International Student and Scholar Services

24-month STEM Extension


Please note:

Until further notice, USCIS is delaying the increase of their Form I-765 filing fee. Students applying for OPT, STEM Extension, and Severe Economic Hardship work authorization should submit the 05/31/2022 edition of the Form I-765 and pay the original $410 filing fee.

A STEM Extension is an additional 24 months of post-completion Optional Practical Training granted to certain government-designated degree-holders in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) field.


What Is a STEM Extension?

A STEM Extension is an additional 24 months of Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) granted to certain degree holders in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). 

Key Aspects

  • Students need to apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for STEM Extension authorization with the help of both their employer and a Designated School Official (DSO) from the Center for International Studies (CIS)
  • The STEM Extension is official once the student receives a new STEM EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card from USCIS

Eligibility

  • Participating in post-completion Optional Practical Training
  • Working for a U.S. employer in a paid job (at least 20 hours per week) directly related to the student’s major area of study
  • Completed a degree in a field on the STEM-Designated Degree Program list
    • Exception: student is completing a thesis, dissertation, starred paper, or capstone
  • Working for a company that is registered with the E-Verify employment verification system and has an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Has not exceeded 90 days of unemployment during their Post-Completing OPT

A student may use a prior STEM degree from an accredited SEVP-certified school if:

  • They have received their most recent degree (does not need to be a STEM-Designated Degree Program) from an SEVP-certified school that is currently accredited.
  • They have received their prior, qualifying STEM degree (at the bachelor’s level or higher) within 10 years preceding the date of application for the STEM Optional Practical Training extension with USCIS.

A student cannot apply for a STEM Extension if the student:

  • Has finished their post-completion Optional Practical Training.
  • Has an Optional Practical Training assignment that is end-dated.
  • Has received a STEM extension of any duration at the same level as the student now wants to apply.  A student must earn a second qualifying degree to seek a second STEM extension.
  • Has exceeded 90 days of unemployment during their post-completion Optional Practical Training period.

STEM Administrative Processing Fee 

While working in the U.S. on STEM Extension, the Center for International Studies is still federally required to maintain, update, and report on students' SEVIS records until all employment authorization has concluded.  This fee offsets the expenses of mandatory SEVIS compliance of employment reporting requirements, Cap-Gap requests, processing of travel authorization, federally required address and employment requirements, quarterly employment validation, and yearly evaluations.

Things to Know before Applying

  • The earliest a student can apply for a STEM Extension is 90 days before their OPT end date
  • The latest a student can apply for a STEM Extension is on their OPT end date (USCIS must receive the application by this time)
  • Graduation from SCSU should be conferred in order to qualify for a STEM Extension
    • Exception: the student's academic advisor provides a letter explaining (a) why the degree has not been conferred and (b) when it will be conferred
  • While the STEM Extension application is pending, the student's Post-Completion OPT is automatically extended until the STEM application has finished processing (or 180 days, whicher is sooner)
  • USCIS usually takes about 3 months to process STEM Extension applications 
  • When granted, authorization is usually valid for two years

Steps for Applying

To apply, students will need to mail a packet of application materials to USCIS with the help of their current OPT employer and a Designated School Official (DSO) from  must first submit the following to the Center for International Studies:

  1. Review the Eligibility requirements and Things to Know before Applying above to determine if you are eligible. If you are unsure, you can contact CIS for guidance
  2. Pay the $200 STEM Administrative Processing Fee
    • While you are working in the U.S. on your STEM Extension, CIS is federally required to maintain, update, and report on your SEVIS record until all employment authorization has concluded. This fee offsets the expenses of all SEVP-mandated employment reporting
    • To pay, send an email requesting the processing fee to be added to your account
    • Pay the processing fee in one of the following ways:
      • Online – through e-Services (stcloudstate.edu); Mastercard, Visa, Discover, or E-Check accepted
      • Phone – call the Cashier’s Office at (320)308-4012; 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday – Friday
      • In-person – Administrative Service Building, Room 123; 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday – Friday
  3.  Submit the following documents to the CIS front desk via e-mail (international@stcloudstate.edu) or in person (LH 101). Contact CIS for assistance with your STEM Extension application if needed.
    • Receipt of $200 STEM Processing Fee payment
    • Completed STEM Extension Request form
    • Completed Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization PDF)
      • Please be sure you are using the 05/31/2022 edition (date found at the bottom left of the form).
      • You should download the form and type the required information. USCIS scanners often misread handwritten forms, which could delay processing. The scanners do not read information that is grayed out, highlighted, or corrected with correction fluid or tape.
      • Guidance for Completing Form I-765
    • Form G-1145
      • You should download the form and type the required information, since USCIS scanners often misread handwritten forms, which could delay processing.
      • Use your personal email address.
    • Unofficial or Official Transcripts
      • Unofficial transcripts may be downloaded via e-services. Official transcripts must be requested via Records and Registration.
      • Transcripts must show degree conferral date.
      • Note: Official transcripts must be submitted in your STEM OPT extension application to USCIS. Do not submit unofficial transcripts in your package to USCIS.
    • Letter from your employer on letterhead that includes:
      • Employer’s name as listed on E-Verify
      • Employer’s E-Verify company identification number
      • Description of job duties, in detail
      • Salary
      • Location of the company
      • Part- or full-time

    • Form I-983
      • Be sure you are using the 7/16 edition (found on the bottom left of the form)
      • You should download the form and type in the required information
      • Tips for filling out the form:

