STEM OPT Extension
The STEM OPT extension is only available to certain F-1 students who receive a qualifying degree in a STEM field at the bachelor’s level or higher from an accredited, SEVP-certified school. Students must be in their initial period of regular post-completion OPT to apply for the extension. The STEM OPT extension also involves additional forms and reporting requirements. F-1 students granted the STEM OPT extension by USCIS receive an additional 24 months of employment authorization for on-the-job training in their STEM field.
Review filing guidance, form instructions, checklist, tips, and requirements necessary and gather all information:
STEM OPT Eligibility
In order to be eligible to apply for STEM OPT, the following criteria must be met:
- The degree that is the basis for the 24-month OPT extension must be a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral degree in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field that appears on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time the DSO recommends the STEM OPT extension.
- The STEM degree (on the DHS List) that serves as the basis for the student’s currently active post-completion OPT period; or a previously-conferred STEM degree (on the DHS List), i.e. STEM degree that was conferred prior to the degree that serves as the basis for the student’s currently active post-completion OPT; within the last 10 years.
- Qualifying job must be a paid job, for at least 20 hours per week at each STEM employer.
- Employer must be enrolled in E-Verify and have an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN); DHS says that there must be a “bona fide employer-employee” relationship and that the student may not be self-employed.
- The student and employer must complete a, and the student must present the completed I-983 to the DSO before the DSO recommends STEM OPT in SEVIS.
- USCIS must receive the student’s STEM OPT application package before the expiration of the student’s current post-completion OPT.
An eligible F-1 student can apply for the 24-month extension within 60-days of the DSO endorsement on your Form I-20, and up to 90-days before your current OPT employment authorization expires.
- A student who has timely filed an application for a 24-month STEM OPT extension with USCIS may work for the STEM OPT employer while the STEM extension application is pending, for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of his or her post-completion OPT EAD.
- If a STEM OPT application is still pending more than 180 days beyond the expiration of the student’s regular or cap-gap OPT, the student must stop working.
STEM OPT employment authorization must be adjudicated by USCIS, after receiving the DSO endorsement and prior to beginning employment. Interested students should plan ahead and refer to the USCIS Case Processing Times for an estimated wait time.
In order to request the STEM OPT endorsement from the designated school official, you must submit the following:
- Signed Form I-983, Training Plan from qualifying employer.
- Copy of diploma indicating approved STEM degree.
To request an OPT endorsement from your designated school official, the individual student must complete the following steps. The endorsement must be within 60-days for STEM OPT.
- Log into the International Services Portal using your eCampus credentials
- Locate the student request options and complete the STEM DSO endorsement request
- The designated school official will review the request once complete, process the OPT requested I-20, and notify the student once complete
The student must upload the signed I-983 Employer Training Plan to the request
Once you receive your Post-Completion DSO endorsement, prepare your application for filing. Review the Checklist of Required Evidence and gather digital versions of all requirements to upload with your application.
- I-20 issued within 60-days with a STEM OPT endorsement from your designated school official.
- Evidence of previously authorized CPT (CPT authorized I-20) or OPT (EAD card)
- Valid Passport with F-1 Visa
- A printout of your I-94 Arrival Document
- Recent color passport-style photograph: Taken within 30-days on a white or off-white background measuring 2 x 2 inches, with your face measuring 1 inch to 1 3/8 inches from the chin to the top of your head. Your eyes should be between 1 1/8 inches and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the photo.
- Copy of diploma indicating STEM degree
- Employer Signed I-983 Training Plan
- Institutional Accreditation: You do not need to upload anything for this section unless you are applying for STEM OPT based on a previous degree.
Once you have received your OPT endorsed I-20 from your designated school official, you must complete the following steps to file your application for Post-Completion OPT with USCIS within 30 days of the signature.
- Create a USCIS Online Account or Sign In to your already existing account
- Select File a Form Online, choosing the I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and using the Code: Pre Completion OPT – (c)(3)(B)
- Complete the I-765 Form, reading all form instructions for information on completing fields. USCIS will reject or deny your form if you leave a field blank or if you do not sign your form.
- Upload required evidence as indicated in clear and readable, not encrypted or passport-protected, in English, and in one of the following accepted file formats: JPG, JPEG, PDF, TIF, or TIFF.
- Review the summary of the information you provided in your application and digitally sign your application; type your full legal name (first, middle, and last names) in the space provided.
- Pay the filing fee using a valid credit or debit card, or provide your bank routing and checking account numbers to have money taken directly from your U.S. bank account.
- After you make your payment, your form will be submitted and you will receive a receipt notice that contains your receipt number. This is a unique number that applies to your specific case with USCIS. You can find your receipt number on your online account home page, and you can find a copy of your receipt notice under the Documents tab.
The rules and student reporting responsibilities during the 24-month STEM extension are different from those throughout post-completion OPT.
Students should refer to the STEM OPT Reporting Requirements for responsibilities while on post-completion optional practical training.
OPT Application Help
We understand you may have questions about applying for OPT. For assistance and to have your questions answered, please see the options available.