STEM OPT and who should study a STEM-designated degree
2019 was an outstanding fiscal year for those aspiring to pursue education in the US. United States Citizenship Immigration Service (USCIS) approved around 223,284 requests for Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) for all types of OPT. The number of approvals has increased manifold over the years. STEM OPT accounts for almost half the increase in these numbers.
STEM OPT has been in great demand in recent years. There are benefits of pursuing STEM OPT as it offers a variety of career and job options in the U.S. STEM OPT Extension is also an option available to increase one’s stay in the U.S and have an in-depth analysis of their professional course. But before we move ahead to STEM OPT Extension, let us have a detailed study of what is STEM OPT.
What is OPT?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides an opportunity to the students with an authentic F1 visa to pursue practical training related to their course of study in the U.S. There are three main types of OPT offered to the students.
- Pre-completion OPT
- Post-completion OPT
- STEM OPT
Pre-completion OPT is taken up before the end date of the course in which one is enrolled. If you are authorised to participate in pre-completion OPT, you may work part-time (20 hours or less per week) while school is in session or full-time when school is not in session.
Post-completion OPT is taken up after the completion of the course in which one is enrolled. Its condition is that it should be full-time. The main point to be noted in the case of post-completion OPT is that any period covered under pre-completion OPT (if opted earlier) would be deducted from post-completion OPT offered for 12 months.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM OPT is the third type of OPT that offers professional training to the student related to the program. It allows the students enrolled with any of the STEM courses, a 24-period extension. It is an extension of post-completion OPT and can be availed for up to a total of 36 months.
Various courses that qualify under STEM OPT range from Animal health, Agronomy and crop science, Computer support specialist, and robotics technology to Biological and Biomedical science, Mathematics and statistics, business statistics and actuarial science. For the complete list of programs under STEM, refer to the below-mentioned link.
Eligibility for STEM OPT
To be eligible for STEM OPT, one needs to fulfil the following criteria-
- Degree in courses that belong to STEM fields.
- Being a student of a college/university certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Programme (SEVP).
- Apply for training with a verified employer*.
- An employer, who will assist with training in the respective field and agrees to the time necessary under STEM OPT.
- Work for a minimum of 20 hours a week.
- Applying within 60 days of the date the DSO enters the details for student OPT in the SEVP database.
(* Verified employer is verified to hire students for training purposes, with the condition that the employer fulfils the necessities. The employer must fill in the necessary details and verify the details of the newly hired candidate with the E-Verify database of the Department of Homeland Security. E-Verify is a database system with academic records, and personal information of all the students.
What is STEM OPT Extension?
STEM OPT Extension is the extension of previously granted 12-month training to 24 months post completion of the course.
Documents required to apply for STEM OPT Extension-
- Form I-765
- Form I-20
- Application for Employment Authorisation Document(EAD)
- Certificate of non-immigrant student status
- Replica of STEM degree
Types of employment permitted under STEM OPT Extension
- Working for one or more employers, but related to the STEM field.
- Self-employed business owner.
The application process for STEM OPT Extension
- Submit STEM OPT Extension I-20 form online.
- Upload the required documents along with I-983. Form
- On successful verification, the student will receive an e-mail along with a new I-20 form.
- On receiving the new I-20 form, collect the following documents to be posted to USCIS.
- Cheque with fee details for form I-765 payable to U.S department of Homeland Security.
- Recent passport size photograph.
- Filled form I-765 (original)
- Copy of new i-20 form (all pages)
- Copy of EAD
- Copy of passport with F1 visa stamp.
- Form I-94
- Mail all the documents and keep a track of the mail.
- Once approved, keep all the documents safe for future references.
Furthermore, ensure that after receiving the approval of STEM OPT extension, the student must report the necessary changes like name, address, email address, employer’s details and office address to the DSO within 10 days. After every 6 months, it is mandatory to get the records verified in the SEVP database with the help of DSO.
For application to be filled after 6 months
For annual self-evaluation, form o be submitted to DSO
In case, the student is unemployed during the OPT extension period, the total number of unemployed days cannot surpass 150.