OPT STEM Extension Approval (with detailed I-983 instructions)


This post is based on our experience with applying for STEM Extensions with various schools since May 2016. We learned a few things along the way, and want to share our experience so that we can help you get your STEM Extension approved.

This post is divided into two sections.

  1. The first sections explains how to fill Form I-983, since some parts could be confusing.
  2. The second section contains a lot of very useful information based on the questions that we received from hundreds of OPT students over the last few months.

By the way, we are actively hiring 12-month OPTs. We will work with you to prepare a training plan tailored to your degree and courses, and bring you into compliance with all other STEM Extension requirements before you apply for your extension through us. Our training plan is prepared with you future H1B application in mind; so we make sure to keep everything consistent from your OPT to H1B to GC. Schedule a phone consultation immediately with one of our experienced recruiters; we have limited openings.

1. How to fill Form I-983

For Section 1 shown above:

  1. The date after your 12-month OPT expiration, to the date that is 24 months away. For example, if your 12-month OPT expires on 6/15/2017, it will be 6/16/2017 to 6/15/2019.
  2. Get the CIP code from your school program. Or you cansee the full list here: https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cipcode/browse.aspx?y=55
  3. Bachelors / Masters
  4. If you are applying for an extension based on a previous degree, say YES. But for most people, this would be NO.
  5. Your EAD number from the first OPT.

For Section 3 shown above:

  1. Make sure to provide a physical address, and not a PO Box or a residential address. So it is important that your employer has a real office location.
  2. You have two options. We used the original start date from the 12-month OPT when the student actually started with us, which most schools accepted. But a couple of schools asked us to change it to the STEM Extension start date, though the student was already working for us. You can also have a date in the future, after the STEM Extension start date, as long as you are within the unemployment limits that are permitted (see FAQs below).
  3. STEM Extension has to be paid. You cannot have missed paychecks, which could come back and bite you later during the H1B process (see FAQs below). We have created a compensation structure in our company where everyone is paid continiously, even when they are on the bench.

For Section 5 shown above:

  1. This is the site where you are actually training/working. A recent clarification from the USCIS hinted that you may have to submit a new I-983 if you are moving to a client location from the employer’s location.
  2. Your employer should have a formal company-wide training plan in place. This section should be filled based on the company training plan, while also addressing how the job will enhance this specific student’s knowledge that was gained during his/her degree. We engaged the Law Offices of Sheela Murthy, the top immigration firm in the country, to draft a company-wide training plan that forms the basis for each individual I-983 that we fill.
  3. Here you have to formulate specific goals for the student and how they will be met. So these need to be written by someone experienced, who is able to look at the student’s degree and relate it to the job. We have a dedicated immigration specialist in-house, who is intimately familiar with the nuances of various degrees and job descriptions.
  4. Your employer should have a mechanism to provide oversight, even if you are at a client site. And if there is a site visit, your employer should have documented evidence that oversight is being provided. We have put a process in place to monitor, guide, train and document the entire training process, even when the students are working on client projects.
  5. On top of the oversight, employers should also do measurements and assessments to make sure that the student is meeting the goals set in the previous section. We built an tracking process that documents their progress, and also instituted periodic reviews that will be documentary evidence if any of this is questions during a site visit or during the H1B process (see FAQs below).

For the Evaluation section shown above:

  1. This Evaluation must be left blank when you apply. This needs to be filled out after 1 year.
  2. This Final Evaluation must be left blank when you apply. This needs to be filled out after the completion of the STEM OPT, at the end of 24 months.

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