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Stem MBA: Ultimate Guide for 2024

Updated: 7 days ago

There is no doubt that an MBA degree gives a person a big boost in his or her career. However, for global students striving to forge a bright future in America, the STEM MBA offers even greater prospects.


STEM MBA
STEM MBA Benefits

What is a STEM MBA?


STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A STEM-embedded MBA syllabus merges sound grounding in business studies with resilience on mathematical concepts which are essential in technological world of tomorrow. Graduates from these programs who are international students under F1 visa will have the option to go on extended OPT of up to 36 months as opposed to the standard 12-month period. This enables them to obtain critical work experience within the US before sponsorship by employers for employment visas becomes necessary.


Top US Schools Offering STEM MBA


Several top-ranked business schools offer STEM-certified MBA programs, concentrations, or the ability to qualify for the OPT extension through elective selection:


Benefits of a STEM MBA


  • Extended OPT: Gain up to three years of practical experience in the US, building your resume and professional network.

  • Competitive Edge: Signal your expertise in data-driven decision-making, essential in today's business world.

  • Career Opportunities: Access high-demand roles in tech, finance, consulting, healthcare, and other STEM-related fields.

  • Immigration Advantages: Potentially improves your chances of securing an H-1B work visa and eventually, permanent residency.


Choosing the Right STEM MBA Program


  • Specializations: Explore programs aligning with your career goals (e.g., Business Analytics vs. Fintech).

  • School Reputation: Consider the overall ranking and prestige of the business school.

  • Curriculum: Evaluate the STEM-designated courses and their real-world applications.

  • Location: Factor in proximity to tech hubs or industries of interest.


Important Note: Even schools without a fully STEM-designated MBA may offer specialized tracks or a sufficient number of STEM-focused electives to qualify you for the OPT extension.


The STEM-certified MBA is a powerful credential for both domestic and international students who aspire to lead in a technology and data-driven world. If you are ambitious, analytical, and ready to propel your career in the USA, this could be the perfect path! Get in touch with an MBA Admissions Consultant at GOALisB for assistance with your application to an MBA in USA.


Understanding the STEM MBA and OPT Extension


If you're an international student on an F-1 visa pursuing a STEM degree in the United States, the 24-month STEM OPT (Optional Practical Training) extension could be a game-changer for your career. This extension allows you to work in your field for an additional two years on top of the standard 12-month OPT. Here's a breakdown of what you need to know:


Eligibility Requirements

  • STEM Degree: You must have earned a Bachelor's, Master's, STEM MBA or Doctoral degree from a US institution in a field listed on the STEM Designated Degree Program. You can find your degree's CIP code on your I-20 form.

  • Current OPT: You must be on your initial 12-month OPT and not have exceeded 90 days of unemployment.

  • Previous STEM Degree: You can apply based on a STEM degree received within the past ten years like a STEM MBA.

  • STEM-Related Job: You need a job offer (or current employment) directly related to your STEM field.

  • E-Verify Employer: Your employer must participate in the USCIS E-Verify program and have an EIN number.

  • Employer Obligations: Your employer needs to complete Form I-983 and agree to follow all STEM OPT guidelines, including potential site visits by the Department of Homeland Security.

  • Application Deadline: Apply no more than 90 days before your existing OPT expires and no later than the expiration date.

  • Lifetime Limit: You are eligible for a maximum of two STEM OPT extensions in your lifetime.


Important Notes:

  • Check Filing Times: USCIS uses UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) when considering online applications. Be aware of the time difference if filing close to your deadline.

  • Types of Employment after STEM MBA:

  • Volunteer or unpaid positions are NOT allowed.

  • You need a "bona fide employer-employee relationship." It can't be just on paper.

Understanding 'Bona Fide' Employment

According to USCIS Guidance:

  • You cannot train another F-1 student. Your direct employer must supervise your training.

  • Resources and Personnel: Your employer must have the capacity to offer appropriate training for your STEM position.

  • Contractors vs. Client Staff: Training can be provided by employer staff or their direct contractors, but not by employees of the employer's clients/customers.


Additional Resources:

  • USCIS Website: Offers detailed information on the STEM OPT extension.

The STEM OPT extension opens doors to incredible career opportunities in the US. Carefully review the requirements and start planning early to maximize your chances of success!


Navigating Third-Party Worksites and Unemployment During Your STEM OPT Extension


The STEM OPT extension offers a fantastic opportunity to gain valuable work experience in the US. However, navigating the rules around staffing agencies, work locations, and unemployment can get tricky. Here's a breakdown to help you stay compliant:


Working with Staffing Agencies:

  • Yes, staffing agencies can employ you after STEM MBA. But there's a crucial catch: The agency must directly provide your training and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with you.

  • Training Location Flexibility: Your training can occur at a different site from your employer's main office, as long as the employer-employee relationship remains genuine.


Important Restrictions:

  • The employer cannot outsource your training. This includes clients, customers, or their contractors. Only your direct employer (or their contractors) can oversee your practical training.

