OPT STEM Extension

The OPT STEM Extension is a full-time, 24 month extension of Post-Completion OPT. Students must have a degree in a qualifying major from the fields of Science, Engineering, Technology, or Mathematics. You must apply during your last 90 days of Post-Completion OPT and work for an e-verify employer. Eligible CIP Codes for the OPT STEM Extension can be found on the STEM Designated Degree Program List.

Online Application Process

  1. You will need to complete the OPT STEM I-20 Request via iStart and upload the I-983 Training Plan in order to request the form I-20 for the OPT STEM Extension application. Please remember, this can take approximately 2 weeks to process your new I-20, so plan accordingly. You may submit the “OPT STEM Extension I-20 Request” and Form I-983 (pages 1-4) via iStart as early as 90 days prior to your OPT end date. Please review the Instructions to Complete the I-983 Training Plan (PDF) for assistance.
  2. Create a USCIS Online Account.
  3. DSO will provide you with a new Form I-20 via mail or email with the OPT recommendation. Make sure to print and sign page 1 of your Form I-20. USCIS requires your original signature and you must retain original I-20 for your records.
  4. Gather and scan all required documents. See I-765 Online Filing Evidence webpage.
  5.  File your I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Online.  Click the blue “File Online” button.

Paper Application Process

  1. You will need to complete the OPT STEM I-20 Request via iStart and upload the I-983 Training Plan in order to request the form I-20 for the OPT STEM Extension application. Please remember, this can take approximately 2 weeks to process your new I-20, so plan accordingly. You may submit the “OPT STEM Extension I-20 Request” and Form I-983 (pages 1-4) via iStart as early as 90 days prior to your OPT end date. Please review the Instructions to Complete the I-983 Training Plan (PDF) for assistance.
  2. Once your new I-20 for the STEM recommendation is ready, ISS will notify you via email and your form I-20 will be delivered to you via the method that you choose when you submit the e-form request. Your options will be to receive it in a pdf file transmitted electronically, to arrange an express mail shipment of the paper document, or to pick up the paper document in the ISS office.
  3. Prepare all documents to be mailed to USCIS:
    • $410.00 made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – View the Paying USCIS Fees website for all payment options, detailed instructions, and a sample of “How to Write Your Check.”  You may also pay by credit card by including Form G-1450 with your application. Make sure to include your I-94 number on your payment.
    • Two recent, passport-style photos on white background -The photos must be 2 x 2 inches; the images must be 1 inch from the hair to the chin and 1.25 inch from eye height to the bottom of the photo. Your name and I-94 number must be printed in pencil on the back of the photos.  Use the US Department of State Photo Check Tool.
    • Form G-1145 (PDF)
    • On the Form I-765 mark the box indicating that you are applying for renewal of your employment authorization. The code for section 20 is (c)(3)(C). Review the STEM OPT Instructions for the Form I-765 (PDF) for assistance.
    • New form I-20 with the STEM recommendation on page 2.  Make sure to print, sign, and date on page 1.
    • Copies of previous I-20s, passport, visa, form I-94, and copies of any previous EAD’s (including current OPT card)
    • Copy of certification of degree awarded showing the applicant’s major field of study or a final transcript showing the degree awarded
    • Valid email address, employer’s name, employer’s address, and employer’s EIN
    • Evidence that first period of OPT was conducted appropriately – employment was directly related to the major and appropriate for the level of study and no more than 90 days of unemployment (job offer letters, pay stubs, etc.)
  4. Mail all documents to the appropriate Service Center prior to the expiration date on your current EAD.  See the USCIS Web site for filing addresses and which Service Center should receive your application.
  5.  Once the application is received, if there are no requests for additional evidence or information, your extension is automatic and is effective the very next day after your current authorization expires. You do not have to await the arrival of your new EAD in order to continue working for up to 180 days. If 120 days pass and you do not receive your new EAD, please contact us so that we can assist you in following up with the Service Center.
  6. Your application must be mailed and received by USCIS within 60 days of the date printed on your I-20 and also must be received by USCIS prior to your OPT end date.
  7. Students granted a 24-month OPT extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during a total OPT period, including any post-completion OPT period and any subsequent 24-month extension period.  Therefore, if you used all 90 unemployment days during OPT, you would only have 60 remaining unemployment days during your OPT STEM extension.
  8. The ISS Office has provided you with a recommendation for the OPT STEM extension. USCIS will adjudicate your application and is responsible for the approval of your STEM extension. It is possible that you may receive an RFE (Request for Evidence) from USCIS.  It is ultimately your responsible to provide accurate information to USCIS and provide further documentation if needed. For more information regarding the OPT STEM extension, please visit the STEM OPT Hub on the Study in the States website.
  9. Once you receive your EAD for STEM, make sure all information is correct, make copies for your records, and keep your EAD in a safe place.  Information regarding corrections and replacements can be found on our Employment Authorization Document webpage.

Reporting Requirements

Please remember during OPT STEM that you must report your employment every 6 months via iStart. You must also submit the evaluation portion of the I-983 at one year and the final evaluation at the end of your OPT STEM employment. In addition, you must submit updates for anything that changes on your I-983 within 10 days of the change. (Please see the link below to the OPT STEM Hub.)

These reporting requirements are mandatory and failure to report could result in a termination of your OPT STEM. Students must continue to update any change in address in Enterprise AND to the SEVP Portal within 10 days of moving. Reporting requirements are the student’s responsibility and ISS will not remind students to report.

Reporting requirements begin on the start date of your OPT STEM period (regardless of how long you have worked with the employer).

When –

Calculate from 1st day of approved OPT STEM

What –

Form to submit via iStart under                          F-1 Practical Training

6 month OPT STEM Reporting
1 Year OPT STEM Reporting

upload self evaluation section of I-983 (page 5)

18 month OPT STEM Reporting
2 Year OR end of employment OPT STEM Reporting

upload final evaluation section of I-983 (page 5)

New Employer OPT STEM Employer and/or I-983 Update

upload I-983 for new employer

upload final evaluation section of I-983 (page 5) for previous employer

Any updates to your I-983 OPT STEM Employer and/or I-983 Update

upload updated I-983

Site Visit

A new provision in the STEM OPT rule allows DHS to perform site visits to employer locations that train STEM OPT students. DHS will provide notice to the employer at least 48 hours in advance of any site visit, unless the visit is triggered by a complaint or other evidence of noncompliance with the STEM OPT extension regulations. ISS recommends that you keep a copy of your form I-983 easily accessible at your work.

Please view the OPT STEM Hub or USCIS website for more information regarding the 24 month OPT STEM extension.