The STEM OPT visa is a program that allows international students in the United States to extend their work authorization for an additional 24 months after the initial 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT). This program is designed for students who have completed degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) fields and wish to gain additional skills and experience in their field of study. In this blog, we will discuss the basics of STEM OPT, including eligibility, application process, rules and regulations for working, and post-STEM OPT opportunities.
What is STEM OPT?
STEM OPT is an extension of the initial 12-month OPT program that allows students with qualifying STEM degrees to extend their work authorization for an additional 24 months. This program is intended to provide students with additional time to gain practical training and experience in their field of study. Unlike regular OPT, which requires students to find employment within their field of study, STEM OPT allows students to work in a broader range of fields related to their degree.
Eligibility for STEM OPT:
To be eligible for STEM OPT, international students must have a degree in a qualifying STEM field from an accredited U.S. institution. The degree must be at least a bachelor’s level or higher. Additionally, the employer must be enrolled in the E-Verify program, and the position must be directly related to the student’s field of study.
Applying for STEM OPT:
To apply for STEM OPT, students must first receive a job offer from an employer who is enrolled in the E-Verify program. Once the job offer is secured, the student must apply for the STEM OPT extension through their designated school official (DSO). The application process includes filling out Form I-765, submitting an updated Form I-20, and providing other required documentation, such as transcripts and proof of employment.
Working on STEM OPT:
Students on STEM OPT are allowed to work for any employer as long as the position is directly related to their field of study. The minimum hours required for employment are 20 hours per week. Students are also required to report any changes in personal or employment information to both their school and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Extending STEM OPT:
Students can apply for an extension of their STEM OPT for an additional 24 months if they meet certain eligibility requirements, such as maintaining their status, having a qualifying employer, and submitting the necessary application and documentation on time. If students are unable to extend their STEM OPT, they may consider transitioning to a different visa category or returning to their home country.
Post-STEM OPT Opportunities:
After completing STEM OPT, international students have several post-STEM OPT opportunities, such as transitioning to a different visa category, pursuing further education, or returning to their home country. It is important for students to plan ahead and carefully consider their options to ensure a smooth transition after their STEM OPT.
The STEM OPT visa program provides international students with an opportunity to extend their work authorization for an additional 24 months after completing their degrees in qualifying STEM fields. It is a valuable program that allows students to gain practical training and experience in their field of study. However, it is important for students to carefully consider their eligibility, application process, rules and regulations for working, and post-STEM OPT opportunities to ensure a smooth transition after completing their STEM OPT.