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 I-765 application for STEM OPT to USCIS online or by mail until you have received an updated I-20 from ISSS with the STEM recommendation. Otherwise, USCIS will deny your request for STEM OPT.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 (email@example.com) 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 having received an updated I-20 from ISSS with the STEM extension recommendation. USCIS will deny the application if you do not submit the I-20 with your request for an extension at the time of applying.
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.
Below is a list of the required documents you will need for your OPT application. Please prepare these documents first, then you will upload copies of these documents online for our office to review:
- Form I‐765: The pdf form is available at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765. Do not click the "file online" button! Make sure you download and complete the pdf version of the form (scroll down towards the bottom of the page under the Forms and Document Downloads section to download the pdf).
- We will review the pdf version of the form to make sure all responses are entered correctly.
- After we issue the OPT I-20, you can then choose to file online with USCIS, you will not need the pdf version of the I-765 form for the online application. DO NOT FILE YOUR OPT APPLICATION TO USCIS ONLINE UNTIL OUR OFFICE HAS ISSUED YOU A NEW OPT I20.
- For the eligibility category question on the I-765, it is (c)(3)(C) for STEM OPT.
- 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: See Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (this form is optional but recommended) *Only needed if filing to USCIS by mail
- If you have been granted CPT before, you must provide a copy of your CPT I-20(s).
- If you have been granted OPT before, you must provide a copy of the OPT I-20 and EAD card issued to you by USCIS for this authorization
- Application fee (currently $410.00)
- If you are filing to USCIS by mail, 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”.
- A file of a color passport-style photograph of yourself taken recently: For the criteria of the photo, please see: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/photos.html
- If you are filing to USCIS by mail, you will need two of the passport photos printed, 2 inches x 2 inches in size.
- A copy of your most recent Form I‐94 (Can be found online: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home#section)
- Copy of your unexpired passport photo and passport validity page(s). The passport must be valid. If your passport will be expiring less than 6 months from now, you must apply to renew it.
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