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. We recommend that students apply online for the OPT STEM extension. In rare instances, a student may complete the Paper Application Process instead and mail their application to USCIS. Please contact your DSO for these instructions.
Online Application Process
- 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.
- Create a USCIS Online Account.
- 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.
- Gather and scan all required documents. See I-765 Online Filing Evidence webpage. We recommend using the UIS ID Center for the digital passport sized photo.
- File your I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Online. Click the blue “File Online” button next to the I-765 Application.
- Review the Guidance for Online Filing of Form I-765 for STEM Optional Practical Training for assistance with your Online Application.
- Once the application is submitted, you will receive a Receipt Number. This number is very important as you will be able to track the progress of your application using the USCIS – Check Your Case Status webpage. 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, as your Receipt Notice serves as your authorization for up to 180 days after your OPT STEM start date.
- Your application must be 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Premium processing is now available to F-1 students applying for OPT at a significantly higher cost.
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).
|Time from 1st day of approved OPT STEM||Form to submit via iStart under F-1 Practical Training|
|6 month||OPT STEM Reporting|
|1 Year||OPT STEM Reporting and upload self evaluation section of I-983 (page 5)|
|18 month||OPT STEM Reporting|
|2 Year OR end of employment||OPT STEM Reporting and upload final evaluation section of I-983 (page 5)|
|New Employer||OPT STEM Employer and/or I-983 Update and upload I-983 for new employer and 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 and upload updated I-983|
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.