This page contains suggestions for students who have already applied to ISS for their STEM OPT I-20. For information on STEM OPT eligibility requirements, when to apply, and how to request a STEM OPT I-20 visit our website.
We are optimistic that the new OPT online filing system will eventually be an improvement over the paper based filing process. However, there are still many unknowns and we are waiting for additional detail and a better understanding of how USCIS will process applications filed online. Until we have sufficient clarity, we will continue to recommend paper filing. We encourage you to create a USCIS online account and link your paper filed application to your account so you can enjoy many of the benefits of online filing, without the uncertainty.
We expect to continue to recommend paper filing for June 1 and August 31, 2021 graduates. At this time we hope to move forward with recommending online filing for February 1, 2022 graduates and STEM applications filed in early fall.
If you do choose to file online be aware that:
USCIS must receive the following documents before your current EAD expires AND within 60 days of the issuance of your I-20 with the OPT STEM recommendation. Do NOT submit your application to the USCIS more than 90 days before your current EAD expires. If you miss any of these deadlines, your application will be denied.
ISS recommends that you submit the following documents to the USCIS:
Visit the USCIS I-765 Direct Filing Address for the current lockbox mailing address. Be sure to click on "Foreign Students".
If you have any questions or concerns around this mailing option or need further assistance with shipment creation, pick up or delivery, please reach out directly to UEMS support team (email@example.com) for immediate assistance.
You should use a reliable, express delivery service (e.g. UPS, FedEx) to mail your application so you can track your application and its delivery. Please save your receipt.
ISS recommends that you use a mailing address on your Form I-765 where you can receive mail for 3-5 months after applying for OPT. However, if your mailing address changes after you submit your OPT application to USCIS, you must notify the USCIS, the Post Office and ISS of your change in address within 10 days of the change. Failure to notify USCIS and the Post Office in a timely manner could result in delays in receiving your EAD. To notify the USCIS, use their online Change of Address Form. If you move to a new address, you should also notify the US Postal Service (USPS) using their online form.
Historically, processing time at the USCIS was estimated to be approximately 12 weeks. However, processing times vary widely, depending on the time of year and workload at the Service Center to which you send your application. We encourage you to regularly review the processing times found on the USCIS website.
If you submitted your complete application to the USCIS in a timely manner (i.e. before your EAD card expired), then you may continue working for up to 180 days while your application is pending with the USCIS. However, if your application is denied by the USCIS, you must stop working upon the date of denial or risk accruing unlawful presence.
To maintain status, you must satisfy all of the following requirements:
To report employment or U.S. Address and contact information, login to the UB Global using your UBIT name and password. Enter your current residential address on the “Update OPT Student Contact Information” E-Form. Enter your employment information on the “Add or Update OPT Employment” E-Form. A new Form I-983 will be required if you are reporting a change in employment details.
If you previously reported employment to ISS and are no longer working for that employer, you must report your end date of employment. To do so, first enter your previous employer’s information on the “Add or Update OPT Employment” E-Form. Then, on the same E-Form, enter your new employment details. You can report up to three employers on the same E-Form.
Students on the OPT STEM Extension must submit a report to their school every six months. If a 6-Month Report is not submitted before the deadline, there could be negative consequences in the future. Therefore, it is imperative that you not only maintain employment, but that you report it to the ISS office and submit the required 6-month report before the deadline.
In addition to the 6-Month Report, the student and the student’s employer must complete a performance evaluation every 12 months, and at the end of the employment period. To submit an Employment Evaluation, log in to UB Global using your UBIT name and password.
(e.g. change to H-1B) by completing the "Change of Status Notification" E-Form in UB Global.
If you believe that your employer is not complying with the terms and conditions of the 24-Month STEM OPT regulations or the Form I-983 Training Plan, contact the Student and Exchange Visitor Program at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Department of Homeland Security.
Students on an OPT STEM Extension are permitted to be unemployed for 60 days in addition to the 90 days allotted for Post-Completion OPT. The maximum period of unemployment allowed is therefore 150 days during the entire OPT period. Each day of unemployment (including weekends) is counted towards the 150-day requirement for students on an OPT STEM Extension. Time spent outside the U.S. counts as unemployment unless the travel was work-related or during an official leave from one’s job. Therefore, to maintain your F-1 status, you must update your employment history and report any changes in employment to ISS as soon as you accept a new job offer or as soon as any changes occur.
If you exceed 150 days of unemployment, the Department of Homeland Security could automatically terminate your SEVIS record. This means that your F-1 status and employment authorization will no longer be valid, and you will have to leave the U.S. immediately. Possible consequences to remaining in the U.S. after the 150-day deadline without a job include denial of future immigration benefits, accrual of unlawful presence, detention and deportation.
Any employment you choose while on the OPT STEM Extension must meet the following conditions:
We recommend that all students keep documentation to prove that they were employed while on OPT. You can find a list of common documents used to prove employment for both paid and unpaid positions on our Maintaining Status While on STEM OPT page. You will not be required to submit this proof of employment to UB, but it may be requested by USCIS if you are applying for future immigration benefits.
There are many factors to consider before deciding to travel while on OPT. Before making any travel plans, we recommend that you review the Travel While on OPT page of our website.
Be sure to check the Travel Endorsement Signature on page 2 of your OPT I-20. This signature is valid only for 6 months. To request an updated I-20, log in to UB Global using your UBIT name and password, and click "Students Currently Approved for OPT", then "OPT Travel Validation Endorsement Request". Please submit your request at least 10 business days before you plan to leave the U.S.
All students on OPT have a 60-day grace period after their EAD expires. You are permitted to remain inside the U.S. during those 60 days to prepare for your departure, apply to change your status (if eligible) or begin a new degree program. If you are not admitted to a new degree program or do not submit a change-of-status application before the end of the 60 days, you must leave the U.S.
During your 60-day grace period, you may not work.
If a student on OPT fails to maintain their immigration status, as explained above, the student will violate their immigration status. Status violations are serious and can result in the accrual of unlawful presence. It is extremely important that you adhere to all reporting deadlines, understand your obligations as an F-1 student on OPT, and follow all state and federal laws. If you have questions about status violations while on OPT, please contact ISS.