Who Can Apply for STEM OPT?
The Department of Homeland Security has pre-selected specific STEM fields that are eligible to apply for the STEM OPT extension. At UW Bothell, if you studied in one of these majors, you are eligible:
School of Business:
- Business: Supply Chain Management Option
School of IAS:
- Conservation & Restoration Science
- Earth System Science
- Environmental Studies
School of STEM:
- Applied Computing, Biology, Bio-Chemistry, Chemistry, Climate Science & Policy, Computer Engineering, Computing & Software Systems, Computer Science & Software Engineering, Cyber Security Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Interactive Media Design, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, and Physics
How to Apply for the STEM OPT
USCIS must receive your application before your current 12-month OPT expires.
- Request your STEM OPT recommendation I-20 at https://iss.uwb.edu/
- Submit your I-765 application online at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765 using category (c)(3)(c).
You will need
For the I-20 recommendation
For the I-765
Information for Employers
Study in the States has great resources to help employers. Please make sure to reveiew it carefully. If you have any questions, please email email@example.com.
Requirements While on STEM OPT
It is the student's responsibility to know, understand and follow the rules and regulations about STEM OPT work authorization, as provided by USCIS. The following is information from the Center for International Education about the basic requirements to follow.
1. Report Changes to your U.S. Address or Contact Information to SEVP within 10 days
You must report these changes to SEVP directly by using your online SEVP Portal Account.
It is likely that you already have an SEVP portal account from your previous OPT. If the portal is locked or you never accessed your portal, you can email us and we can help you.
2. Report Changes to Your Employment to ISS within 10 days
If you change jobs or end your employment while on STEM OPT, you must report this right away to the Center for International Education (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A new I-983 Form is required if:
- Changing employers
- Any time there is a “material” change in the terms and conditions of the original I-983. These include, but not limited to, the following:
- Change to the employer’s EIN
- Any reduction in compensation from the amount previously stated on the form, which is not tied to a reduction in hours worked
- Any significant decrease in hours per week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity
- Any decrease in hours below the 20 hours per week minimum requirement
3. Every 6-months, complete an Employment Validity Report
You must confirm with SEVP every 6-months about your current employment information, even if it hasn't changed. You will do this as a request at https://cie.uwb.edu.
4. Self-Evaluation Report 1 (After the first 12 months (1 year) of the STEM OPT start date)
You must complete two self-evaluations during the course of your OPT STEM extension period. The evaluation must be signed by you and your immediate supervisor, and then submitted to the ISS office at email@example.com. The self-evaluation is the “Evaluation of Student Progress” portion of your Form I-983.
6. Self-Evaluation Report 2 (At the end of the STEM OPT)
You must complete two self-evaluations during the course of your OPT STEM extension period. The evaluation must be signed by you and your immediate supervisor, and then submitted to the ISS office at firstname.lastname@example.org . The self-evaluation is the “Evaluation of Student Progress” portion of your Form I-983.
Frequently Asked Questions
When can I apply for the STEM OPT extension?
You can apply up to 90 days before your current 12-month OPT expires. USCIS must receive your application before your current OPT expires, otherwise they will deny your STEM OPT application.
What jobs CAN’T I do while on STEM OPT extension?
- Volunteer/unpaid positions
- Any work that is not related to your STEM major.
- Any work that is not listed on your I-983 Training Plan.
What jobs CAN I do while on STEM OPT extension?
What if I don’t have a job for the entire OPT STEM extension work authorization – how many days of unemployment am I allowed during the extension period?
You are allowed a total of 150 days of cumulative unemployment during your OPT STEM extension. Any unemployment days used on standard OPT are included in this calculation.
How can I purchase health insurance while on STEM OPT?
Although not required by your visa, ISS strong encourages you to make every effort to be insured during your entire stay in the U.S., including grace periods and while authorized on Optional Practical Training. If you do not receive health insurance through your OPT employer, you can consider private insurance providers listed under "Other Insurance Plans" at https://iss.washington.edu/health-insurance . These companies specialize in working with international students, and some have special coverage options for students on OPT (such as ISO Insurance).
Can I Study While on STEM OPT extension?
Yes, but you may only take recreational courses. If you begin a new degree program, your current OPT authorization is automatically terminated when the I-20 is updated and/or transferred to the new school.
My F-1 visa expired – can I apply for a new visa?
Yes; however, know that it is OK for you to remain in the U.S. with an expired F-1 visa. The only time that you will be required to have a valid F-1 visa is if you are re-entering the U.S. after traveling outside the country.
To apply for a new F-1 visa, you should follow the direction of the specific U.S. Consulate where you plan to apply for the visa. Some additional documents that they may ask you to bring is your 12-month OPT EAD, your 24-month OPT STEM extension EAD, document verifying your employer, updated I-20 from ISS office showing your current employment/valid travel signature.
What happens after my STEM OPT extension expires?
You have a 60-day grace period after your OPT end date. The OPT end date is indicated on your EAD. You must take one of the following actions during your grace period:
- Depart the United States.
- If you have received admission to a new degree program, you will need to initiate the SEVIS transfer with ISS so that your I-20 can be sent to your new school.
- If you have received admissions to a new degree program at UWB, you will need to talk with ISS so that we can update your I-20 accordingly.
- Change to another type of non-immigration/immigration status to remain lawfully in the United States. Typically, students will work with their employer for the H-1B work visa sponsorship. Some students have also changed to other statuses, such as applying for a green card after getting married, etc.