STEM OPT - Optional Practical Training (OPT) in a Science,
Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Major Field
Boston University is
able to employ or host persons who have been authorized for an extension
of F-1 Optional Practical Training, in certain designated Science,
Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) major fields. This unique work
authorization is commonly referred to as “F-1 STEM OPT.”
International students enrolled
in a U.S. program of study commonly hold F-1 student immigration
status. F-1 student status permits up to 12 months of U.S. work
authorization in the student's major field of study under Optional
Practical Training (OPT) authorization. Many students choose to
request authorization to use their 12 months of OPT after they complete
their academic program.
In addition to the 12-months
of standard OPT work authorization, students in certain STEM major
fields, may also qualify for a 17-month extension of OPT authorization,
- Their major field of study is on a list
of designated STEM majors as determined by the U.S. Department
of Homeland Security. This list, which was last updated on 5/12/2011,
includes majors in science, technology, engineering and math,
listed by their Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP)
- The employer is registered under the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) E-Verify
employee verification system.
Although the STEM OPT 17-month
extension became available to F-1 students in April of 2008, Boston
University only recently became eligible to hire employees with this
authorization when the university registered with the federal E-Verify
of F-1 STEM OPT
For many BU employees
in F-1 status who qualify for STEM OPT, this new alternative will
be significantlu faster, easier, and more flexible than the often
costly and time-consuming process of obtaining Boston University
immigration sponsorship for a change to J-1, H-1B, or other appropriate immigration
As with most immigration
matters, however, there is no one-size-fits-all immigration solution
to facilitate U.S. work authorization and training.
While the F-1 STEM OPT extension may be ideal for some, an alternate
immigration strategy might be beneficial to others.
Benefits of F-1 STEM OPT
- Allows for full-time or part-time employment and for easy changes
to title, salary or department, job duties
- Allows flexibility for paid employment or uncompensated training in
the person's field of study (provided the activity exceeds 20 hours per week)
- Employee/trainee can remain in same immigration status to continue U.S. employment/training
- Employee/trainee retains ability to work for multiple employers
or change employers immediately (provided the new/additional employer is also registered under the US DHS as an E-Verify employer)
- Employee/trainee can end employment/training to begin a new program of study with a simple
F-1 transfer (no cost, no change of immigration status)
- F-1 STEM OPT authorization does not carry a Two-Year-Home Residence
Requirement, which is often associated with J-1 scholar sponsorship
- No costly Premium Processing fees are required as might be associated with expedited
Parties Involved in F-1 STEM OPT
There are several parties involved in supporting F-1 STEM OPT employment/training, including:
- F-1 OPT Employee/Trainee - An international student who has recently completed an academic program of study in the U.S. under F-1 immigration status and has been recommended by their sponsoring school for employment/training (Optional Practical Training) related to his/her major field of study. The student must have completed a major in a designated STEM field to qualify for the 17-month extension.
- F-1 Sponsoring School - The school at which the employee/trainee completed his/her academic program. The sponsoring school must (1) recommend the F-1 STEM OPT authorization, and (2) continue to monitor and maintain F-1 immigration sponsorship for the employee/trainee during his/her months of STEM OPT authorization.
- Employer/Training Site - The institutuion at which the employee/trainee will be employed or conduct uncompensated research. This institution must be registered with DHS under the E-Verify system.
- USCIS - The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (under U.S. Department of Homeland Security) must authorize the STEM OPT authorization after it has been recommended by the F-1 sponsoring school. It can take several months for the USCIS to authorize the STEM OPT. Once approved, the employee/ trainee will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to reflect his/her employment authorization.
Review of BU Department Request for F-1 STEM OPT
If a BU host department wishes to extend authorization for a current employee or trainee in F-1 status with a qualifying STEM major, then an
F-1 STEM OPT request packet would need to be forwarded to the Scholar Team of the ISSO.
F-1 STEM OPT packet includes:
- Form A
- Academic appointment
letter or job offer
- Form B
- Copy of the scholar's recent CV and all current immigration documents
The ISSO advisor will review
the scholar's immigration history to make certain a STEM extension
is suitable, and will then issue a letter
to the person's F-1 sponsoring school to assist them in requesting the
17-month extension of STEM OPT. This letter, which contains the
Boston University E-Verify number, is required in order for the BU employee/trainee to apply for an F-1 STEM OPT Extension.
Similar to the initial 12-month
OPT authorization, the 17-month STEM OPT extension must be recommended
by the F-1 sponsoring school. However, Boston University as the employer/training site
assumes responsibility to communicate with the F-1 sponsoring school,
including the requirement to report any employment termination within
48 hours. We rely on timely communication from the BU hiring department to meet this reporting requirement.
While the process of applying
for F-1 STEM OPT can be much quicker than applying for change to
another immigration status, BU host departments should note that
if a F-1 STEM OPT extension is not possible in a particular employee's
case, then it may be necessary to come up with an alternate immigration
sponsorship strategy which may take several months' time.
Boston University host departments
can request ISSO review of an F-1 STEM OPT extension request at
any time after the F-1 OPT employment has started. It is recommended
that an F-1 STEM OPT extension request be submitted to the ISSO
no less than 6 months before the expiration of the initial
OPT authorization period.
Processing Summary for F-1 STEM OPT
Department forwards completed F-1 STEM OPT request forms to ISSO
evaluates case and issues STEM OPT support letter to employee/trainee's sponsoring school, citing Boston University's E-Verify number
Based on ISSO recommendation, the F-1 sponsoring school recommends employee/trainee for an extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT) in a
STEM major field
With the assistance of the F-1 sponsoring school, the F-1 OPT employee/trainee submits an I-765 Application for Employment Authorization to the USCIS, along with an application fee
USCIS adjudicates the application. If approved, USCIS issues Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to extend the OPT for an additional 17-months of work/training authorization in the employee/trainee's STEM major field of study
Once EAD is received, the employee/trainee returns to ISSO to complete a new I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification (if employed) or to update ISSO records (for uncompensated training)