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STEM Optional Practical Training (STEM OPT)

COVID-19 Update: In order to further enforce social distancing measures and the safety of the Tulane community amidst COVID-19, we have established a new process to ensure that we are still able to guide you through putting together your STEM OPT application. Please visit this website to learn more. At this time, please allow at a minimum 5 working days for processing.

What is STEM OPT?

STEM Optional Practical Training is a 24-month extension of standard 12-month OPT work authorization that is available to students with specific degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

STEM OPT Eligibility

To apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension:

  • You must currently be under standard 12-month post-completion Optional Practical Training.
  • You must have a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree on the DHS STEM-Designated Degree Program List. Check the CIP Code printed on your I-20 under “Major” against the CIP Codes on this list.
  • You must have a job or job offer related to your STEM field of study from an employer registered in the federal E-Verify system, and you must work a minimum of 20 hours each week.
  • You cannot apply for STEM OPT based on a volunteer position, self-employment, or if you are hired through a staffing agency (third party).
  • You may apply based on a previous degree that appears on the STEM list if you earned that degree within the last 10 years from a currently accredited U.S. educational institution. See the additional required materials in the Applying for STEM OPT section below.
  • You may apply for a STEM extension twice if you have a STEM degree at two separate educational levels and engage in standard post-completion OPT before each extension.

Applying for STEM OPT

Your STEM OPT application must be received by the USCIS no later than your current OPT end date as shown on your EAD card. You can apply as early as 90 days before this OPT end date. Allow at least two weeks for the OISS to prepare your STEM OPT application before it will be ready to submit to the USCIS.

For current STEM OPT application instructions please visit our COVID-19/Fall 2020 STEM OPT application website.

The STEM OPT application fee for the USCIS is $410 which you cna pay with a check, money order, or a U.S. based credit card through form G-1450 which is made available through the STEM OPT Packet. There is an additional fee of $280 for Tulane University, to provide STEM OPT application processing and continuing immigration support for the duration of your STEM OPT extension. At this time the Tulane fee is only payable via credit card.

After Applying for STEM OPT

After you submit your STEM OPT application to the USCIS you will receive your STEM OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) and other STEM OPT-related mail to the mailing address you indicated on the I-765 form.

USCIS processing time varies from 3 to 5 months. Once you have received your USCIS receipt notice, you can check the status of your application at www.uscis.gov.

If granted, your STEM extension will begin on the day after the end date of your 12-month OPT and the extension will end 24 months later, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved. If your standard 12-month OPT ends while you are waiting to receive your STEM EAD card, you may continue to work for 180 days.

Working under STEM OPT

Under STEM OPT, your employer must be registered with the federal E-Verify system, and must provide you with formal training and learning objectives stated in your Form I-983. You must work a minimum of 20 hours per week, and if you have multiple employers you must submit a Form I-983 to OISS for each employer. Self-employment and volunteering are not valid forms of employment under STEM OPT.

As of May 2018, USCIS has taken a more limited interpretation of the employer-employee relationship which excludes staffing agencies/third-party worksite placements because they may not be able to demonstrate a bona fide employer-employee relationship.  This interpretation affects multiple employer arrangements, sole proprietorships, employment through ‘‘temp’’ agencies, employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, and other similar relationships  After careful review and consideration of the regulations, our immigration attorneys have recommended that our institution not accept a Form I-983 Training Plan which proposes placement of a STEM OPT student at a third-party site. You may also read about it on the USCIS website.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the authority to visit your STEM OPT worksite to confirm that the information reported on your Form I-983 training plan is accurate. Site visits may include interviews with you and your supervisor and a review of your training plan and other documentation. In general, the DHS will notify the employer at least 48 hours in advance of a site visit. However, if the visit is triggered by a complaint or other evidence of noncompliance with program rules, the DHS may conduct a site visit without notice.

You are allowed 60 days of unemployment under STEM OPT, plus any unused portion of the 90 days of unemployment granted under standard 12-month OPT. In other words, if you did not use any unemployed time during your standard 12-month OPT, you have a total of 150 days of unemployment under STEM. If you exceed 150 days of unemployment under STEM, your F-1 status may be automatically terminated in SEVIS.

STEM OPT Reporting

If you change jobs or take an additional job, you must complete a new Form I-983 for the job and scan and email it to oiss@tulane.edu. If your address or contact information changes while you are on STEM, you must report the new information to the OISS. If you lose or leave a job, you must report this to the OISS. You must report any of these changes within 10 days.

You must also submit reports on the following schedule to oiss@tulane.edu, even if no information has changed:

  • 6 months after STEM start date:  Report the STEM Employment Information below, even if no information has changed.
  • 12 months after STEM start date:  Complete the Evaluation of Student Progress on Form I-983 and obtain your employer’s signature. Scan and email to the OISS.
  • 18 months after STEM start date:  Report the STEM Employment Information below, even if no information has changed.
  • 24 months after STEM start date (end of STEM period):  Complete the Final Evaluation of Student Progress on Form I-983 and obtain your employer’s signature. Scan and email to the OISS.

STEM OPT Employment Reporting Information

  • Employer name
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Employer address
  • Your title in the company
  • Start date at your current job
  • End date at your prior job (if you had a prior job under STEM OPT)
  • Explain how your employment relates to your field of study
  • How many hours are you working each week at this job?
  • Supervisor’s full name
  • Supervisor’s phone number
  • Supervisor’s email
  • Your full legal name
  • Your Tulane ID #
  • Your current U.S. address (Include apartment # if you have one; No P.O Boxes)
  • Your current U.S. phone number
  • Your personal email address 

Family Emergency Contact (Family members only, not friends/roommates):

  • Name:
  • Relationship:
  • Phone Number:
  • E-mail Address:

Termination/Failure to Report/Completion of Records

On August 2020 SEVP conducted a review of immigration records and mailed out physical notices directly to students who had not reported employer information and exceeded 90 (Post-Completion OPT)/150 (STEM OPT) days of unemployment. If students did not report within 15 days of the notice date, SEVIS would terminate their records. The termination reason is for exceeding the permissible periods of unemployment while on OPT, and it would be noted on the record which could potentially impact immigration benefits in the future. You can read our September 8th communication with more details here.

Due to this change in procedure from SEVP, OISS will complete records of students who abandon their OPT. In other words if you are reaching the end of your 90 (Post-Completion OPT)/150 (STEM OPT) unemployment limit, have not been able to find employment, are planning to leave the US, change statuses, or any other situation that would imply you are no longer going to continue your OPT, please let us know immediately so that we can determine whether we need to complete your record, and so that you can avoid a potential auto-termination in the future.

Travel on STEM OPT

If you leave the U.S. under OPT or STEM OPT, you will need the following to re-enter:

  • Valid passport with a valid F-1 visa
  • I-20 with travel signature no more than 6 months old on the date you re-enter
  • EAD Card
  • Proof of employment, such as a letter from your employer or your employment contract
  • I-901 SEVIS fee receipt (print at www.fmjfee.com)

If you require a new I-20 travel signature, email oiss@tulane.edu at least two weeks advance to allow enough time to mail the document to you.

Materials:

  • To access the STEM OPT application and instructions, CLICK HERE.
  • For the PowerPoint of our OPT Workshop information, CLICK HERE.

 

STEM FAQs (COMING SOON!)

 

Applying for a Social Security Number

Schedule an appointment with OPT advisor Kabir