13 Dec How to apply for STEM OPT as an International student?
International students pursuing their STEM degree can apply for the STEM extension which provides them with an additional 24 months of Employment authorization. You must have graduated with a STEM degree and must have completed the initial 12 months of OPT before applying for STEM OPT. You can only apply for a STEM OPT extension within 90 days before the completion of your OPT program. You must apply for STEM extension before your current OPT EAD expires.
The most crucial step in the STEM OPT application is its stringent procedures to be followed. It is to be noted that the applicant should be physically present in the USA at the time of application submission and processing. You are required to submit a duly filled application form along with the necessary documents within the stipulated time without fail. The following are the documents mandated to apply for a STEM OPT as an international student.
- I-765 Form – It is the application for employment authorization, which can be downloaded from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
- OPT recommendation form – You can collect this form from the Designated School Official (DSO).
- I-20 Forms – All previous I-20 forms to date along with the new I-20 issued by the DSO in your college are mandatory.
- Form I-983 – Training plan for STEM OPT signed by you and the employer.
- Document copies such as F-1 visa and passport ID, I-94 copy, previous Employment authorization documents if applicable are to be submitted.
- Proof of STEM degree – a copy of your certificates along with official transcripts and a verification letter should be attached. Also, include a certificate for the non-immigrant student status.
- Filing fee – A filing fee of $410 payable in the form of a cheque or money order is required.
- Form G-1145 – Request to notify you when your application gets accepted. Here in this form, you can mention the mode and address to which the notification has to be sent.
- 2 passport-style photos – Recent photos taken within a month needs to be provided. Your name and SEVIS number should be written on the back of each photograph.
After receiving the new STEM OPT I-20 form from your college, you can proceed to send the application to the USCIS. Within 2 to 3 weeks of reception of your application, USCIS will send you Form I-797 as a receipt notice. Typically, the USCIS OPT application processing time is about 3 to 5months. If there is any error or a missing document in the application sent, you will be receiving a Request for Evidence (RFE) for which you have to produce the necessary documents as early as possible. The maximum response time permitted for the Request for Evidence is 12 weeks. Once your OPT is approved, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS. You can continue to work for 180 days while the STEM extension application is pending with USCIS. The employment period will be the date mentioned in the EAD. An unemployment gap of only 60 days is allowed after your STEM extension is approved. Above all, you need to ensure that the OPT employment is related to your major field of study. A 60 day grace period will be provided after the expiration of your OPT period, within which you can find full-time employment, or transfer to a new program like Day 1 CPT program.
You need to make sure that the OPT application that you send to USCIS is error-free. No corrections can be made except the change in mailing address after the submission of the OPT application form to USCIS. Any error or missing documents not submitted within the RFE specified date can lead to the denial of your application. So it is always advised to take the guidance of an expert or an academic counselor regarding your OPT employment.
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