The STEM OPT Extension is a two-year extension of post-completion OPT for students who earned a STEM degree in the U.S. A student can request the STEM extension up to two times (as long as the student has completed a higher level of study, two STEM degrees at different levels of study, and was granted post-completion OPT a second time). The STEM OPT extension is a separate application filed to USCIS.
Do not submit your applicaiton for STEM OPT until you have received an updated I-20 from ISSS with the STEM recommendation.
To know if you are eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of your post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), please search for your major's CIP code on the DHS website.
You can find your CIP code (6-digit number) on your I-20 on the first page under "Program of Study", under "Major 1" or "Major 2" if you have a double-major.
The earliest you can apply for your STEM extension is 90 days before the expiration of your current post-completion OPT period. The deadline to apply is by the expiration of your current post-completion OPT period. If USCIS receives your STEM extension application even one day after your current OPT expires, the application will be denied.
Please make sure you have reported any employment you participated in during your post-completion OPT period (the first 12 months of OPT) before applying for the STEM extension. OPT should be reported using the SEVP Portal | Student and Exchange Visitor Program Portal. Please contact ISSS (email@example.com) if you have any issues accessing your SEVP Portal.
- You must be on an approved period of post-completion OPT. You must not have exceeded 90 days of unemployment during the post-completion OPT period.
- You must, at the minimum, have a job offer from a STEM employer to begin at the time the STEM extension begins, this employment must be directly related to the STEM degree you earned in the U.S. You can apply for the STEM extension based on a prior STEM degree earned in the U.S. (for example, you completed your bachelor's degree in Biology but you are currently on a period of post-completion OPT at the master's level for Business Administration).
- To know if you earned a STEM degree to apply for a 24-month extension of your post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), please search for your major's CIP code on the DHS website. You can find your CIP code (6-digit number) on your I-20 on the first page under "Program of Study", under "Major 1" or "Major 2" if you have a double-major.
- The STEM extension employer must be e-verified.
- You must report any and all employment done during post-completion OPT in the SEVP portal before you apply for the STEM extension.
- Your employer must be willing to comply with the Form I-983 requirements.
- You must have a copy of your STEM degree diploma or at least a transcript if you do not have a diploma.
1. The first step is to make sure you are eligible to apply for the 24-month extension of your post-completion OPT.
2. The earliest you can apply for your STEM extension is 90 days before the expiration of your current post-completion OPT period. The deadline to apply is by the expiration of your current post-completion OPT period. If USCIS receives your STEM extension application even one day after your current OPT expires, the application will be denied.
3. Please make sure you have reported any employment you participated in during your post-completion OPT period (the first 12 months of OPT) before applying for the STEM extension. OPT should be reported using the SEVP Portal | Student and Exchange Visitor Program Portal. Please contact ISSS (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any issues accessing your SEVP Portal.
- If you are unable to access your SEVP Portal, you can also report your employment using this form.
NOTE: ISSS will not be able to provide guidance on how to complete the form I-983. We are required to "review the student’s submitted Form I-983 to ensure that it is completed, signed and addresses all program requirements". The employer and student should review the STEM OPT Hub for assistance.
5. You would then need to submit the list of required application documents for the OPT STEM extension online to our office for review. To see the list of required documents, please click on the "Application Documents" tab to the right.
6. After our office has reviewed the STEM extension request, we will issue you a new I-20 for the STEM extension application. Our office will take approximately 5 to 7 business days to complete this process.
Do not submit your application for a STEM extension without an updated I-20 from ISSS with the STEM extension. USCIS will deny the application if you do not submit the I-20 with your reqeust for an extension
7. You will receive an e-mail from our office with instructions for the next steps, you will mail the STEM extension I-20 with the other required application documents to USCIS.
8. USCIS will take approximately 1-5 months to process the OPT STEM Extension application. Please check current case processing times online, choose Form I-765 and Potomac Service Center from the drop-down menus. USCIS will mail you a new EAD card once the STEM OPT extension is approved. NOTE: You are permitted to continue working for up to 180 days during the STEM extension period as long as you have filed your OPT STEM extension request on time while you wait for the new EAD card to be issued.
To apply for the OPT STEM extension I-20, please submit the documents listed below to ISSS online.
