While applying for your STEM-OPT extension is quite similar to the application process for your initial F1 Post-Completion OPT, there are some key differences.
The main differences is in the eligibility criteria that must be met before you can file for STEM-OPT, which includes the following five criteria:
- You must have obtained a STEM degree from a US university, and that could be a bachelor's, a master's, or a doctorate degree.
- You must have a job offer and the job offer must be with an employer who is in the E-Verify system, which is managed by the US Department of Homeland security.
- You must currently be engaged in the initial Post-Completion OPT.
- You must apply before the end date on your current Post-Completion OPT.
- You must not have accrued more than 90 days of unemployment during your initial Post-Completion OPT.
Now, for students who are eligible to apply for the STEM OPT extension. The main difference between applying for your F1 post-completion OPT and your STEM OPT extension is the Form I-20 that'll be used in the application.
In order to receive a Form I-20 endorsed for STEM OPT extension, you are required to complete the Form I-983 Training Plan.
This form is a training plan that describes in detail, the nature of the work you do for your employer and how that work is related to your field of study.
It's also very important to note that this form contains a certification that your employer is required to sign after completing the Form I-983.
Steps to completing the Form I-983 Training Plan
Remember to check the expiration date found on the top right-hand corner of page 1. You always want to make sure that this expiration date has not been reached at the time you submit your application to USCIS.
Completing Section 2 of the Form I-983 Training Plan
You're going to be filling out your student information accordingly and in section 2, you're going to be signing and dates in this form.
Completing Section 3 of the Form I-983 Training Plan
Section 3 will be completed by your employer where the employer will fill in information about the company, the work you do, and the amount of compensation you're going to receive.
Completing Section 4 of the Form I-983 Training Plan
Section 4 is a certification section where employer will sign and date the form.
Completing Section 5 of the Form I-983 Training Plan
Section 5 should be completed by you and your employer. Preferably, it should be someone who has direct supervision of your work.
Completing Section 6 of the Form I-983 Training Plan
And finally, in section 6, whoever will be in direct supervision of your training plan should sign and date the form in this section.
Completing the evaluation and student progress section of the Form I-983 Training Plan
The last page of the training plan is called the evaluation and student progress should not be submitted when applying for your STEM OPT extension.
What to do after completing the Form I-983 Training Plan
So once you're done filling out the training plan for the Form, I-983, your international students office is going to review this document and use this to process your Form I-20 endorsed for STEM-OPT extension.
Upon receiving your Form I-20 endorsed for STEM extension, you're going to add that to your application packet, including all the documents such as the Form I-765, copies of international passport, etc., and mail that out to USCIS...
Or upload them online if you'll be filing the STEM-OPT extension online. Which is very similar to what was done when applying for the initial Post-Completion OPT application.
Now, when it comes to applying for your STEM OPT extension, you're allowed to apply as early as 90 days before the end date of your current post-completion OPT.
In addition, you're allowed to continue working for up to 180 days on your expired post-completion OPT authorization, as long as your STEM-OPT extension was received by USCIS before the end date of the initial Post-Completion OPT period.