request to ISSS:

To make a request for an updated I-20 and recommendation in SEVIS for the 24 month STEM OPT Extension in order to file with USCIS, please click on the following link to be directed to the student request portal login page > Apply for the STEM OPT Extension.

  1. Once you are logged in, please go to "Requests and Documents" and select the "STEM OPT Extension Application" icon to begin. Please start by reading the directions for the request carefully. Please fill out all of the required info and answer all of the questionnaires. 

  2. You will need to collect the documents listed below and submit them to ISSS by logging into your ISSS request portal and uploading them to your STEM OPT Extension Request:

    - a completed I-765 (typed).


    Be sure to use the form located on the USCIS website for the most current/appropriate version. If the wrong version is used, USCIS will deny the application, possibly resulting in a loss of F-1 status. Please see our webpage for Common Errors to Avoid and Frequently Asked Questions When Filling Out the I-765. Our review is to help with determining eligibility and we will let you know if we see any mistakes or items that need your attention before you are ready to submit the final version of the I-765 to USCIS. It is not an exhaustive review, only a courtesy, and you are responsible at the time of your application to USCIS to ensure that the I-765 is filled out correctly using the directions found on the USCIS website.

    - copies of all your OPT or STEM OPT related I-20's from WVU or another school.

    - color copies of your passport bio data page, visa page, and most recent admission stamp

    If your passport will expire within 6 months from the time of filing your STEM OPT application with USCIS, you should renew it at an embassy or consulate of your country before you submit your STEM OPT application. If you have filed and waiting for passport renewal, please submit proof of renewal to ISSS so we can work on your request, but please note that approval of a fully submitted application to USCIS without a valid passport is up to the discretion of USCIS and we strongly recommend having a renewed passport prior to application.

    The visa can be expired and/or of a different visa category other than F.

    - copy of your I-94. Click on "Get most recent I-94" in the navigation bar at the top of the page.

    - copy of your valid OPT EAD card(s) (front and back)

    - Letter size, color copy of your STEM-designated degree diploma that you will be utilizing for application to USCIS.

    - a copy of the Employer Verification Form signed by your employer or representative of your employer.

    - a copy of the Form I-983 (All fields on the form must be completed - use "N/A" as appropriate). For instructions on completing this form, please navigate here - Completing the Form I-983. For guidance on filling out the Form I-983, it is always best to consult Study in the State' website. However, you may also refer to our webpage on Common Errors to Avoid and Frequently Asked Questions when filling out the I-983.

    The form I-983 is completed by the employer and student and establishes a Training Plan and Self-Evaluations. It must identify goals for the practical training, including “...specific knowledge, skills or techniques that will be imparted to the student, and an explanation on how those goals will be achieved through the work-based learning opportunity with the employer; describe a performance evaluation process; and describe methods of oversight and supervision.” 

    USCIS may request the completed and signed Form I-983 with regard to an I-765 application. Educational institutions may retain either hard or electronic copy of the plan. The training experience must take place on-site at the employer’s place of business or worksite(s). Online or distance learning arrangements in some instances may not be used to fulfill the employer’s training obligation to the student. The I-983 should reflect any plans for remote work and stated clearly for further review.

  3. Be sure to click "Submit" so we may receive the STEM Extension request and it can enter our queue. YOU MUST THEN Submit an OPT Employment Update for any employment you currently have on your SEVIS record or will have with the STEM OPT Extension to ensure all records of employment are accurate and up-to-date before we issue the I-20 with the STEM OPT Extension recommendation.

    To do so, please login to your student request portal, go to "Requests and Documents", and choose the OPT Employment Update Icon. Please answer all questions and provide information for all fields. Once finished, please be sure to click "Submit".

  4. Our OPT Specialist/DSO will then review your requests and documents within 15 business days and will contact you via mix e-mail once the request is complete with further information about accessing and printing your updated STEM OPT I-20 electronically via your portal. The I-20 will have the recommendation recorded on page 2 and we will also provide an e-mail with further information once the request is complete. You still must print and sign your form I-20 once received electronically before sending it with your application to USCIS. 

