Optional Practical Training STEM Extension
Instructional Videos for OPT STEM Extensions
STEM OPT FAQ Sessions
Registration for the FAQ session is not required. It is recommended that you view the STEM OPT informational videos above prior to FAQ session so you can bring your questions to the session.
STEM OPT Session Access (Zoom)
Meeting ID: 915 1372 6100
- Wednesday, July 5, 2023 at 11 a.m.
- Thursday, September 14, 2023 at 12 p.m.
- Thursday, October 19, 2023 at 12 p.m.
- Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 4 p.m.
What is STEM OPT?
The STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) Extension grants eligible F-1 students the opportunity to work for an additional 24 months months (anywhere in the U.S.) in a STEM field that is related to their degree program and commensurate with each degree level (bachelor's, master's and Ph.D.).
Students remain in F-1 status at University of Houston-Clear Lake, even though they may be working elsewhere in the U.S. Students with only their thesis option left should consult with an international student advisor to determine if they are eligible for STEM OPT.
What are the steps to apply?
- Review the STEM OPT videos on the website for steps to apply and information about STEM OPT.
- Submit OPT STEM Application in the ISD Portal.
- Pay $250 UHCL STEM OPT fee via E-Commerce.
- Receive your STEM OPT I-20 from your international student adviser in about 3-5 business days from submission. Review your I-20, sign it with pen, and upload to your online USCIS I-765 application.
- Submit and pay for your online USCIS I-765 application after obtaining your I-20 from OIAP.
What documents do I have to submit in the ISD Portal OPT STEM Extension Application?
- $250 STEM OPT fee
- Draft Snapshot of Form I-765 from USCIS Online application
- Form I-983
- Copy of visa, passport, I-94, and previous EAD
- Copy of new passport photos
- Copy of official UHCL transcripts
- Copy of UHCL Degree (recommended)
How do I know if I am eligible?
Eligibility depends on whether you have maintained your F-1 status throughout your studies in the U.S.
- Must have a STEM Degree
- Must be from a U.S. accredited institution issued with the last 10 years
- Must be from a currently SEVP certified school
- Must be in the STEM field (CIP code must currently be on DHS' Designated Degree Program List)
- Can have up to two STEM Extensions per lifetime, but only once per education level (i.e. one for a bachelor's degree and a second for a master's degree). If pursuing a second STEM Extension, degree must be at a higher level (e.g. You can’t complete a master's degree, receive an OPT STEM Extension, and then pursue a second OPT STEM Extension after completing a bachelor's degree)
- Cannot apply for a second STEM Extension directly following a STEM Extension (i.e. 48 months of STEM)
- Must be on current post-completion OPT in order to apply for a STEM Extension
- Type of work:
- Paid positions (no volunteer work); pay must commensurate with experience
- Must have 20 or more hours per week at one employer
- If multiple employers, each employment must be more than 20 hours per week
- Required to be an E-Verify employer
- Cannot be self-employed
When should I apply for the STEM OPT Extension?
As an F-1 student, you can apply in the ISD Portal 90 days prior to the expiration of your current Post-Completion OPT. The application for STEM OPT Extension must be filed before your current Post-Completion EAD expires.
Alumni who apply for the STEM OPT Extension are required to pay $250 to OIAP for the continued maintenance of their SEVIS record. Payment is due at the time you submit your STEM OPT Extension Application in the ISD Portal. A link to E-Commerce can be found in the STEM OPT Application in the ISD Portal.
What should I do once I have my new I-20 recommending OPT?
Once your international student advisor has recommended the STEM OPT Extension on the second page of your I-20, you should submit your I-20 to USCIS no later than 60 days after your advisor recommended STEM OPT.
USCIS Processing Time
Please allow a minimum of 90 days to receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This countdown starts from the date Immigration receives the OPT application. Once the USCIS receives the application, they will issue a receipt with a tracking number. You can use this number to track the status of your application.
If your Post-Completion EAD end date passes and your STEM OPT application is still pending, you are authorized to work for 180 days after the EAD end date while the STEM OPT is pending if you filed a timely application.
If you decide to travel after you have received your EAD for STEM OPT, you must carry: a valid passport, visa, I-20 (endorsed by your ISA within the last 6 months), and EAD card. An employment verification letter from your employer is not required but recommended. Please note that these items do not guarantee re-entry.
You are provided an additional 60 days of unemployment time while on STEM OPT. If you have any unemployment time remaining from your Post-Completion OPT period, that can also be used during STEM OPT. If you accumulate more than 150 days of unemployment, you will not be in compliance with the terms of your F-1 status. Contact your international student advisor to discuss possible options when approaching 150 days of unemployment.
You MUST report any changes related to the items mentioned below. This will be submitted through the ISD Portal:
- Any time there are material changes (i.e. employment hours, EIN Number, reduction in compensation, significant decreases in hours of work per week).
- Yearly evaluation (page 6-7 on Form I-983)- this will be submitted to your International Student Advisor through the ISD Portal.
- Both employer and student must report to International Student Advisor if student is no longer employed.
- Six-month verification report (address/employer).
- Any time there is a change in your address or employment (within 10 days) or immigration status.
- When you permanently leave the U.S.
- When your immigration status changes