The USA can be heavy on your pockets, and so while you plan to move there for studies, you need to know all the important details related to work permits and visas. International students in the USA find it more difficult to get a job and earn well while they stay in the USA. And if you are one of them, you surely do not want to miss out on any chance of earning dollars and gaining practical experience in your area of study.
F1 international student visa allows you to study and work in the USA during or after completing your studies. The USA has made these rules and regulations to promote better practical experience and employment opportunities. And so as an international student, you need to make sure that you make the most out of the opportunity that you may get as an International student.
Optional Training Program allows F1 students to work in the USA for specific hours to gain industrial exposure and experience, but if you belong to the science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field, you get more work period extension. Yes, you read that right, but for that, you need to understand its STEM OPT extension processing time, requirements, rules, and regulations that USCIS wants you to follow to get successful work authorization.
What is the STEM OPT Extension?
A STEM OPT extension allows international students who belong to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics field to stay and work in the USA for the next 24 months after completing their degree and post-completion OPT. It is a 24 month of an extended period in addition to the 12 months of post-completion of OPT related to temporary training to F1 student’s area of expertise.
It is important to know that only STEM students are eligible for this 24 months extension and can only get it once they finish the degree and have participated in the initial period of regular post-completion OPT. So if you are a student with a degree in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics field and wish to apply for a STEM extension, it is advisable not to choose for pre-completion OPT.
The USA government has set some eligibility criteria regarding OPT STEM extension, so it is always recommended to check it before you apply for it.
STEM OPT Extension Eligibility Criteria:
The eligibility to qualify for STEM OPT Extension includes:
- You should be working under post-completion OPT.
- You should have a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a school certified under the Student and Exchange Visitor Program at the time you submit your OPT STEM extension application
- You can even use your previously obtained STEM degree for an extension if your 12 month period of post-completion OPT is based on a non-STEM degree, but both the degrees must be obtained from accredited and SEVP certified institutes.
- In such a case, you will be eligible only if you have not used your previous STEM extension, and training will be based solely on the last STEM degrees.
- You need to work for a minimum of 20 hours per week per employer while you submit your OPT STEM extension
STEM OPT Extension Requirements:
To submit your OPT STEM extension, you will need to provide form I-765 with the appropriate application fee, mentioning your employer’s name written on E-verify card, employer’s E-Verified Company Identification Number, or a client company identification number.
Along with this, you will need to submit a copy of your STEM degree, form I-20, and certificate of eligibility as proof of non-immigrant student status.
STEM OPT Extension Processing Time – When to Submit?
You will need to submit your application 90 days before your post-completion OPT period ends. Recommendation for OPT will be entered by your designated school official (DSO) into your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) within 60 days of the date. The STEM OPT extension processing time is up to 90 days from the date on your receipt notice.
Once you receive your OPT STEM extension, your responsibilities don’t end. You still need to full-fill the reporting requirement associated with OPT STEM extension. So once you receive your OPT STEM extension, you will need to report the following changes to your designated school official (DSO) within 10 DAYS of the change:
- Your legal name
- Your house address or mailing address
- Your email-id
- Your employer’s name and address.
You need to report this information every six months, even though there are no changes in that.
In case your STEM extension is denied, you can re-enrol in your school and apply for a new degree or apply to change your visa status if you want to work in the USA.
While you receive your STEM OPT extension and you are unemployed during that period, DHS (Department of Homeland and Security) gives students extra 60 days of unemployment during the 24 months along with 90 days of unemployment during the initial period of post-completion of OPT. So, in general, students get 150 days of unemployment.
The start date of your OPT STEM extension will be the end date of your post-completion OPT. DSO cannot change these days, so always make sure you apply 90 days before the post-completion OPT period ends.
As not all OPT students can apply for a STEM extension, only students who have their education or degrees directly related to the STEM field can apply. So what is the STEM field?
A STEM field includes different areas of research, development, and innovation of new technologies by using computer science, technology, engineering, and mathematics knowledge.
So here are few subjects that fall under STEM extension:
- Computer Science Applications
- Engineering Technologies
- Actuarial Sciences
- Military Technologies
- Physical Science
- Life Sciences
These are some of the popular degrees that qualify for the STEM extension, here is a list of STEM Designated Degree Program List by U.S ICE.
So if you are planning to study something from the above-mentioned STEM field in the USA, you must have a STEM OPT extension checklist. Make sure you know in detail about the eligibility criteria and all the rules and regulations set by the USA government to avoid getting into trouble and to make the most out of your stay in the USA.
In case you have difficulty finding jobs in the USA, you can take help of various job portals. Job portals help you get good employers according to your qualifications and capabilities and thus save you a lot of time on a job search. I hope now you know all about STEM extension and how to make the best use of it to gain more practical knowledge and expertise.