Office of International Programs (OIP)


STEM 17-Month OPT Extension
for F-1 Students

WHAT IS THE STEM 17-MONTH OPT EXTENSION?

WHAT IS THE STEM 17-MONTH OPT EXTENSION?

Students who have received a U.S. Bachelor鈥檚, Master鈥檚, and Doctoral degrees in certain STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), are eligible for a one-time, 17-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 29 months). To be eligible for the 17-month extension, the following conditions must be met:

  • The student must have completed certain science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degrees. If you have a double major, you will qualify if one of the degrees is a STEM major.
  • The student must be authorized for OPT at the time of the extension application and working in a job or have a job offer related to his or her field of study.
  • The extension must be based on the same degree as the post-completion OPT.
  • At the time of application for the OPT extension, the student鈥檚 employer (or prospective employer) must be registered with and participating in the USCIS鈥 E-Verify employment verification program.
  • The student must not have exceeded 90 days of unemployment in the initial 12-month period of OPT.


STEM Information

Your most recent degree must be in a field of study that is on the Federal Government's approved list of STEM Fields.

S = Science
T = Technology
E = Engineering
M = Mathematics

A detailed list of all STEM fields approved by the federal government is available at: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/stemlist.htm

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TYPES OF OPT STEM EXTENSION EMPLOYMENT

A student authorized for a 17-month extension must work at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify employer in a position directly related to his or her DHS-approved STEM CIP.

For a student who is on a 17-month extension, this employment may include

Multiple employers. A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to his or her degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.

Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment, where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. The company for whom the student is providing services must be registered with E-Verify. If requested by DHS, the student must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract period and the name and address of the contracting company.

Self-employed business owner. A student on a 17-month 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. A student on a 17-month 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) need not be.


Volunteer work is allowed, but does not count as employment for the purpose of maintaining F-1 status.

Students can work multiple jobs during an OPT STEM extension, but all the employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.

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HOW TO APPLY FOR THE STEM 17-MONTH OPT EXTENSION?

Student Eligibility Requirements:

To be eligible for a STEM extension, you must meet ALL of the following requirements:

  • Completed a degree in a qualifying STEM program (students on pre-completion OPT are not eligible)
  • Currently engaging in PCPT and working with an employer who is currently registered and in good standing with the USCIS E-Verify program
  • Maintaining valid F-1 status
  • Have not accumulated more than 90 days of unemployment
  • Have not previously received a STEM extension
  • USCIS must receive STEM extension application before the expiration date of student's current EAD, but no earlier than 120 days before the expiration date. USCIS recommends that students apply within 90 and 120 days of the expiration date of the current OPT. Timely applications will automatically extend the 12-month OPT work authorization up to 180 days until students receive the 17-month OPT Extension EAD.

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What is E-Verify


E-Verify is an Internet based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA) that allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees. A list of employers who have self-reported participation in E-Verify is maintained by USCIS but students are advised to confirm with employers directly regarding eligiblity. An employer's participation in E-Verify is voluntary and is currently free to employers.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has just launched the new E-Verify Employers Search Tool which allows students to find employers currently enrolled in E-Verify.

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STEM 17-Month OPT Application Checklist

Submit the following application materials in a blank envelope to the OIP front desk anytime between Monday to Friday, 8AM to 5PM. Your application will not be processed by OIP without a blank envelope.

  1. Completed and signed STEM 17-month OPT extension request form
  2. Completed & Signed Form I-765
  3. Most recent original SF State I-20
  4. Photocopy of the identification page(s) in your passport (must include name, current expiration date, and photo)
  5. I-94 admissions verification printout from http://www.cbp.gov/i94 (If you entered the U.S. prior to April 30, 2013, provide a front and back copy of the I-94 card stapled to inside of your passport)
  6. Photocopies of your previous EAD
  7. Two 2" by 2" US Passport Style Photographs
  8. ONE of the following documents: Official transcripts, Unofficial transcripts, Copy of the diploma showing the level and program of study
  9. Statement from your employer (on original business letterhead stationary) indicating how your employment relates to the STEM field indicated on your SF State I-20.(See sample letter from your employer).


