IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Harrisburg University and International Student Office have no influence over USCIS, the final arbiter of STEM OPT applications. HU and ISO provide no guarantees that your STEM OPT application will be approved. The STEM OPT application is considered your own application. Any communication from USCIS regarding your STEM OPT application status will be sent directly to you. 


Overview

This information is for qualified students currently in a valid period of post-completion OPT who wish to request an additional 24 months of OPT authorization. Students with STEM Designated Degrees should review the eligibility requirements, application process, regulatory considerations, and reporting responsibilities.

Students applying for STEM-OPT Extension must be employed by a U.S. company that is a member of  E-Verify.


Eligibility 

To be eligible for STEM OPT, applicants must:

  • Successfully completed a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree within a field of STEM Designated Degrees 
  • Currently be within 90 days of their Post-Completions OPT end date. USCIS must receive your STEM OPT application prior to your current OPT end date.
  • Have not exceeded 90 days of unemployment while on Post-Completion OPT.  
  • Currently working full-time for a US employer that is a member of E-Verify within a career field that is directly related to your earned degree.
  • Receive an I-20 from ISO recommending STEM-OPT Extension prior to submitting your application to USCIS. You must request the I-20 a minimum of 5 business days prior to your OPT end date.


NOTE: If you currently do not have an employer, you can apply for STEM with an offer from an E-Verified employer that would begin on the first day after your current OPT ends.


Application Process


  1. Review the STEM OPT eligibility information to see if you do qualify for a STEM OPT Extension.
  2. Prepare Form I-983 Training Plan with your employer. Due to COVID-19 ICE guidelines, signatures can be in a digital format. For additional information completing the I-983, please visit DHS Study in the States I-983 Form
  3. Login to the Terra Dotta System and navigate to the Request Center to find the STEM OPT request. You must upload your I-983 within the request. We recommend that students access Terra Dotta through a desktop/laptop device, as mobile compatibility is limited. 
  4. Review your I-20 information verifying all employment information and employment dates are accurate.
  5. Submit your Application to USCIS within 60 days of the date listed on your I-20 and be received by USCIS prior to your OPT end date

At the time of receiving your I-20, you will be given instructions for completing the application process either online or through the mail. ISO cannot advise on the method of delivery you should send your application.


NOTE: If you submit an application to USCIS without a STEM OPT Recommendation I-20, your application will be rejected.


If you receive a Request for Evidence (RFE), please submit a copy of all pages to the ISO. Login to the Terra Dotta System and navigate to the Request Center to find the RFE request. 


If you are applying for a STEM extension based on a previously earned degree not from HU

You may apply for a STEM OPT Extension based on a previously-earned degree if you are currently in a non-STEM degree program at HU. Please submit a support ticket through the ISO Support Portal for additional information.


Working while STEM OPT is Pending

If you have filed a STEM-OPT Extension application with USCIS, prior to your Post-Completion OPT end date, you may continue to work for up to 180 days past your OPT end date if your STEM application is still pending. ISO cannot make any updates to your I-20 record to indicate this information.

According to ICE.gov: https://www.ice.gov/sevis/practical-training

NOTE: You must still follow F-1 guidelines and report any changes to the ISO about your employment within 10 days. If your STEM Extension is rejected, you must immediately stop working if you are working past your Post Completion OPT end date.