STEM OPT Extension
F-1 students with degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) may be eligible for a 24-month extension of their Post-completion OPT work permission. To learn more about STEM OPT, review the STEM OPT Hub and the information below:
- Be on a period of standard Post-completion OPT.
- Hold a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a field of study (indicated on the I-20) that is on the official STEM Designated Degree Program List.
- Have a paid job offer from an employer enrolled in E-Verify and that has a Federal Employer Identification Number. Your employer must pay you the same amount that they would pay a similar U.S. worker.
- Demonstrate the job is directly related to the STEM degree.
- Must work a minimum of 20 hours per week.
- If you have multiple employers, each employer must be enrolled in E-Verify, have a Federal Employer Identification Number and complete a form I-983 Training Plan.
- If the place of employment is at a location that is other than the employer's principal place of business, the employer must maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship.
- Prepare and sign the Training Plan (Form I-983).
- Submit an application to USCIS before the end date listed on your current Post-completion OPT EAD card.
Eligibility for a second period of 24-month STEM OPT after higher degree:
- If you enroll in a new academic program in the U.S. in the future and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level, you may be eligible for a second period of 24-Month STEM OPT.
- Example: You earn a bachelor's degree in computer science and apply for Post-completion OPT and then 24-month STEM OPT. You then earn a master's degree in computer science. You are eligible to again apply for Post-completion OPT and another 24-month STEM OPT based on your earned master's degree.
Eligibility based on a previously obtained STEM degree:
If you are currently in a degree field (or on Post-completion OPT) that is not STEM eligible, but you have previously earned a STEM-eligible degree from an accredited U.S. higher education institution, you may be eligible to apply for the 24-month STEM OPT under certain conditions:
- You must have received both degrees from currently accredited and SEVP-certified institutions.
- Your previous degree cannot have been earned more than 10 years ago.
- Your previous degree is on the official STEM Designated Degree Program List.
- You did not already receive a STEM OPT extension based on the previous degree.
- Your employment is directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree.
- Your employer is enrolled in E-Verify and has a Federal Employer Identification Number.
- Submit the STEM OPT Extension Request to the ISSS Office. The earliest you can apply for STEM OPT is 90 days before your Post-completion OPT expires. You must upload a completed Form I-983 as part of the application. Please note that ISSS processing time is 7-10 business days. We will email you when your STEM OPT I-20 is ready.
- After receiving your STEM OPT I-20, you must submit the following documents to USCIS within 60 days of the STEM OPT I-20 issue date AND before your Post-completion OPT end date:
- G-1145 e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance. Use this form to request a text and/or email when USCIS accepts your I-765 form.
- I-765 Form –You must include all 7 pages with your application. This document must be typed.
You can find a sample of a completed I-765 form on our website.
- On page 1, select box 1.a. “Initial permission to accept employment” because this is your first application in the STEM OPT category.
- On page 3, question 27, enter the correct employment code as follows: (c)(3)(C).
- Use Part 6 (page 7) to provide all previously used SEVIS numbers and list any previously authorized CPT and/or OPT and the academic level at which it was authorized.
- Two Passport Photos – Taken within the last 30 days. Write your name and I-94 number on the back of the photos lightly in pencil or ball point pen.
- Application Fee of $410:
- Check/Money Order made payable to: U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- U.S. Credit Card: You must complete Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transaction to pay your application fee with a credit card. Please note: some students have had applications rejected because their credit card company declined the charge. ISSS recommends using a money order if possible.
- Document Photocopies – Do not send any originals of these supporting documents:
- Electronic I-94 record or photocopy of paper I-94 card (both sides)
- F-1 Visa
- Passport ID page – Passport must be valid at least 6 months into the future
- Previously issued EAD Card(s) (Front and Back)
- Diploma or official transcript confirming STEM degree
- STEM OPT I-20
- Any/All previous I-20s that you have been issued, including I-20s from other schools (excluding the instructions page)
- Make a copy of your application before you mail it to USCIS.
- Mail Your Application to USCIS:
- Use Priority Mail/Express Mail to Send Your OPT Application to USCIS:
- The address to which your OPT application is mailed to is determined by the address you provide on item 5a (page 2, Your U.S. Mailing Address) of the I-765 Form.
- Click here for the address where you should mail your application.
- Use Priority Mail/Express Mail to Send Your OPT Application to USCIS:
- Important notes:
- You should NOT include Form I-983 in the application you mail to USCIS.
- Within 2-4 weeks of mailing your application, you should receive a paper receipt notice in the mail. Check that your name, date of birth, and address are correct on this notice. If they are incorrect, contact USCIS at the phone number listed on your receipt notice. You can also check the status of your application online.
- You may continue to work while your application is processing for up to 180 days after the end date on your Post-completion OPT EAD. Students typically receive an approval notice and new EAD card within 90-120 days after mailing the STEM OPT application.
- When you receive your new EAD card for the STEM OPT extension, be sure to upload a copy to the ISSS.
- You must report/confirm your employment information and living address to the ISSS office while on STEM OPT every six months. You can confirm your employment by submitting an OPT Employment Update Form and Address Change for Students on OPT Form.
- If you change your employer while on STEM OPT, or if your position at your current employment greatly changes, you must also submit an OPT Employment Update Form and a new Form I-983. You must submit the form to the ISSS Office within 10 days of the change. You must also submit a final evaluation signed by your previous employer. The final evaluation can be found on page five of the Form I-983.
- If you change your living address while on STEM OPT, you must submit the Address Change for Students on OPT Form within 10 days of the change.
- You must submit an annual self-evaluation (found on page five of Form I-983) about the progress of your employment to the ISSS office. For more information about the annual self-evaluation, visit the Students and the Form I-983 page.
- SEVP has launched a portal where students on STEM OPT can report changes to their address and phone number. You will receive an email from SEVP after your approved EAD start date; that email will contain instructions for creating your portal account. You are still required to report all other changes to STEM OPT employment directly to the ISSS Office using the instructions and links above.
- During the 24-month STEM OPT extension authorization period, you may not accrue more than a total of 150 days of unemployment between your 12-month OPT period and STEM OPT period. For example, if you accrued 30 days of unemployment during your 12-month OPT period then you have a total of 120 days of unemployment during your STEM OPT period.
- Time spent outside the United States, if not employed by a U.S. employer, counts towards the 150-day period of unemployment.
The ISSS Office strongly recommends that you do not travel outside of the U.S. after your Post-completion OPT EAD card has expired, until you receive your STEM OPT EAD card.
If you travel outside of the U.S. during your STEM OPT period, you are required to show the following documents to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status:
- A valid I-20 that includes a travel signature that is less than 6 months old and lists your current employment information.
- A passport that is valid at least six months into the future.
- A valid F-1 visa.
- A valid EAD card.
- Proof of employment (Job offer letter).