    • Please note: ISSS does not guarantee turnaround times; however, we strive to complete each request in the order that it is received and within 15 business days or within government deadlines. You should plan to allow for and expect at least 15 business days (from the date we receive a complete and correct request) for your application to be reviewed and processed. You will be notified by email when your I-20 is ready to access via your request portal. 

      *We cannot expedite requests, but do monitor for deadlines and attempt to process as quickly as possible.

    • Warning: We cannot guarantee completion of requests placed with fewer than 15 business days remaining until your 12-month EAD card expires. You must ensure you place a timely request and allow at least 15 business days for processing. Please e-mail isss-opt@mail.wvu.edu if you have placed a request with fewer than 15 business days remaining on your current EAD card in order to ask about the likelihood that your request can be processed based on work volume and others in queue to be processed. We will do our best to accommodate and process if possible. 

    *PLEASE REMEMBER: Do not file the Form I-765 online or through mail with USCIS until you have received your updated Form I-20 recommending STEM OPT from the WVU ISSS office. Doing so will prove problematic and may lead to rejection or denial of your STEM OPT.


     | Part 3: Apply for the STEM OPT Work Authorization Card (EAD) with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

    Please note: Although our office works diligently to avoid errors, it is ultimately your responsibility to check your I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation for errors before sending it to USCIS and ensure it is delivered to USCIS in a timely manner. Please read all important points below.

    You will need assemble an application packet to send to USCIS to get final approval for STEM OPT work authorization once ISSS is finished updating your I-20 and placing the recommendation in SEVIS. Filing the I-765 with USCIS is your responsibility and ISSS cannot help you file the form or send your application packet for you to USCIS. Though we are happy to assist with general questions, our guidance does not constitute legal advice for the STEM OPT Extension immigration benefit and is based on best practice and the information we have available. Our advice should be seen as general guidance only and you will be responsible for filing the application appropriately and following USCIS directions.

    • You may find information and instructions for assembling your application to USCIS by going to: https://www.uscis.gov/i-765 > Form Details > Forms and Document Downloads > Instructions for form I-765.

      The items generally required with your application will likely include, but not limited to, the following and depend on whether you are filing online or mailing your application. Online filing is generally recommended by USCIS. Please see USCIS directions only for confirmed documents needed and consult the appropriate directions from USCIS for filing for the STEM OPT Extension. Be prepared to submit any or all of the following below to USCIS: 

          > The I-765. This document MUST be submitted accurately and appropriately.      
          > The updated STEM OPT recommended I-20 signed by you. You do not need to send your F-2 dependent I-20's.
          > Any previous authorized STEM/OPT/CPT I-20s. Please be sure they are signed.
          > Copies of your passport bio page, visa foil, and if given, your admission stamp
          > Printout of your I-94 which can be retrieved here: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home
          > Passport size photograph(s) - You must obtain passport photos of yourself taken within 30 days of the filing
             of the STEM OPT application to USCIS. The photos must have a white to off-white background, be printed on thin
             paper with a glossy finish, and be unmounted and unretouched. Please print your name on the back of the photo(s)
             in pencil.

    Fee Payment or means of payment for filing the I-765. Please check the USCIS I-765 page under "filing fee" for current fee information and ways to pay. If paying by card, make sure the card has enough money to cover the fee. USCIS will reject your STEM OPT Extension application if the card is declined and will not attempt to process your credit card payment a second time. Payment is to be made at the time of application to USCIS, not before. Please wait until your I-20 is ready and you have assembled your application materials to send to USCIS before reviewing payment options to send with your application.

    USCIS Premium Processing for the form I-765: USCIS does offer premium processing for F-1 students with the form I-765. However, when making a decision to about premium processing, please note that a student who has filed an application in a timely fashion for a 24-month STEM OPT extension through USCIS may work for the STEM OPT employer while the STEM extension application is pending, for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of the prior post-completion OPT EAD. ISSS cannot advise if premium processing is right for you. Students applying are responsible for making this decision and it does come with an additional fee to USCIS. For information regarding the process, please visit USCIS news release page or the USCIS page specifically for directions for requesting premium processing: USCIS Premium Processing

    USCIS must receive your application within 60 days of the recommendation placed in SEVIS or by your current 12-month OPT EAD card expiration (whichever is sooner). 

