OPT STEM Extension

An updated rule related to the STEM extension was recently published in the Federal Register, and went into effect on May 10, 2016. This information pertains to the updated rule. If you are currently on a 17 month STEM extension of your OPT, and have questions about your STEM extension, please contact Reves Center staff for individual advising.

Eligibility

If you are in your 12 month period of post-graduation OPT, you may apply for an extension of the OPT for an additional 24 months (for a total of 36 months) provided that you meet all the following criteria:

  • Verified completion of a degree on the STEM Designated Degree Program List (pdf), completed either at William & Mary, or at another U.S. institution that is accredited and SEVP-certified. The CIP code which determines degree eligibility is on page 1 of the I-20, next to the major.
William & Mary and VIMS programs that are currently eligible for STEM extension include:
  • Applied Science
  • Biology
  • M.S. in Business Analytics*
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Computer Science – COR
  • Geology
  • Marine Science
  • Mathematics*
  • Neuroscience
  • Physics

*  The undergraduate Business programs do not qualify for OPT STEM Extension.
*  The Computational & Applied Mathematics & Statistics major as part of the Interdisciplinary Program does not qualify for OPT STEM Extension.

Additional Eligibility Information
  • STEM extension is based on program or major. Minors and concentrations may not be used.
  • To be eligible for STEM OPT, you must currently be in your 12-month post-graduation period of OPT, working for a U.S. employer in a paid job or training opportunity directly related to your major area of study (as listed on your I-20). Self-employment does not qualify. Unpaid opportunities and volunteering do not qualify.
  • Your employer must be registered with the E-Verify employment verification system.
  • You have a lifetime limit of two 24-month OPT extensions (one per eligible STEM degree).
  • You must complete a I-983 training plan, and submit it to the Reves Center, and must submit an updated I-983 to the Reves Center any time there are employment changes. The I-983 instructions (pdf) from SEVP may be helpful.
  • Your employer must agree to report your termination or departure to the Reves Center, and to follow other requirements listed within the training plan.
  • You can apply up to 90 days before your current OPT expires, but your application must reach USCIS before your OPT expires.
STEM OPT and Previous Degrees

If you previously completed an eligible STEM degree, and are currently on post-completion OPT, you can apply for a STEM extension if you meet all of the criteria listed above. Your work while on your STEM extension must be related to your STEM degree, even if you did post-completion OPT for a non-STEM degree. To be eligible, your degree must have been conferred within 10 years preceding the date the Reves Center issues your STEM extension I-20.

Applying for OPT STEM Extension

You can apply for an OPT STEM Extension up to 90 days before your current OPT expires, but your application must reach Immigration before your OPT ends. We recommend that you submit your application at least 2 weeks before your EAD expires. Some companies may prefer that you apply and have your STEM Extension approved before your OPT expires, so you may want to apply even earlier, as OPT processing times are sometimes 3 months or more.

Step 1: Complete the Optional Practical Training Application e-form:

  • Access the form via iStart.
  • Log into iStart with your W&M ID and password (click on blue login button). IT can help if you forgot your password.
  • Expand the F-1 Practical Training menu on the left.
  • Click on Optional Practical Training Application. Fill out required fields and submit your request.

Step 2: Call the International Student and Scholar Office at the Reves Center (757-221-3590) to schedule an appointment. If you are not in Williamsburg this can be a phone appointment.

Step 3:The Reves Center will scan and mail the STEM Extension I-20 to you, which you must sign (on page 1).

Step 4: You will mail a copy of the OPT STEM Extension I-20, new I-765 form, application fee ($410), photos, official transcript from your STEM degree from W&M or another school, and all required supporting documentation.Your application must arrive at USCIS within 60 days from the date of I-20 issuance, and before your EAD card expires.

Please refer to the OPT Application Packet for a list of required documents and instructions on how to complete the forms. You do not need to mail the I-983 training plan, but the Reves Center must have a copy before issuing your OPT STEM Extension I-20. The I-983 instructions (pdf) from SEVP may be helpful.

If you file the application for the 24-month OPT extension before your current OPT expires, you will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending, until a final decision on the I-765 or for 180 days, whichever comes first. But, some employers are cautious, and may want your STEM OPT to be approved before you continue employment.

Reporting Requirements

While you are on OPT, the Reves Center is responsible for your SEVIS record. You must confirm your legal name, address, employer name and address, and your employment status every 6 months during your STEM period. You must also notify Reves Center of any address changes and of any new employment or termination of employment within 10 days.

  • Address updates can submitted via Banner.
  • For employment updates, log into iStart using your WM Userid and Password. Click on F-1 Practical Training in the menu on the left-hand side. Then, click on Optional Practical Training Employment Update and complete the form.
  • You must notify the Reves Center any time there is a "material change" in your I-983 training plan. Any time you have a new employer, you must complete a new training plan.
  • You must complete two self-evaluations during your STEM-OPT, signed by you, your supervisor, and submitted to the Reves Center.
    • Evaluation 1: Complete during your first 12 months of STEM OPT.
    • Evaluation 2: Complete at the end of your STEM OPT.
Unemployment Limit

While on STEM OPT, you are limited to 150 days of unemployment. This total includes the previous 90 days that you were permitted during your initial post-completion OPT. Unlike your initial post-completion OPT, your work must be paid to count as employment. Volunteering does not count.

International Travel

You should wait till your OPT STEM Extension request is approved and have received your new Employment Authorization Document (EAD) before travelling abroad. Please see our section on Travelling Abroad While on OPT for additional information.

STEM Resources

If you would like to learn more about the new STEM rule, resources from SEVP and the USCIS (both are part of the U.S. government), and NAFSA (a professional organization) may be helpful. We are also happy to talk with you.