Optional Practical Training STEM Extension

If you are an F-1 student whose OPT is based on a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or doctoral degree in a STEM field (as defined by the Department of Homeland Security), you may be eligible for a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT authorization.

If your field is listed, you may qualify. F-1 students are eligible for the STEM OPT Extension only once per STEM degree and become eligible for another STEM OPT Extension after completing another qualifying degree at a higher level, with no more than two lifetime STEM OPT Extensions possible.

Click the sections below to learn more. 

Generally, eligibility to apply for the STEM OPT Extension is based on you, your degree, your job and your employer.

Your Degree:
  • The degree serving as the basis for a STEM OPT Extension application must be in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics field that is included on the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM Designated Degree Program List. Use the list below and the CIP code found on your I-20 to see if you qualify on the basis of your major. Note: CIP codes are used to standardize majors across institutions and are what students should use to determine if their major appears on the STEM list. You can find the CIP code for your degree in the ‘Program of Study’section on page 1 of your I-20 (XX.XXXX)

Click Here to see if your major qualifies for STEM OPT

You:
  • Are on post-completion OPT and hold an appropriate degree in one of the DHS-approved STEM fields (see list above; Graduate Certificate programs do not qualify).
  • Have had fewer than 90 days of unemployment during your 12-month period of post-completion OPT.
  • Will ensure that the appropriate USCIS Service Center receives your completed application before the expiration date on your current post-completion OPT card.
  • Will work with your employer to prepare and sign the I-983 Training Plan.
Your Job (Or Job Offer):
  • Is at least 20+ hours per week in a paying job (there is no salary minimum, but you must be paid something)
    • Unpaid internships and volunteer work are not eligible employment opportunities for the STEM OPT Extension. Similarly, students cannot represent themselves as both employer and employee on the I-983 form, meaning self-employment is also not allowed.
    • Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must meet STEM OPT Extension eligibility requirements. Moreover, each STEM OPT job must be at least 20 hours per week. 
  • Is directly related to your STEM field of study.
  • Constitutes a bona fide employer-employee relationship. A STEM OPT Extension eligible job must involve a bona fide employer-employee relationship between the student and the employer. The employer that signs Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student. Moreover, a STEM OPT student must be supervised by the employer’s own personnel.
Your Employer:
  • Must be enrolled in E-Verify by the time USCIS processes your STEM I-765
    • E-Verify is an Internet-based system operated by DHS in partnership with the Social Security Administration. Note: E-Verify is not a searchable system, you will need to ask your employer if they are enrolled in E-Verify.
  • Have a Federal/IRS Employment Identification Number (EIN)
  • Agree to the terms of STEM OPT,  have “sufficient resources and personnel available” to train you, and complete the employer-specific sections of the I-983 Training Plan in a timely.
    • The requirement to complete sections of the Form I-983 Training Plan includes annual or final evaluations and timely reporting (within 10 days)

We recommend that you begin the application process for the extension three to four months before your current OPT expires. Your application for a STEM-recommended I-20 from the ISSO can be submitted up to 100 days in advance of when your current OPT EAD expires -- this is a soft deadline that is meant to prevent students from applying too early and risk a denial (read on). Your actual I-765 application for a STEM EAD from USCIS can be submitted up to 90 days in advance of when your current OPT EAD expires -- this is a hard date, and if USCIS receives a STEM I-765 earlier than 90 days before the 12 month EAD expires, they will deny the request. 

If you file a timely application for an extension, you will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending with USCIS, until it is approved or denied, or for 180 days—whichever comes first.

1. First, begin filling out the Form I-983 with your STEM OPT-eligible employer. 

2. Next, pay the required $225 STEM OPT Services Fee. (As an optional step, you may also set up your Express Shipment order at this stage. The shipment order will be used to deliver your I-20, unless you've selected USPS shipping, in-person pick up, or electronic delivery.)

3. Access and submit the Application for a STEM OPT-Recommended I-20 from the ISSO. You'll need a copy of your most recent EAD card too.

4. Wait for the ISSO to issue your STEM OPT-recommended I-20. The processing time is 10 business days, not including shipping time. 

5. Begin preparing your STEM OPT I-765 application using this checklist and handout and the STEM OPT I-765 Materials Guide and other resources in the "Application Resources" section below.*

6. Once your new I-20 arrives and you've gathered all the materials, you can mail off your application to USCIS, provided USCIS does not receive your I-765 application earlier than 90 days before your 12 month OPT EAD expires. 

7. Wait ~90 days for your STEM OPT EAD card to arrive; review your new (and more complicated than regular OPT) reporting requirements (see section titled, "Student Reporting Requirements While on STEM OPT")

*In 2021, USCIS announced that they have made the I-765 available for online filing for F-1 students applying for pre-, post- or STEM Extension Optional Practical Training (OPT). Students applying for STEM OPT may choose whether to apply online or via paper, based on whatever they are most comfortable doing. 

Consult the following resources to help you throughout the process:

*Students must check the USCIS website (https://www.uscis.gov/i-765) to find out which form is current and should be used on the date of mailing. 

Students on STEM OPT have two different reporting mechanisms, depending on the information being reported:

1) You MUST self-report the following conditions or circumstances in your SEVP Portal Account:

  • Change of contact information (US address, email, phone, permanent address in home country)

2) You MUST report the following conditions or circumstances to the ISSO using the ISSO's Reporting Form

  • Change of name
  • Complete employment and return to home country
  • Change of job status (quit, fired, laid-off, relocated, change or add employers, etc.)
  • If there are material changes to those listed on the I-983 training plan, you must submit an updated I-983 to the ISSO within 10 business days. Examples of material changes can be found here
  • Every 6 months you must submit the Employment Verification form (these are the 6, 12, 18, and 24 month Validation Reports)
    • Note: you can submit the webform for an Employment Verification report up to 21 days, but no earlier, than the actual 6, 12, 18, or 24 month date

These updates cannot be submitted via email. Additionally, you must also complete an annual “Evaluation of Student Progress” with your employer and submit it to the ISSO using the Reporting Form

For more on your STEM OPT Reporting Requirements go to Department of Homeland Security Study in the States page at:  https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students-stem-opt-reporting-requirements

NOTE:  Failure to submit the required updates listed above in a timely manner as well as accrual of more than 150 days of unemployment could result in the termination of your SEVIS record.

STEM OPT REPORTING WORKSHOP SLIDES 06/13/2022

Consult the additional resources below for further guidance on how to fill out Form I-983, eligibility and requirements:

Study in the States launched the STEM OPT Hub in coordination with this new rule to help school officials, F-1 students and interested employers understand the new regulation. On the STEM OPT Hub, stakeholders can find information regarding:

*Coronavirus & STEM OPT I-20 Request Processing:

The ISSO will continue to remotely process and ship STEM OPT I-20 requests within a 10 business day timeline. When completing your STEM OPT I-20 related request, please create a shipping order indicating UPS or FedEx service; shipments sent via DHL may be delayed. Students may also select shipment by USPS; though this option is free, a shipment sent via USPS does not come with tracking and can take 2-10 business days to reach its destination within the US.

USCIS is continuing to process I-765 applications and EAD cards in approximately ~3-5 months