    Typical processing times with USCIS can range from 2-3 months or longer. Please plan accordingly with any anticipated employment knowing ISSS and USCIS timelines for processing. Any applications that reach USCIS after the either the 60 day recommendation deadline or after the current EAD expires will not be accepted by USCIS. For updated processing times, please consult USCIS Processing Times Page

    Please visit https://www.uscis.gov/i-765 to file your STEM OPT Extension application with USCIS using the ONLINE FILING system or to access information about filing by mail. Instructions for filing online can be found within the online filing application and please see USCIS tips for filing online.

    • If you are choosing to file online with USCIS, you should proceed with the online application process very carefully. The system allows you to submit your application online without all required evidence, which can lead to requests for evidence and additional difficulties. This means you must be very careful to ensure that everything is included before submitting the online application. Failing to submit all required documents or submitting your application to USCIS without the proper I-20 with recommendation from ISSS will lead to USCIS denying your application or a possible request for evidence.
    If choosing to MAIL your application, the mailing address for STEM OPT applications can be found by clicking on “Where to File” at the bottom of the page and proceed using the link provided. You will then click under the subheading titled "Foreign Students" and will find the mailing address in the first section ("F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)"). Please also see USCIS tips for filing by mail.

    • If you have made a mistake on the USCIS application (I-765) resulting in an error on your EAD, you will need to reapply with USCIS. Depending on when you filed for OPT, this may result in your inability to receive OPT benefits - you may be denied and have to depart the US. Please fill out your application carefully and with attention to detail. If you do need general guidance, you may e-mail isss-opt@mail.wvu.edu, but please do so in a timely manner to ensure we can answer your questions prior to any deadlines.

    *DO NOT MAIL OR SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION FILING ONLINE WITH USCIS BEFORE YOUR UPDATED I-20 IS PROVIDED TO YOU BY ISSS.

     | Part 4: Awaiting USCIS' Decision

    • IMPORTANT: Please remember that a student who has filed an application in a timely fashion for a 24-month STEM OPT extension through USCIS may work for the STEM OPT employer while the STEM extension application is pending, for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of the prior post-completion OPT EAD.

    • Please allow at least 2-3 months or longer for USCIS to process the request (click here to check current USCIS processing times) and for the EAD card to be mailed back to you.

    • Please also note that it is considered risky to travel outside the US in the gap between the end date of the initial OPT and start date of the STEM OPT Extension. If not approved yet for your STEM OPT Extension, travel while the STEM OPT Extension application in pending can be problematic at the U.S. border. We strongly recommend that if it is not an emergency, you refrain from any international travel until you have your STEM OPT Extension EAD card, job offer letter, and signed I-20. If you have an emergency that requires you to travel before you have any of these items, please contact isss-opt@mail.wvu.edu to discuss possible options and things to consider.

    • If you MUST move before you receive your EAD card in the mail, contact the USCIS Contact Center or use the customer service telephone number/directions to contact USCIS found on your receipt notice. You must also update your physical address with ISSS using a Contact Information Update request. Please note: The U.S. Postal Service will not forward your EAD card to your new address.

    • Typically, the student will need to contact USCIS about errors, concerns, or address updates. USCIS will not talk to a P/DSO about a student case. Please visit the USCIS Contact Center webpage for further information.

    • If you change employment while the STEM extension application is pending with USCIS, you will need to submit the following to ISSS as soon as possible:

      > A new OPT Employment Update request to report the new employment information.
      > A new STEM Report Participation request to provide ISSS a new I-983 for the new job.

    ISSS will then need to issue a new STEM extension OPT I-20 and send this new STEM extension I-20 to the processing center responsible for handling your case as soon as possible before adjudication. After submitting the updates above, please then alert ISSS immediately by e-mailing isss-opt@mail.wvu.edu to make us aware that we will need to reach out to USCIS processing center and send the updated I-983 on your behalf. Only a DSO can do execute this procedure. Do not attempt to do so yourself.

