Instructional Videos for OPT STEM Extensions
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.
Once USCIS has issued a receipt for your STEM Extension, you can continue working without your EAD card (up to 180 days). If approved, USCIS will send your EAD card to you.
If you decide to travel after you have received your card, you must carry: a valid passport, visa, I-20 (endorsed by your ISA within the last 6 months), EAD, and an employment verification letter from your employer. Please note that these items do not guarantee re-entry.
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 Adviser through the ISD Portal
- Both employer and student must report to International Student Adviser if student is no longer employed
- 6 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.
How do I know if I am eligible?
- Must have a STEM Degree
- Must be from a U.S. accredited institution issued within the last 10 years
- Must be from a 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 another 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 have multiple employers, each employment must be more than 20 hours per week
- Required to be an E-Verify employer
- Cannot be self-employed
What documents do I have to submit to my International Student Adviser before the adviser will issue the I-20 for the STEM Extension?
- Form I-765
- Form I-983
- Copy of your application fee if paying by check or money order
- Copy of your visa, passport, I-94 record, and previous EAD card (front and back)
- Copy of your new passport photos
- Copy of your official UHCL transcripts
- Copy of your UHCL degree (recommended)
Where do I submit my OPT STEM Application to my International Student Adviser?
You can submit this application to your International Student Adviser through the ISD Portal.
When should I apply for the extension?
As an F-1 student, you can file up to 90 days prior to the expiration of your current Post-Completion OPT. The application for the OPT STEM Extension must be filed before your current EAD expires.
What should I do once I have my new I-20 recommending OPT?
Once our International Student Adviser has recommended OPT on the STEM Extension on the second page of your I-20, you will receive instructions on what to do next.