An F1 advisor will review your application materials and issue a new I-20 with 17-month STEM extension request on the 3rd page of the I-20. You will need to pick up your new I-20 and all the application materials at the OIP front desk once we contact you (within 5 business days, excluding weekends, and holidays), insert a personal check or money order for $380 application fee (made payable to 鈥淯S Department of Homeland Security鈥) and mail them to USCIS.


Address for USPS Certified mail/Return Receipt:

USCIS
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

Address for private courier (non USPS) deliveries:
USCIS
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034


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COMPLETING THE I-765 FORM

Filling in item 3: U.S. Address
You should use your current residential address in the US. This address determines which of the 4 USCIS Service Centers should receive your application. The address you put here must be in Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii or Nevada (USCIS California Service Center jurisdiction). If you are moving out of state, talk to an adviser in OIP about how to submit this application outside of California.

This address needs to be valid for at least 3 months, the length of time it may take to process your OPT application. If you think you might move in the months after you mail your application, use a reliable friend or family member's address to receive your EAD. If you provide an acquaintance's address, you should write it as:

Your name
C/O ___ (name of person whose address you provided)
Street address (and apartment number if applicable)
City, State, Zip Code
*C/O means "in care of"

When providing an address, please be aware:

  • If you have moved and did not provide USCIS with your valid address on your application, your EAD will be returned to USCIS. USCIS mail is not forwarded.
  • If your address changes while your application is being processed, please contact OIP immediately as this may delay your receipt of the EAD.
  • If your name (or your friend/relative's if your mail is being sent "in care of") does not appear on the mailbox, it is possible that the U.S. Post Office may return your EAD to USCIS.
  • USCIS will not mail EAD overseas.

Filling in item 9: Social Security Number (SSN)
If you have never worked in the U.S., you may not yet have a SSN. If this is the case, you can put 鈥昇/A鈥 (鈥昇ot Applicable鈥). You will be able to apply for your SSN when you get the EAD.

Filling in item 10: I-94 Number
On this item, you will use your current I-94 number. This is an 11-digit number found on the top left corner of your I-94 card. As an F-1, you will not have an Alien Registration Number

Filling in item 11: Previous USCIS Employment Authorization
Check 鈥測es鈥 if you have ever received an EAD. Fill in the next two lines (at the top of the right column鈥攕hown on next page) with the information related to that previous work permit.
A photocopy of that EAD must be included with your application package. (If you have lost it, write 鈥渓ost EAD鈥 in this space).
If you have never had an EAD, check the 鈥渘o鈥 box here. If you have worked on campus or have used CPT, you will still check 鈥渘o鈥 here.

Filling in item 12: Date of Last Entry into the U.S.
This is the date of your most recent entry into the U.S. This entry date can be found stamped on your I-94 card (unless you traveled most recently to Canada/Mexico and did not get a new I-94 upon return).

Filling in item 13: Place of Last Entry into the U.S.
This is the name of the city where you landed in the U.S. This information is also on the I-94 (usually as a code like 鈥昐FR鈥 for San Francisco). If you drove across from Canada or Mexico, write the name and the city where you entered in the blank.

Filling in item 14:
Manner of Last Entry
This is the status you had upon entering the U.S. For example, you may have last entered with a H-4 dependent visa

Filling in item 15: Current Immigration Status
Your current status should be F-1 student. If not, talk to an Adviser in OIP immediately.

Filling in item 16 (Eligibility Category)

For 17-Month STEM OPT Extension : (c)(3)(c)

Filling in item 17:17-Month Extension Only
Those individuals who are eligible for the 17-month extension need to complete this section.

