If you already have an approved EAD card for 12-month OPT and the CIP code on your I-20 is on the DHS Designated Degree Program List, you may be eligible for an extension of your OPT. If your I-20s CIP code is not on the list, then you are not eligible for this extension.
STEM OPT Video Series
The following videos were created prior to the launch of the ISSS Portal, so they still mention our past software Terra Dotta. Please note that all application processes with ISSS are now done through the new ISSS Portal and not through Terra Dotta.
Your STEM OPT reporting requirements begin after the start date on your STEM EAD card has passed. There are three types of reporting that are required by all STEM OPT students: General, Time-based, and Event-based reporting.
You need to report the following changes within 10 days of the change:
Change in address or phone number – update this on your Howdy Dashboard
Report to ISSS by submitting a request in the ISSS Portal and upload a copy of your new passport that reflects a name change.
Even if there are no changes in your STEM employment, name, phone number, or address, every student is required to report to ISSS every 6 months during their 24-Month STEM OPT Extension period.
For example, your STEM EAD approved dates are January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023. Your STEM employment reporting requirements start from January 1, 2023 and you are required to submit:
6-month reporting on July 1, 2023
12-month reporting on January 1, 2024
18-month reporting on July 1, 2024
24-month reporting on January 1, 2025
There is a limited window for you to complete your STEM OPT reporting on time. You can report up to 30 days before the due date, and we recommend that you report as early as possible. Please keep our current processing time in mind!
You will be able to monitor your time-based reporting in the SEVP Portal.
You must report changes to your employment within 10 days of the change. Both you AND your employer are required to report the following changes:
The start of any new STEM employment
The end of current STEM employment.
“Material changes” to STEM employment, including but not limited to:
Any change of the employer’s EIN resulting from a change in the employer’s ownership or structure, such as a corporate restructuring.
Any reduction in your compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours you worked.
Any significant decrease in the number of hours of work per week that was specified on the Form I-983.
Changes to the employer’s commitments or your learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983.
There are other changes to your employment that may require an updated I-983 as well. Please refer to the STEM OPT Reporting request in the ISSS Portalfor detailed instructions. Study in the States has resources for Employers and the Form I-983.
You are allowed up to 150 days of unemployment during STEM OPT. This includes any unemployment you earned during 12-month OPT.
The earliest that USCIS can receive your STEM OPT application is 90 days before the end date on your EAD card. ISSS can receive your request before that 90-day mark, but the advisor may not process your request until closer to that date.
E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee's Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.
E-Verify number = 4 to 7 digits (you can ask your employer for the number)
Detailed information about the E-Verify system can be found here.
Please be aware that there are some limitations with these search engines and ISSS recommends that if you are applying for a 24-month STEM OPT Extension that you ask the employer about their E-Verify status.
The E-Verify number IS NOT the same as the EIN (Employer Identification Number)!
Yes, if your prior degree meets all the STEM eligibility requirements. Check the Study in the States website to be sure. Keep in mind, there are additional documents you will need to submit to ISSS and USCIS if you want to apply for a STEM Extension based on a prior degree.
If you have already exceeded the 90 days of unemployment permitted during Post-Completion OPT, you may not be in a valid F-1 status. We encourage you to leave the U.S. as soon as possible or discuss your situation with an immigration attorney.
Students who have exceeded the 90 days of unemployment may be denied future benefits. ISSS does not recommend that you apply for STEM OPT until first discussing your case with a competent immigration attorney. Check our website for more info about Finding an Immigration Attorney.
You may travel outside the United States if your current 12-month OPT EAD card is valid and will remain valid until you re-enter the U.S.
If your 12-month OPT EAD card has already expired and your application for STEM OPT is still pending with USCIS, you should not leave the United States.
Once your STEM OPT has been approved, if you need to travel internationally you should take both EAD cards, your I-20 signed for travel within the last 6 months, recent employer letter, and a valid passport with unexpired F-1 visa with you to show at the Port of Entry upon your re-entry to the U.S. More information on traveling can be found above at Traveling while on STEM OPT.
Vacation days, weekends, and holiday leave do not typically count as unemployment. However, it must be consistent with your employer’s policy. Please check with your Human Resources Department. It really depends on the company and the status you are placed in “leave” or “laid off”.