    • If you receive communication from USCIS requesting evidence from you (RFE), please contact our office at isss-students@mail.wvu.edu to share this information with us. It is important that you do so in case action from our office is required to assist you. Failure to do so will carry strong consequences.

     | Part 5: After you have been granted OPT by USCIS

    In order to remain in compliance with your F-1 status, you and your employer will be required to follow certain regulations and mandatory reporting. Please read more on reporting requirements here - https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students-stem-opt-reporting-requirements

    Additionally, please provide ISSS a scanned copy of your EAD card by submitting an OPT Employment Update or a STEM Participation Report Request during a standard update to report employment or submit a new OPT Employment Update with the card as soon as you have it. 

    IMPORTANT: You will be required to make regular updates to ISSS about your employment every 6 months when you are on the STEM OPT Extension. You will receive an email from the SEVP Portal to make updates, however, we strongly discourage the use of the portal as the sole means of updating your employment and information in SEVIS. Even if you have access to and update your information yourself in the SEVP portal, U.S. regulations still require that you must update your employment with the ISSS office to ensure it is entered correctly in SEVIS as we are required to assist in maintaining your record and with validating your employment on your SEVIS record. 

    Please make note of the dates for these required updates on your calendar. The schedule starts from your approved start date on your EAD card:

    • 6 Months into STEM OPT Extension: Go here, click on the "Requests & Documents" section, and use the request titled “STEM Report Participation”. Please attach your I-983 with updated signatures and dates to reflect that the information is currently accurate with the first four pages updated to the present day. No self-evaluation is needed with this update.

    • 12 Months into STEM OPT Extension: Go here, click on the "Requests & Documents" section, and use the request titled “STEM Report Participation”. You will need to submit an updated I-983 training plan to ISSS with updated signatures and dates to reflect that the information is currently accurate, and the first four pages updated to the present day. You must also submit your first self-evaluation in box 1, on page five with signatures and dates completed.

    • 18 Months into STEM OPT Extension: Go here, click on the "Requests & Documents" tab, and use the request titled “STEM Report Participation”. Please attach your I-983 with updated signatures and dates to reflect that the information is currently accurate with the first four pages updated to the present day. Retain the first self-evaluation. No other evaluation is needed at this time.

    • 24 Months into STEM OPT Extension: Go here, click on the "Requests & Documents" section, and use the request titled “STEM Report Participation”. You will need to submit an updated I-983 training plan to ISSS with updated signatures and dates to reflect that the information is currently accurate, and the first four pages updated to the present day. You must also complete the final self-evaluation in box 2, on page five with signatures and dates completed.
    Due dates for updates and validating your STEM OPT Employment are are firm and necessary to maintain status. Please note that if you hold multiple jobs, you will need to submit separate updates at 6 month intervals for all employment.

    Please continue to Part 6 below for further details about required reporting and regulations that must be followed.

    If you have questions regarding OPT authorization, employment, or regulations, please e-mail isss-opt@mail.wvu.edu.

     
     | Part 6: Student and Employer Regulations & Required Reporting

    • Unemployment - Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT period and any subsequent 24-month STEM OPT extension period. Employment that is not reported to ISSS and exceeds 150 aggregate days for STEM OPT, may result in auto-termination of your SEVIS record by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

    • Changes to your physical address or other contact info - You must notify ISSS of any change in your contact information throughout your STEM OPT Extension. If you move to a new address, it is important that you complete and forward a new Contact Information Update request to our office. This action must be taken within 10 days of moving to the new address.

    • STEM OPT Extension validation reports - These reports are required for EACH employment you engage in while on STEM OPT. You must submit a STEM Report Participation request to ISSS every six (6) months from the start date on your STEM OPT EAD card even if the information about employment has not changed. If it has changed or ended, a OPT Employment Update request may also be required along with a final I-983. Requirements for reporting start from the 24-month STEM OPT extension EAD start date, occur every 6 months, and ends when the student’s F-1 status expires or the STEM OPT ends. Due dates for the validation report are due within 10 days of each reporting date. Please see Part 5 above for further instructions for reporting your STEM OPT Employment to ISSS.

