Frequently Asked Questions

What is the deadline for student to file for the 24-month extension?

The student must submit the STEM extension petition, within 90 days prior to the expiration date of their current Post-OPT Employment Authorization Card (EAC). The STEM Extension petition must include a completed Form I-765, Form I-983, as well as an approved new Form I-20 issued by the ISSO. Other paperwork will also be included, as listed on the application packet. ISSO will provide guidance in this area. The STEM Extension petition must reach USCIS no later than the end date of a student's initial Post-OPT EAC.

Can a student submit a STEM Extension petition more than 90 days before the end date of the original 12-month OPT Period?

The USCIS Service Center will most likely reject a petition if filed prior to the 90 days before the current OPT period end date. It is best to apply no earlier than 90 days prior to the current OPT period end date.

Employment authorization while the STEM Extension Application is pending - When does the student's period of STEM Extension OPT Start?

If the student has properly filed for a STEM Extension (I.e. filed within 90 days prior to the expiration date of the current OPT, as listed on EAC), the student's period of STEM extension starts the day after the expiration of the student's original period of OPT. If the STEM Extension was filed in a timely fashion, as above-mentioned, the student's work authorization automatically extends for up to 180 days while the student's STEM Extension application is pending.

Can a student apply for a STEM Extension when he/she is within the Cap-Gap OPT Extension?

Yes. A student can apply for the STEM Extension during the Cap-Gap Extension of OPT. The student will need to have his or her employer request withdrawal of the approved or pending H-1B petition in time for USCIS to effectively accept the withdrawal prior to the October 1 start date in order to avoid changing status to H-1B on that date. To avoid a denial based on the scheduled expiration of Post-Completion OPT, a student should include mention (and supporting evidence) of his/her Cap-Gap OPT Extension when filing during the Cap-Gap period.

What is the Cap Gap Extension of "D/S" (i.e. Duration of Status)/Work Authorization until October 1?

Effective April 8, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security authorized an H-1B Cap-Gap extension of D/S and in some cases it also includes extension of work authorization.

Do I qualify for for the Cap Gap Extension with Work Authorization?

Cap Gap extension applies only to H-1B change of status petitions (not consular processing). You must be in valid F-1 status at the time you apply for the Cap Gap. You must also remain in the U.S. during your Cap-Gap period and cannot travel until you are in H-1B status.In order for a student to have employment authorization during the Cap-Gap extension, the student must be in an approved period of post-completion OPT (i.e. your card must be valid at the time your H-1B is filed). If your POST-OPT EAC is still valid at the time the H-1B petition is filed, your Cap-Gap extension will not only extend your F-1 D/S, but it will also extend your work authorization until September 30. IF, however, you are in your 60 day grace period beyond the expiration of date of your Post-OPT EAC, you are legally permitted to remain in the U.S. until September 30, but you are not authorized to work until the effective date of your H-1B petition approval.

Can I travel during the Cap-Gap Period?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) strongly recommends that students do not travel outside the U.S. during the Cap-Gap extension, as USCIS will consider a change of status application to be abandoned if the applicant leaves the country while the application remains pending thus, a change of status petition from F-1 to H-1B filed on behalf of a student with a cap-gap extension who departs the U.S. before the application is adjudicated.

How do I apply for the Cap-Gap I-20?

The Cap-Gap extension is issued through a new form I-20 through the ISSO office, after the DSO has confirmed that your H-1B petition has been selected.

Can students change employers while STEM Extension application is pending with USCIS?

Yes. However, if the STEM Extension period has started, the employer must also be an E-Verify employer. The student must report the termination of the previous employment within 5 days, and submit a final evaluation on the Form I-983 that was originally submitted to ISSO for the STEM I-20. The student must also report the new employment within 10 days and submit a completed, new Form I-983 to ISSO. The student will then need to update their employment via the STEM Employer Update Tool, and sign and date the new Form I-20 issued by the DSO. The DSO will then submit the updated form to USCIS on behalf of the student.

For more information on this, please review our guide on how to change employers while STEM is pending found on our Forms page.

Can a student travel outside the U.S. if EAC expires while STEM extension request is pending?

No. The student must wait to receive the new EAC.

How do employers report to an International Student Advisor that a STEM Extension student is no longer employers?

The student is responsible for informing the International Student Advisor of all employment changes within 10 days. The student is also responsible to complete the Form I-983 Training Plan to the DSO within 10 days of the termination of employment.

What are a student's legal requirements while on STEM Extension?

A student pursuing a period of STEM Extension must:

  • work for an e-verify company in a paid position of at least 20 hours per week
  • work in a position related to the STEM degree and in student's field of study
  • cannot accrue more than 150 days of unemployment time during the entire period of post-completion OPT (regular post-completion OPT time and STEM extension period)
What must students legally report to us while on STEM extension?

  • Legal name change
  • Change in Martial Status
  • Change in country of citizenship¬†
  • Change in U.S. Residential or mailing address
  • All employment changes, providing the employers name, address, and supervisor information - CAN ONLY WORK WITH E-VERIFY EMPLOYERS
  • Report loss of employment and complete Form I-983 with employer to submit to the DSO within 10 days
  • Report / Verify employment information to International Student Advisor every six months
  • For further reporting requirements, see the STEM Extension Reporting Requirement Guide (pdf)

You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view any pdf files. It can be download for free from the Adobe website.