Item Important information
Student email address
Enter your personal email address, NOT St. Cloud State email
Name of school where STEM degree was earned
Enter St. Cloud State University unless the STEM application is based on a degree program from a previous SEVIS-certified, accredited school. Then enter that school name.
SEVIS School Code of school recommending STEM
OPT
SCSU Main Campus = SPM214F00271000
SCSU Plymouth Campus = SPM214F00271001
Designated school officials
Kristy Nelson Ramos: 320-308-4287
Jacob Mercer: 320-308-4274
STEM OPT Request Period
The "From" date should be the day after your OPT ends (according to your EAD card).
The "To" date should be 2 years later.
Qualifying major and classification of instructional programs (CIP) code
This can be found on the 1st page on your I-20 under “Program of Study” or under #5 on the old I-20.
CIP code is in this form: XX.XXXX.
Level/Type of Qualifying Degree
Undergraduate, graduate or doctoral
Date Awarded
This is the date that your degree was conferred (see your official transcript).
Employment Authorization Number
This is the “A” number on your optional practical training employment authorization document card.
Sections 3 and 4
These sections are to be completed by the student’s employer.
Section 5
This section is to be completed by the student and the employer.
Section 6
This section is to be completed by the student’s employer.
Evaluation on student progress
This section is to be completed by the student and employer at the student’s 12-month date of the STEM extension.
Final Evaluation on student progress
This section is to be completed by the student and employer at the student’s 24-month date of the STEM extension.
It should not be included in this application.

 

4. DSO will review your completed documents, request your STEM Extension in SEVIS, and create an updated I-20 with the STEM Extension request. (The request will be found on page 2 of the I-20.)

5. When the processing is finished, CIS will notify you via email that your documents are ready to pick up at the front desk

  • If you would prefer, we can email you scanned copies of your documents. In this case, print two copies of your new I-20: one to submit to CIS and one to keep. You should print these in color and sign them in blue ink

6. Gather everything in the Complete List of Application Materials below

7. Make copies of all application materials for your records

8. Mail your application packet to USCIS

 

Complete List of Application Materials

  • Completed Form I-765 (instructions)
    • Click here for help in filling out the I-765 –(A link to the Information below in the grid on a PDF)
  • Copy of most recent I-20 (pages 1 and 2)
  • Copy of all previous I-20s (pages 1 and 2)
  • Copy of I-94
  • Color copy of passport photo page
  • Two (2) full-face, passport-style photos
    • The photos must be identical and in color with a plain background.
    • They should be no more than 30 days old when your application is filed to USCIS.
    • Photos can be obtained at Walgreens, Walmart, or a local photography shop.
  • Include your photography receipt with the photos to prove they are recent.
  • Write your name and I-94 number in pencil on the back of the photos.
  • $410 application fee in the form of a money order payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security"
  • All past Employment Authorization Document (EAD) cards
  • Official transcript showing your degree conferral
  • Letter from your employer

 **You do not need to submit your Form I-983 to USCIS. The Center for International Studies keeps it on file for you.**

Mailing to USCIS

Make sure you mail your application packet within 60 days from the date the CIS advisor recommends your off-campus work authorization in SEVIS (this date is shown on the signature line on your I-20). Also make sure your application arrives at the USCIS office no later than your OPT end date (to be safe, we recommend you do not wait until the last minute)

 You can mail the packet via the U.S. Postal Service or courier service (FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc.) to one of the corresponding addresses:

U.S. Postal Service
USCIS
P.O. Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680
Express mail and courier services:
USCIS
Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn – 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

Students are responsible for mailing their own applications to USCIS

We encourage using a tracked mailing system (e.g. USPS certified mail, FedEx, UPS) to ensure safe delivery

Filing Online to USCIS

USCIS now offers F-1 students the option to file the I-765, application for Employment Authorization, online for STEM OPT Extension. To file online, you must first create a USCIS online account at myaccount.uscis.gov. A USCIS account allows you to submit your forms, pay your fees online, track the status of your case, receive notices from USCIS, communicate with USCIS through a secure inbox, and respond to any requests for evidence. 

Note: Only file your application online AFTER CIS has processed your STEM OPT Extension request and provided you with a new I-20 that shows STEM OPT "requested" at the top of page 2.

For further guidance on the online submission process, please read our Guidance for Applying for STEM OPT Online. Please contact the Center for International Studies if you need assistance. 

Make sure that you submit your online application within 60 days from the date the CIS advisor recommends your off-campus work authorization in SEVIS (this date is shown on the signature line on your I-20). It must be submitted to USCIS no later than your OPT end date

Approval 

  • USCIS usually takes 3 months to process OPT Applications
  • Within 2 weeks of receiving your application, USCIS will mail you a Form I-797 Receipt Notice to the mailing address you provide on your Form I-765
  • If your application is returned with a Request for Further Evidence (RFE), you should contact a DSO for assistance. We will likely need to create a new I-20 for you.
  • When your application is approved, USCIS will mail you the following separately:
    • Form I-797 Approval Notice
    • EAD card
  • You should submit a copy of your EAD to your employer
  • If your application is denied, USCIS will mail you a notification

Reporting STEM Extension employment

Processing times

Due to the high volume of applications, processing times may be more than seven business days.

Applications will be processed in the order in which they are received.

Processing does not begin until a complete application is submitted.

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