    • Annual Self-Evaluation (“Evaluation of Student Progress”) - required with the 12 month validation report. This is for student to report to DSO on progress of practical training. Evaluation must be turned in at the completion of one (1) year of STEM OPT EAD validity, and no more than 10 days after one (1) year of STEM OPT EAD validity by submitting STEM Participation Report Request with updated I-983 that includes the first self-evaluation on box 1 of the final page of the I-983.

    • Final Self-Evaluation (second “Evaluation of Student Progress”) - Evaluation is due within 10 days of the end of the reporting period at 24 months and can be reported by submitting a STEM Participation Report Request with updated I-983 that includes the final evaluation in box 2 on the final page of the I-983. The student is responsible for turning in signed and completed Evaluation of Student Progress on form I-983 with their STEM Participation Report, but employer signatory must also sign the form I-983.

    • Ending Employment - Student and Employer are responsible for reporting any end to employment within 10 days of ending such employment. This includes termination of employment or voluntarily leaving employment. You must inform ISSS immediately upon termination of STEM employment with an OPT Employment Update request stating the end date of employment and also a STEM Participation Report with final evaluation filled on on the form I-983 for the employment.

    • Changes to the I-983 - Changes to the I-983 training plan must be reported “at earliest available opportunity” to the DSO, and this include any deviations from the plan. Student and employer are responsible for reporting material changes to the training plan. Material changes may include, but are not limited to, changes to EIN, reduction in compensation unrelated to reduction in hours, and significant decrease in hours worked per week—including a decrease below the minimum 20-hours per week. A modified plan will need to be submitted by the student to the DSO and can be made by submitting an OPT Employment Update and a STEM Participation Report Request with updated I-983.

    • New STEM OPT Employment - Any new or additional STEM employment will require a OPT Employment Update about the new or additional employment. New employment should be reported within 10 days of the acquisition of the employment. ISSS will still need to assess and review if the new/additional employment meets U.S. regulations for valid STEM OPT employment. A STEM Participation Report Request with updated I-983 will also be required. All new employment must still be full-time (more than 20 hours per week) and follow all regulations for valid STEM OPT Employment.

    • Travel while on OPT - If you need to travel outside of the U.S., you must be sure to obtain a travel endorsement from ISSS. A travel endorsement from our office is good for up to six months while on STEM OPT. Please contact our office at least 2 weeks in advance in case you need the endorsement re-validated. 

      When travelling, you are required to be in possession of your STEM OPT EAD card to successfully re-enter the U.S. and must have a valid visa and passport.

      Proof of employment/seeking employment and proof of financial stability in the form of a bank statement is also recommended at the U.S. border, but may not be required.

      Travel Endorsements on the STEM OPT I-20 can be issued electronically and you can request a Travel Endorsement by logging into your
      student request portal, going to "Requests and Documents", clicking on the Travel Endorsement icon, provide the required info and documents, and remember to click "Submit" when complete.

    • Changing status while on OPT - If you change status (e.g. F-1 to F-2 or to an H-1B work visa), please provide ISSS with a copy of your approval notice through an immigration status update request by logging into your student request portal, going to "Requests and Documents", clicking on the Immigration Status Update icon, provide the required info and documents, and remember to click "Submit" when complete.

    • Completing or discontinuing your STEM OPT - If you have completed your STEM OPT and/or plan to return to your home country and discontinue STEM OPT, please e-mail us at isss-OPT@mail.wvu.edu to let us know and confirm in your e-mail that you are finished with STEM OPT or ending your STEM OPT and returning to your home country. We will then need to work to complete your SEVIS record as required.

    Additional Information Concerning Worker's Rights: Know Your Rights (Wilberforce Pamphlet) from the Department of State. An information pamphlet describing your rights while working in the United States.

     | Part 7: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Q. What is the 24-month STEM extension of OPT?

    A. The STEM Extension allows F-1 students who have received a degree in specific fields listed as science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, to apply for a one time, 24-month extension of their regular OPT period. Students cannot apply for 24 months of OPT up front. Within 90 days prior to expiration of the first OPT period (12 months), students file an application for the 24-month OPT extension and will be able to continue employment for up to 180 days while the extension application is pending if properly filed with USCIS.

