OPT STEM EXTENSION International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) Description Optional practical training (OPT) can be extended beyond the normal 12 months to 29 months for STEM degree holding F-1 students. This applies to students who have obtained a degree in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields and are currently participating in a 12-month period of OPT. Eligibility To be eligible for the 17-month OPT STEM extension, students must: 1. Have already been approved for 12 months of post-completion OPT; and 2. Be in the final 90-120 days of that OPT; and 3. Have earned a degree in a field included on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) STEMDesignated Degree Program List; and 4. Be employed in a job directly related to his/her field of study; and 5. Be working for an employer that is enrolled in the E-verify program Please note: All five of the above criteria must be met in order for a student to be eligible for the 17-month OPT STEM Extension. STEM-Designated Degree Program List Students may verify if their current degree is eligible for the extension by the CIP code. To determine your CIP code, look at page 3 of your I-20. The CIP code is the 6 digit numerical code (xx.xxxx) listed directly before your major at the top of the page. Application Timeline • Students must apply for the OPT STEM extension before the expiration date listed on their current Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). • USCIS recommends that students apply 90-120 days prior to their EAD expiration date. • International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) advises eligible students apply no later than one month prior to the EAD expiration date to allow time for USCIS to receive your application. Application Process • To apply for the OPT STEM Extension, you must first request an updated I-20 from your ISSS Advisor. To request the new I-20 please submit the following to ISSS: • OPT STEM Extension Request Form • Completed USCIS Form I-765 • Letter (on company letterhead) from your employer verifying your employment. This letter should include the employer’s E-verify number. • Payment of the OIP International Student Fee. Submit a check or money order payable to Auburn University in the amount of $650.00. • Your ISSS Advisor will review and send you a new I-20 reflecting your OPT STEM Extension request. The OPT STEM Extension request will appear on page three of the I-20. • Once you receive the new I-20 from your ISSS Advisor, review it for accuracy and mail the documents listed on the next slide to USCIS. Application Process To apply for OPT STEM Extension, the following documents must be mailed to USCIS: • Check or money order for $380.00, payable to Department of Homeland Security • Complete Form I-765 • Copy of passport pages(s) showing your picture, biographical information and expiration date • Copy of most recent I-94 • Copy of visa • Copy of current Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (front and back) • Copy of diploma • 2 passport size photos (must meet Department of State guidelines) • I-20 with OPT STEM Request (obtained by ISSS) ***ISSS strongly recommends you make copies of all documents you send to USCIS for your records.*** USCIS Mailing Addresses • Regular U.S. Postal Delivery: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) P. O. Box 660867 Dallas, TX 75266 • Express Mailing Delivery (FedEx, UPS, DHS, etc.): U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Attn: AOS 2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business Suite 400 Lewisville, TX 75067 OPT STEM Approval • Once the application is received by USCIS, it generally takes 60- 90 days for your request to be processed. • If the student’s current EAD has expired and a STEM extension request has been receipted and is pending with USCIS, the student may continue to work for up to 180 days while the extension is pending. • The STEM extension period will begin the day after the first OPT period expires (as listed on the EAD card), and will end 17 months after that. For example, if the current EAD expires on 10/01/2015, the STEM period will begin on 10/02/2015 and will end on 02/28/2016. OPT STEM Approval • Once your OPT STEM Extension is approved by USCIS and you receive a new EAD card in the mail, please send a copy of your new EAD card (front and back) to your ISSS Advisor. • Your ISSS Advisor will issue and send you an updated I-20 indicating that your OPT STEM Extension has been approved. • If you need to renew your Alabama Driver’s License once your OPT STEM Extension is approved, please complete the Driver’s License Letter Request Form and submit the form to your ISSS Advisor. Types of Employment Allowed During OPT STEM A student authorized for a 17-month OPT STEM extension must work at least 20 hours per week for an E-verify employer in a position that is related to his or her field of study. The following types of employment are allowed during the OPT STEM Extension: • Multiple employers – A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to his or her degree and all employers must be enrolled in E-verify. • Work for hire – This type of employment is also known as 1099 employment and contract work. The company for who the student is providing services must be registered with E-verify. Students should keep documentation showing the duration of the contract period and the name and address of the contacting company. • Self-employed business owner – A student on the STEM extension can start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must register his or her business with E-verify and work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program. • Employment through an agency or consulting firm – Students on the STEM extension may be employed by an employment agency or consulting firm. The employment agency or consulting firm must be registered with E-verify, but the third parties contracting with the agency or firm (for which the student is providing services) does not have to be. Types of Employment Allowed During OPT STEM All employment during the OPT STEM extension must be paid employment. Volunteer work or unpaid internships does not count as employment for the purpose of maintaining F-1 status during the OPT STEM extension. Periods of Unemployment Students on the OPT STEM Extension should not accrue more than 120 days of unemployment during the entire 29-month OPT period. Special Reporting Requirements • General Reporting • During the OPT STEM extension, the student must report to his or her ISSS Advisor within 10 days of any change of the following: • • • • • Full Legal Name Residential Address Employer Name Employer Address, and/or Loss of Employment • 6-Month Validation Reports • OPT STEM recipients must also make a “validation report” to their ISSS Advisor every six months starting from the date the 17-month extension begins. This report must be made by the student to their ISSS Advisor even if the student’s employment information has not changed. The validation report must include the student’s: • • • • • Full Legal Name SEVIS ID Number Current Residential Address Name and Address of Current Employer Date the Student Began Working for the Current Employer Additional Information • If a student transfers to another school or begins another program during OPT STEM, the OPT work authorization will automatically end, even though the EAD card will still appear valid. • An individual is eligible for only one 17-month OPT STEM Extension. According to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), this is a lifetime limit. • Students may travel outside the U.S. during OPT STEM, but may return only if they have a job. Students must have proof of employment, a valid F-1 visa, a valid passport and an I-20 signed for travel on page 3 in order to return to the U.S. Please send a completed Travel Request Form and your current I-20 to your ISSS Advisor when you are in need of an updated travel signature. Travel signature requests must be submitted to ISSS at least two weeks in advance of travel. After OPT STEM During the 60 days following the expiration of OPT, student must do one of the following: • Depart the U.S., • Become accepted into and receive an initial-status I-20 for a new degree program or educational level at Auburn University or another SEVIS-approved school in the U.S., • Transfer from Auburn University to begin another degree program at a SEVISapproved school in the U.S., or • Apply for a change of status from F-1 to another visa status FAQs • Can I apply for 29 months at one time? • No, you can only apply for the 17-month extension within the last 90 days of your current OPT. • What is E-Verify? • E-Verify is a free internet-based system operated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration, which determines new employees’ eligibility to work. • What should I do if my employer is not enrolled in E-Verify? • Speak with your employer about enrolling in E-verify and direct them to the USCIS website for more information. FAQs • What if my H-1B is denied after my original OPT has ended? • Students will have a 60 day grace period from the notification date of the denial to depart the U.S., obtain admission to a new F-1 SEVIS-approved school, or file an application for a change of status. • What should I do if I am not a STEM student and did not file for the H-1B? • Students will have a 60 day grace period from the notification date of the denial to depart the U.S., obtain admission to a new F-1 SEVIS-approved school, or file an application for a change of status. ISSS Advisors • If you have any questions or need to report any updated information to your ISSS Advisor, please send an email to: • F-1 students whose last name begins with the letters A-L • Jennifer Jackson ([email protected]) • F-1 students whose last name begins with the letters M-Z • Carol Lovvorn ([email protected]) • If you are unsure of your ISSS advisor, please contact the OIP Front Desk by phone (334-844-5001) or by email ([email protected]).