  • Staffing agencies cannot sign the Form I-983. This form outlines your STEM training plan. The agency can only sign if they directly employ you and manage your training.


Understanding Unemployment During OPT and STEM Extension:


  • Grace Period: If you submit your STEM application on time, you can continue working for up to 180 days after your original OPT EAD expires while your application is reviewed.

  • Allowed Unemployment:

  • During your 12-month OPT, you're allowed a maximum of 90 days of unemployment.

  • The STEM extension grants an additional 60 days of unemployment.

  • In total, your entire OPT/STEM period allows a maximum of 150 days of unemployment (not just at the beginning).

  • Example: Let's say your OPT EAD is from Jan 1, 2024 - Dec 31, 2024, and your STEM EAD is from Jan 1, 2025 - Dec 31, 2026.

  • If you use 60 days of unemployment during your OPT period, you have 90 remaining for your STEM extension.

  • After finding a new job (with 30 days of unemployment), you only have 60 days remaining for the rest of your STEM period.


Important Note: Exceeding 90 days of unemployment during your initial OPT period disqualifies you from the STEM extension.


Increased Scrutiny by DHS:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is closely monitoring OPT and STEM OPT programs. Students caught with fraudulent employment or false information face severe consequences, including arrest and termination of their F-1 status.

DHS Site Visits:

Remember, DHS has the right to conduct site visits to verify your training experience as outlined in the Form I-983.


When to Apply for Your STEM MBA OPT I-20

  • Early Application Encouraged: Apply as early as 90 days before your OPT EAD end date.

  • Minimum Processing Time: Submit your STEM I-20 request at least 2 weeks before your current OPT EAD expires.

  • USCIS Processing Times: Check USCIS's website for current STEM OPT processing times. They typically range from 1-5 months, with most processed within 90 days.

  • Concurrent H-1B Application: If you're applying for both a STEM extension and H-1B visa, review specific guidelines for each application.


Remember: Your OPT employment authorization is automatically extended for 180 days after your OPT EAD end date while your STEM OPT application is pending.


Navigating the STEM OPT Extension Application Process: A Step-by-Step Guide


Congratulations on securing a STEM-related job after graduation! The 24-month STEM OPT extension allows you to gain valuable work experience in the US. Here's a breakdown of the application process to ensure a smooth and successful journey:


Step 1: Collaboration with Employer and I-20 Request (Start 90 Days Before OPT Expires)

  • Form I-983 Completion: Collaborate with your employer to complete Form I-983, outlining your STEM training plan.

  • STEM I-20 Request via BIO SSU Hub: Access the Berkeley International Office (BIO) Student Services Hub (SSU Hub). Here, you can update your employment information, complete the "Apply for STEM" form, and pay the BIO Post-Completion Services Fee. This entire process can be done conveniently online.

  • Receiving Your STEM I-20: Once your application and payment are complete, you'll receive your STEM OPT I-20 from BIO within 5 business days through your preferred delivery method (email is highly recommended!). Remember, USCIS needs to receive your application within 60 days of the date on the school attestation section of your I-20 (the date BIO recommends you for the extension).


Step 2: Prepare and Submit Your USCIS Application (Allow 1 Week)

  • Gather and Organize Materials: Dedicate about a week to collect and organize all necessary documents for your USCIS application package.

  • Filing Options: You can either submit the application electronically or by mail (paper applications are not recommended due to processing delays). Ensure your complete application reaches USCIS before your current EAD card expires.

  • Important Note: You can continue working under your OPT for up to 180 days while USCIS processes your STEM extension application.


Step 3: Track Your Case and Receive EAD (After Filing with USCIS)

  • Monitor Processing Times: Regularly check USCIS's website for current OPT and STEM OPT processing times. You can find this information by selecting: Form: "I-765," Form Category: "Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student [(c)(3)]", and Service Center: "Potomac Service Center" (historical data suggests processing times range from 1-5 months, with most applications processed within 90 days).

  • Receiving Your EAD: Once approved, you'll receive your STEM Extension Employment Authorization Document (EAD).


Step 4: Maintaining F-1 Status During STEM Extension

  • Report Updates: Promptly inform BIO (within 10 days) of any changes in your address or employer information.

  • Validation and Evaluation Reports: As a 24-month STEM Extension student, you'll need to submit validation reports every 6 months and training evaluations every 12 months.

  • Travel Endorsement: Remember, your I-20 travel endorsement is only valid for 6 months while on OPT STEM. Failure to maintain timely updates could result in termination of your F-1 status.


Key Takeaway: It's recommended to begin the OPT STEM application process 90 days before your 12-month OPT expires. By following these steps and adhering to reporting requirements, you can ensure a smooth transition into your STEM OPT extension and gain valuable experience in your field.


Planning for an MBA in USA? Contact GOALisB for a detailed discussion on how we can help you ace the process.

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