    Q. How do I apply for the 24-month extension?

    A. Students graduating with degrees in the STEM Designated Degree list will first apply for the regular 12 month period of OPT. Within 90 days of the end of that first OPT period, if all criteria above are met, students can request an updated I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation through ISSS and then apply with USCIS using the form I-765 for the 24-month extension of OPT.

    Initial Criteria for the 24-Month Extension:

    • Employer must be enrolled in E-Verify.
    • Current degree is listed on the ICE STEM Designated Degree list.
    • Student must have maintained F-1 status while on OPT and not exceeded allowed unemployment days.
    • Apply within 90 days of the current OPT EAD card end date and application to USCIS receive by end date.
    • Must develop a training plan through required I-983 form and meet regulations for valid STEM OPT Employment.
    • The employment must be traditional, full-time, and paid/salaried employment.
    • See additional information

    Q. What is E-Verify?

    A. E-Verify is an Internet-based system operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). E-Verify is currently free to employers and is available in all 50 states. E-Verify provides an automated link to federal databases to help employers determine employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security Numbers.

    Q. Can a student change employers if the STEM extension application is pending with USCIS?

    A. Yes. However, if the STEM extension period has started, the new employer must also be an E-Verify employer. The student must report the change in employment to his or her International Student Advisor by e-mailing isss-OPT@mail.wvu.edu. If you change employment while the STEM extension application is pending with USCIS, you will also need to submit to ISSS through the request portal a new OPT Employment Update request to report the new employment information AND new STEM Report Participation request to provide ISSS a new I-983 for the new job. ISSS will then review the employment to ensure it meets regulations for valid STEM OPT Employment. The International Student Advisor/DSO must update the student’s employer information in SEVIS and issue an updated I-20 with the new employer information (including EIN). The International Student Advisor will then email a copy of the I-20 and I-983 to USCIS.

    Q. Are there any other requirements during the 24-month extension?

    A. Yes. Please read ALL of Parts 5 & 6 above, but you are required to keep your employment information up-to-date at all times. You MUST submit regular 6 month updates regarding ALL employment.  You MUST notify ISSS of any changes to employment or the I-983 training plan within 10 days of the change as well.  You may use an OPT Employment Update request to report information about new, existing, or ending employment and use a STEM Report Participation request to upload the I-983 that reflects the change or required 6 month update. 

    Q. What is the F-1/H-1B “cap-gap”?

    A. Cap-gap occurs when an F-1 student’s status and work authorization expire in the current fiscal year before they can start their approved H-1B employment in the next fiscal year beginning on October 1.

    An F-1 student in a cap-gap situation does not have to leave the United States and return at the time his or her H-1B status becomes effective at the beginning of the next fiscal year. The F-1 status of students is automatically extended when the student is the beneficiary of an H-1B petition for the next fiscal year (with an October 1 employment start date) filed on his or her behalf during the period in which H-1B petitions are accepted for that fiscal year.

    The automatic extension terminates when USCIS rejects, denies, or revokes the H-1B petition.

    If the H-1B petition filed on behalf of the student is selected, the student may remain in the United States and, if on post-completion OPT, continue working until the October 1 start date indicated on the approved H-1B petition. The student may benefit from this provision only if he or she has not violated his or her status.

    Q. H-1B Cap-Gap Procedure

    A. The H-1B cap gap notation is automatic in your SEVIS record once it is received/approved. You may e-mail isss-opt@mail.wvu.edu and we can simply verify if the cap-gap notation is added to your SEVIS record. If it is not, we can alert you and work with you on what is needed for SEVP to reflect this change in SEVIS.

    To obtain this “automatic” extension indicated on your I-20, the student will have to notify our office (ISSS) that they are eligible for the H-1B cap gap extension and may request a new I-20 showing the extension, which is typically automatically added as a notation in the SEVIS record once received/approved. If your H-1B Cap Gap is not automatically shown in your SEVIS record or if you are needing proof on the I-20 that the H-1B Cap Gap notation is added to your SEVIS record, please scan the following documents and e-mail them to isss-opt@mail.wvu.edu with a request for an updated I-20 showing the H-1B cap-gap notation.