Below is a list of documents you will need to apply for the STEM extension:
- Form I‐765: Please download and complete the pdf version of the I-765 form from the USCIS website so we can check your responses before you file: https://www.uscis.gov/i-765, do not click "file online" for the form, the pdf version of the form is further down on the webpage. After our office has reviewed this application and issued you the OPT I-20 you can choose to file the I-765 online at the USCIS website or by mail. For the eligibility category question on the I-765, it is (c)(3)(C) for the OPT STEM extension.
- Form I-983 (See instructions here) *Please note this form only needs to be sent to ISSS, you do not need to mail it along with rest of this list to USCIS
- A copy of your STEM degree. If you do not have a copy of your STEM degree, or your degree does not list your STEM major on it, you will need to provide a transcript from your STEM program.
- Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
- New original, signed, I-20 issued by ISSS for the OPT STEM extension application (this will be issued after ISSS reviews your STEM OPT applications documents)
- Photocopies of ALL prior Forms I-20. Make sure you have your “initial” I-20. If you are missing any forms I-20 you need to write a letter to the USCIS explaining what happened to it. Address the letter “to whom it may concern”
- Application fee (currently $410.00) - You may pay the fee with a money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you pay by check, you must make your check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Make sure the date on the check is written as “Month/Day/Year”
- Obtain two passport-style photos; "2x2", white background, shoulders and up (you can find guidelines here)
- Photos must be identical color photographs of yourself taken within 30 days of filing your application. The photos must have a white to off-white background, be printed on paper with a glossy finish, and be unmounted and unretouched.
- The passport-style photos must be 2" by 2". The photos must be in color with full face, frontal, view on a white to off-white background. Head height should measure 1 to 13/8" from bottom of photo. Your head must be bear unless you are wearing headwear as required by a religious order of which you are a member. Using pencil or felt pen, lightly print your name and I-94 number on the back of the photo.
- Submit I-94. If you have an actual card stapled in your passport, copy the front and back. If you do not have a card, get your I-94 online
- Copy of any previously received EAD cards front and back. You would only have an EAD card if you applied for some type of employment authorization before (not CPT)
- Copy of your F-1 visa(s)
- Copy of most recent entry stamp in your passport - the one matching the I-94
- Copy of your unexpired passport photo and passport validity page(s)
Below are some additional items that you may want to include with your application, these items are not required but are recommended as proof you maintained your F-1 status while on OPT:
- Copy of 2 or 3 recent pay stubs from employer(s);
- Employment verification letter from current employer(s);
- Letter(s) from current/previous employers to verify you have not exceeded the 90 days of unemployment during the OPT period. The letter can simply state the time period you were employed with the company.
DO NOT SEND ANY DOCUMENTS TO USCIS UNTIL YOU HAVE RECEIVED THE NEW STEM EXTENSION I-20 FROM ISSS.
Once you have the new I-20 from ISSS, you can mail the documents to USCIS. Please find the mailing address of USCIS under "Where to File" here.
USCIS has provided several useful online resources regarding the Form I-983 and reporting requirements for DSOs (ISSS advisors), STEM OPT employers, and students working on STEM OPT.
- The STEM OPT Hub has links to these various resources.
- Please review this helpful timeline of the STEM OPT application process as well as reporting requirements during the STEM extension.
- To satisfy the reporting requirements during the STEM OPT extension, you are required to submit the online STEM OPT Reporting form to our office. Please note, you may receive reminder e-mails about the STEM OPT reporting requirements both from SEVP and our office. Please do not use the SEVP portal to fulfill the reporting requirements, please use the form at the previous link.
You are eligilbe to continue working for 180 days as long as you timely file your extension request. If your employer asks for documenttion to your continued eligibility:
- USCIS addresses this in their FAQ
- Similarly, it is codified in the immigration regulations at: 8 CFR § 214.2(f)(11)(i)(C)
- Your employer's I-9 obligations are explained in I-9 Central and the evidence section of the M-274 Handbook For Employers
- You may show your employer the USCIS issued I-797C, Receipt Notice for the extension if you wish, but it is not required. Your employer can legally verify your continued authorization using the following documents:
- Current (expired) OPT EAD Card
- STEM OPT I-20 (with new validity dates) issued by our office at the time of your applicatio