Frequently Asked Questions
- Who can apply for the 17-month OPT extension?
To be eligible for an OPT extension, a student must have received a degree (bachelor’s or master’s) in the STEM fields. These degrees include Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. At VIU, you are eligible for the extension if you have received a degree in one of the fields in the School of Computer Information Systems. A student must also ensure that their OPT has not expired to be eligible for this extension.
- Do I have to be currently employed to apply for the extension?
Yes, you need to be employed or have a confirmed job offer from a company in order to be eligible for an OPT extension. The job offer from the company should be E-Verified.
- What is E-Verification?
E-Verification is a database system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration. It allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly hired employees. E-Verify is currently voluntary in most states; for more information visit www.dhs.gov/e-verify.
- What if my current OPT expires and the extension approval has not arrived?
You can continue working for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of the prior post-completion OPT while the extension application is pending. Please note that you must complete the extension application process before your OPT expires.
- What are my obligations during the 17-month extension?
- Submit a copy of your new EAD Card to VIU (front and back)
- Report any changes in the following to the ISS Office at VIU:
- Your employment
- Employer’s address
- Home address, email, phone number
- Legal name and visa status
- How can I report changes to the ISS Office?
You must report changes by writing via email, post mail, or fax.
USCIS requires that you send a validation report to your DSO every six months starting from the date the STEM extension OPT starts and ending when the student’s F-1 status ends or the STEM extension OPT ends, whichever is first. The validation report must include the student’s:
- Full legal name
- SEVIS identification number
- Current mailing and/or residential address
- Name and address of the current employer (supervisor’s name)
- Employment start date by the current employer
- Your job title and one line explanation of your job duties
- May I extend again if my first 17-month extension expires?
No. The OPT extension is allowed only once. This means you can extend only once in your lifetime. You will not be eligible after a second OPT period, even with a different degree.
- What should I do if I lose my employment or the job is terminated?
You are allowed up to 90 days of unemployment under the first 12 months of OPT. If you have received a 17-month STEM OPT extension, you will be given an additional 30 days of unemployment for a total of 120 days over the entire post-completion OPT period.
- May I work part-time during the 17-month extension?
You must work at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify-enrolled employer in a position directly related to your STEM degree.
- I have a second job offer or a volunteer job offer. May I work for more than one employer?
You may work multiple jobs related to your STEM degree, but all of the employers must be enrolled in E-Verification. You are also allowed to volunteer, but the volunteer work does not count as employment for the purpose of maintaining your F-1 status.
For more details, please visit the USCIS website.
Applying for a 17-Month OPT Extension
Step #1: Initiating an extension request
- Submit a letter verifying your employment from your current employer. The letter should include the job offer and the new end date.
- Request a copy of your diploma and an official transcript. The fee for this service is $10.00 (express service costs $15.00). You may submit your request to the Registrar's Office.
- You must pay a $25.00 postage fee if you wish VIU to mail you your new EAD Card. You can contact the Accounting Office to process this payment.
Step #2: Application processing
Prepare and mail all the documents below:
- Copy of your new I-20 form for recommendation for extension
- The DSO will send you this new I-20 via FedEx after Step #1-1
- Original Form I-765 (Item #16: (c)(3)(C); Item #17: Degree, Employer Name, E-Verification Number)
- Copy of your valid passport
- Biographical data
- Entry stamps
- Visa pages
- Copy of Form I-94 Departure Record (front and back)
- Copy of your current EAD Card (front and back)
- $380.00 application fee, made payable to ”U.S. Department of Homeland Security”
- Two color photos (taken within 30 days of filing the application; be sure to include your name, I-94 and SEVIS #)
- Copy of your diploma and your most current academic transcript
Step #3: Make a copy and send the documents to USCIS
- Make a copy of every document (listed above) for your own records. The ISS Office will only keep a copy of the new I-20 and the extended EAD Card (when it is received).
- Once you receive your new I-20 endorsed by the ISS Office for an extension, mail the application package to USCIS. It must be received by the USCIS before your current EAD expires. Please check which USCIS Service Center is assigned to the state in which you live.
Step #4: Receive your new EAD
If you choose to have your card mailed to VIU, we will send your new EAD Card by FedEx express as soon as we receive it from USCIS. You can continue to work up to 180 days after the current OPT expires.