STEM OPT Frequently Asked Questions
The purpose of this page is to provide answers to frequently asked questions about the STEM OPT Extension. Please see the ISSS STEM OPT webpage for more information on eligibility, the application process, and reporting requirements.
IMPORTANT: Get a STEM OPT I-20 from ISSS before filing the I-765 online or by mail!
USCIS denies applications submitted without the I-20 containing the STEM OPT recommendation.
Complete the STEM OPT Extension Request e-form in ISSS Link to get a STEM OPT I-20.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is STEM OPT?
- Am I eligible for STEM OPT?
- How do I apply for STEM OPT?
- What are the reporting requirements while on STEM OPT?
- How do I meet my reporting requirements while on STEM OPT?
- Can I report my employment through the SEVP Portal?
- What employment information do I have to report?
- When reporting my employment in ISSS Link or the SEVP Portal, I am asked to explain the direct relationship between my employment and my major area of study. How do I explain this direct relationship?
- How many days of unemployment am I allowed on STEM OPT?
- What types of employment are allowed on STEM OPT?
- Can I work for multiple employers?
- What types of employment are not allowed on STEM OPT?
- My Emory NetID is inactive. How can I access ISSS Link?
- What are the consequences of not reporting my employment information or exceeding the maximum days of unemployment?
STEM OPT is a 24-month extension of the standard post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) period for F-1 students with a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree.
Review our STEM OPT Extension webpage to determine if you are eligible to apply for the STEM OPT Extension.
Review our STEM OPT Extension webpage and our STEM OPT Online Workshop PowerPoint for detailed instructions. You may apply for STEM OPT up to 90 days before your current OPT end date. Please note, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must receive your application by your current OPT end date. USCIS will reject or deny your application if it is received after your post-completion OPT end date.
The Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, used to apply for STEM OPT can be submitted either online or by mail.
Go to the Online I-765 Guide for STEM OPT for tips on how to submit the online I-765.
STEM OPT reporting requirements are different than the standard post-completion OPT. You must report the following changes within 10 days:
- Change of physical address, email, or phone number
- New employment (will require a new Form I-983)
- Update to previously reported employment (will require a revised Form I-983)
- End of employment (will require a final evaluation signed by employer, page 5 of the Form I-983)
Additionally, you will need to report STEM OPT employment every 6 months from the start of your STEM OPT period:
What is required?
STEM Validation and Annual Evaluation
STEM Validation and Final Evaluation
You can report these changes by logging into ISSS Link and filling out the appropriate e-form. You will complete either the “STEM OPT Validation and Reporting” or “STEM OPT Employment Material Change Reporting” e-form. These e-forms can be found under the F-1 Practical Training tab. ISSS will review the information you submitted in ISSS Link and update your SEVIS record accordingly.
Complete the STEM OPT Validation and Reporting e-form if you are submitting one of the following:
- your 6- or 18-month validation
- your 12-month validation or final self-evaluation (including ending your STEM OPT early due to a change of status or departure from the US with the intent of not returning to utilize the remainder of your STEM OPT).
- a change in address or contact information
Complete the STEM OPT Employment Material Change Reporting e-form to upload a revised or new Form I-983 and report one or more of the following:
- end of employment (e.g. if you are no longer working for the employer listed on your I-983) but with the intent to secure new STEM OPT employment.
- change of employer or adding another employer (e.g. if you are working for a different employer than the one on your I-983)
- changes to current STEM OPT employer
- Change of employer's EIN (e.g. you are working for the same employer, but that employer's EIN has changed)
- Reduction in salary not tied to reduction in hours worked
- Change to weekly work hours
- Change to duties/learning objectives (as documented on your I-983)
- Change to employer's address/your work location
- New supervisor
As of March 23, 2018, the US government created an online portal for students on post-completion and STEM OPT to submit updates directly to them. You may choose to use this portal to report your employment information. Please note, you will not be able to upload the required I-983 evaluations through the SEVP Portal. If you experience issues with the SEVP Portal, visit their help page.