Certification
Sign your name, fill in your telephone number and the date of your signature at the bottom of the form. Please note that your signature must fit between the lines on the form. If your signature is too big, your application will be returned to you and delay your work permission. Be conservative and use a signature smaller than your normal handwriting. Make sure the entire bar code is visible at the bottom of the application.


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Sample Letter From Your Employer

(For use with STEM 17-Month OPT Extension Application)

Date

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is written in support of the application for the STEM 17-Month Optional Practical Training Extension of ( name of student ), who is currently employed with ( name of company ) as an ( student's job title ).

(This next paragraph should provide a brief description of how your current job is related to the degree program which appears on your SF State I-20).

I therefore hope that you will grant (his/her) request for the STEM 17-Month OPT Extension.

Sincerely,

(Name and Title of Immediate Supervisor)

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AFTER YOU APPLY FOR THE STEM 17-MONTH OPT EXTENSION

Application Processing Time

The USCIS California Service is estimating a 60-90 day (2-3 months) processing time for this type of work authorization. Before receiving the EAD, you will get a receipt notice in the mail indicating that you application has been filed with USCIS - this is not a work permit. Please remember that you cannot begin your employment until after you have received your EAD from USCIS.

Your permission to begin optional practical training is not finalized until you have received an EAD from the USCIS. The EAD will have your photograph and will also indicate the exact dates of your authorized employment.

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SEVIS Reporting Responsibilities While on STEM Extension

SF State is now required by federal regulation to continue to maintain a student's SEVIS record for the full period of PCPT, including any extension.

While you are on an approved STEM extension, you will have the following SEVIS reporting responsibilities:

  • Report the following information to OIP at http://oip.sfsu.edu/stemreporting:
    • Name, address of my E-Verified employer (company), and the start date upon obtaining or changing jobs
    • When my employment changes or terminates (The last day of employment)
    • Upload an image or a scanned copy of my EAD

  • Work in a paid position for an E-Verify employer at least 20 hours per week

  • You cannot accumulate a total of more than 120 days of unemployment over the 29 month OPT period

  • You can change employers but employment during STEM Extension authorization must always be with an E-verify employer
    • USCIS advises against changing employers while the I-765 is pending, since the I-765 names a specific employer. Students are advised to consult with an attorney regarding the effect of changing to an employer that is not the employer named on the I-765.
    • You may NOT be concurrently employed at a non-E-verify employer while on a 17-month extension.
    • For the 17-month STEM extension, employment must be traditional paid employment.
    • Report the following to OIP ( oip@sfsu.edu ) within 10 days of the change: your legal name, your residential or mailing address, email address, employer name, employer address
  • You must report above info to OIP every 6 months even if there is no change

  • Your employer must agree to report the termination or departure of the student to the Office of International Programs, or through any other process chosen by the Department of Homeland Security.

Students who timely file an application for the 17-month OPT extension will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending, until a final decision on the I-765 or for 180 days, whichever comes first.

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STEM 17-Month OPT Is Dependent On Employment

Students granted a 17-month OPT extension may not accumulate a total of more then 120 days of unemployment during the total 29-month OPT period, The application could be denied because of the unemployment. A student may provide documentation for the adjudicator to consider any extenuating circumstances.

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Expiry Of Current EAD While STEM Extension Application Is Pending

Provided that the student has submitted a timely and correctly filed application for a 17-Month STEM Extension to the USCIS Processing Center, if the student has not received notice of the approval of the STEM extension application before the current EAD's expiration date, the student's EAD is extended automatically pursuant to the terms and conditions specified in 8 CFR 274a.12(b)(6)(iv). This means that the expired card will remain valid until USCIS makes a decision on the extension application or for a period not to exceed 180 days.

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Overseas Travel While STEM 17-Month Extension Is Pending

A person who has applied for a 17-month OPT STEM extension, whose current EAD has expired, cannot travel outside the United States, even if employed, until the new EAD is received.

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