    • a copy of your OPT (EAD) card (front and back) if you have not provided it already in a prior update
    • a copy of your H-1B Receipt or Approval notice

    Q. Can I travel outside the United States while I wait for the EAD or after approval?

    A. While application is pending: Traveling during this time is not recommended as it is risky. USCIS may request for additional evidence while you are away. Also if USCIS approves your application, you will be expected to have your EAD in hand to renter the U.S. A request for further evidence or the EAD card will only be sent to a U.S address. Please contact ISSS to discuss any potential travel while your application is pending with USCIS.

    After the application is approved: In order to re-enter the United States you must have the following: EAD authorizing STEM OPT, valid passport, a valid visa, I-20 signed within the last six months, A job offer letter or proof of employment, with salary or bank information is also highly recommended.

    Q. I want to leave the United States for a short time while my OPT application is pending, but I may return before the EAD card arrives. I have another valid visa type such as a tourist visa (B-2) that is valid for 10 years. Can I just enter the United States with my tourist visa, then start work with the EAD once it arrives?

    A. No. If you intend to continue working with OPT, never enter in any other immigration status except F-1. If you leave the United States and re-enter in B-1/B-2 status, you are considered to have abandoned your F-1 status and your OPT will end!

    Q. What documents do I need to re-enter the United States during post-completion OPT or STEM OPT?

    A. Please carry with you the documents below:

    • I-20 Form recommending OPT and endorsed on the travel line by ISSS within the last 6 months
    • EAD authorizing OPT/STEM OPT
    • valid passport
    • a valid F-1 visa
    • Job offer letter or proof of employment (highly recommended)
    • And proof of financial support/bank statement (highly recommended)

    Q. What if I have applied for the 24-month extension but I have not yet received the EAD, can I travel out of the United States and return in F-1 status?

    A. No, USCIS advises against tourism travel while you are waiting for the approval of the 24-month extension. Please travel at your own risk and e-mail ISSS to discuss options and risks with this type of travel. Travel while the STEM OPT application is pending with USCIS and before the EAD card is issued is likely to be problematic.

    Q. The visa stamp in my passport has expired, but I want to travel outside the United States during the OPT/STEM OPT period. Do I need to get a new visa stamp at an embassy?

    A. If you are going to Canada, Mexico, or a listed adjacent island by the Department of State and staying for less than 30 days, you may re-enter the United States using the automatic revalidation process with your expired F-1 visa stamp, your I-94 card, a valid passport, your EAD card, an I-20 that has been signed by ISSS within the last 6 months, AND your job offer letter or proof of employment as long as: 1) you do not apply for a visa while in the country and 2) you are NOT a national of Iran, Syria, Sudan, Cuba or North Korea.

    Automatic revalidation, however, is NOT visa renewal.

    If you are traveling elsewhere or travelling for more than 30 days to one of those countries above, you will need to go to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad and request an F-1 visa renewal prior to returning to the U.S. Research the visa application requirements on the website for the U.S. Embassy abroad where you intend to apply or contact them directly for further info. 

    It is impossible to renew an F-1 visa inside the United States.

    Q. In what ways is my application to the embassy for a new visa stamp affected by post-completion OPT?

    A. The risk of denial of an application for a renewed visa stamp for OPT is somewhat higher than while you are in your active student program. The F-1 student visa requires that the applicant show intent to return to the home country at the end of the program, and if the embassy official is not convinced of your intention to return home, the visa application could be denied. However, the majority of students do not have problems with the visa renewal process during the OPT period and should research the visa application requirements on the website for the U.S. Embassy abroad where you intend to apply or contact them directly to inquire. 

    Q. Do I still need to get the travel line on my I-20 signed by ISSS during the year of OPT and the STEM extension period?

    A. Yes! During the initial OPT and STEM periods, students must have a travel endorsement on the I-20 that is valid for six months. Please contact our office at least 2 weeks in advance in case you need the endorsement re-validated. Travel Endorsements on the STEM OPT I-20 can be issued electronically and you can request a Travel Endorsement by logging into your student request portal, going to "Requests and Documents", clicking on the Travel Endorsement icon, provide the required info and documents, and remember to click "Submit" when complete.