You are required to report the following: employer name, employer EIN, start date of employment, employer address, if the employment is full-time (more than 20 hours per week) or part-time* (20 or less hours per week), supervisor name and contact information (telephone number and email), and how the employment is related to your course work.
You may also provide your job title and current employment end date, if applicable.
*For 24-month STEM OPT, a student must engage in paid employment for at least 20 hours per week for each STEM OPT employer.
When reporting my employment in ISSS Link or the SEVP Portal, I am asked to explain the direct relationship between my employment and my major area of study. How do I explain this direct relationship?
Students are responsible for providing a description of how their job relates to their major area of study. The written explanation is recorded in SEVIS and should include the nexus between the duties and the degree. SEVP Policy Guidance provides sample explanations of a direct relationship which may provide you with ideas on how to explain the relationship between your position and your degree.
- Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering: I work full time as an Electrical Engineer at ABC Corp., a government contractor. In my job, I analyze client requirements for electrical systems and provide them with cost estimates of such systems. My work requires understanding of electrical circuit theory, which I studied in-depth at the University of ABC.
- Bachelor's degree in Business: I work full time as a Loan Officer at a mortgage company, Happy Homes, where I meet with clients and evaluate, authorize and recommend approval of loan applications. On a daily basis, I use the knowledge I gained in my credit analysis, sales and marketing classes that I took as part of my major program of study.
- Master's degree in Music: I am working at a hospital playing the harp in patient rooms. I also conduct hands-on harp beginner workshops for long-term patients. On average, I work at the hospital 35 hours a week. My duties directly utilize the skills and knowledge I acquired from my coursework and degree in music therapy.
- PhD in Computer Science: I am employed as a Computer and Information Research Scientist at ABC Research Institute. I work as part of a team of scientists and engineers that designs experiments to test the operation of various software systems. My work builds on research in complex algorithms and machine learning, which I studied as part of my dissertation.
- Master's degree in Kinesiology: I am working 25 hours a week in a health food store as a consultant for Self-Made Inc., designing and teaching exercise classes that are incorporated into a customer's overall nutrition and exercise plan. My designs and customer instruction draw upon my studies and classwork in exercise therapy and physical reconditioning.
You are allowed no more than an aggregate of 150 days of unemployment during your entire 36-month OPT period (standard 12-month OPT + 24-month STEM OPT extension).
Regular paid employment in a position directly related to your program of study is allowed. You must be working at least 20 hours or more a week with each employer. Your employer must be a registered E-verified employer and agree to complete the Form I-983.
Yes. However, you must work at least 20 hours per week with each employer. Each employer must be E-verified, and complete and sign the Form I-983.
The following activities are not considered employment while on STEM OPT:
- Volunteer or unpaid work
- Self-employment: you cannot complete and sign the Form I-983 form as an employee and You must have an employer who can complete and sign the form
- Part-time employment
- Employment through employment agencies: you may find a training opportunity with assistance from a temporary or staffing agency. However, all requirements of STEM OPT must still be maintained. The agency cannot complete and sign the Form I-983. The E-Verified employer that provides the actual training relevant to your STEM degree is only authorized to complete and sign the Form I-983. For more guidance on this topic, visit DHS’ Study in the States website.
What are the consequences of not reporting my employment information or exceeding the maximum days of unemployment?
- STEM OPT students are required to report their employment information every 6 months and submit a 12 month and final evaluation using the “STEM OPT Validation and Reporting” e-form in ISSS Link as well as submit the “STEM OPT Employment Material Change Reporting” e-form any time there is a significant change to their employment.
- Without this information in SEVIS, OPT students could be viewed as having failed to maintain employment and potentially considered to be out of status for exceeding the permissible periods of unemployment.
- If your SEVIS record is not updated, there can be short and long-term implications including setting the SEVIS record status to “terminated,” initiating EAD revocation proceedings, and negatively affecting future immigration benefits filed with USCIS.