Many noncitizens in the United States have questions about EAD STEM and whether they can apply for H-1B while on STEM OPT. In this article, we cover many of the most common questions related to these issues. To get started, let’s take a closer look at what exactly EAD STEM means.
What is an EAD?
A Form I-766 employment authorization document (EAD) or EAD card (also known as a “work card”) is a document issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that authorizes temporary employment to noncitizens in the United States.
What is an OPT and STEM OPT?
One type of EAD is given to F-1 students who have completed their programs in the United States. Most students who complete a full-time program are eligible to receive a 12 month Optional Practical Training (OPT) EAD. Those students who majored in a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program are eligible for a 24-month extension of work authorization for training that is directly related to an F-1 student’s approved STEM field.
Eligible F-1 students with completed STEM degrees who participate in an initial period of regular post-completion OPT can apply for a STEM OPT extension. However, students who are in their 60-day grace period following their initial post-completion OPT may not apply for STEM OPT extensions.
To qualify for a 24-month STEM OPT extension, an F-1 student who is in their initial period of post-completion OPT must meet the following requirements:
- Have earned a degree from a Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified or accredited school in an eligible STEM field, which is determined by the CIP code.
- Seeking to work for an employer that is enrolled in USCIS’s E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.
- Seeking to work for a STEM OPT employer that will provide formal training goals.
- Work a minimum of 20 hours per week for the prospective employer.
Can You Apply for H-1B While on and OPT or STEM OPT EAD?
F-1 students who want to change from OPT or STEM OPT to H-1B must first find an employer who is willing to file an H-1B petition on their behalf. Many times, this is your current employer, but that is not always the case. There is no requirement that the H-1B petitioner and the OPT employer be the same.
Additionally, having a job offer is not sufficient in itself for obtaining an H-1B. USCIS gives out a limited number of H-1Bs every year. Therefore, if you want to secure H-1B status, you need to file your H-1B electronic registration as early on in the year as possible. USCIS uses an H-1B Cap Lottery method to determine who has a chance at obtaining an H-1B. The Fiscal Year 2023 H-1B lottery just ends toward the end of March each year.
Once you have a job offer from an employer in the U.S., they must submit the electronic registration on your behalf during the H-1B lottery registration period. Once USCIS receives enough registrations to meet the H-1B Cap, they will run the lottery. If your H-1B registration is picked in the lottery, the petitioner must submit the petition to USCIS during the 90-day period beginning on April 1st of each year.
Need Help Moving from STEM OPT to H-1B?
If you have additional questions about EAD STEM and applying for H-1B while on STEM OPT, feel free to reach out to our team at Philip Levin & Associates for further assistance.