STEM OPT Extension (F-1)

STEM Extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT)

The STEM OPT extension is a 24-month extension of F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) for individuals who majored in the fields of study with specific classification of instructional program codes or (CIP) codes in science, technology, engineering, or math.  For more detailed information on STEM OPT extensions please go to the Department of Homeland Security website; Study in the States STEM OPT HUB.

Eligibility

To qualify for the STEM OPT extension:

  • You must have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a field included on the U.S. government's list STEM fields. The government list of CIP Codes that are eligible for STEM OPT extensions may be viewed on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website.
  • You must be currently participating in post-completion OPT in a job directly related to your STEM major.
  • Your job must be in a paid position, not a volunteer job or self-employment and work at least 20 hours per week.
  • Your current or prospective employer must be registered with the Department of Homeland Security E-Verify employment verification system and must agree to meet all the requirements listed in the Employer Responsibilities section of this page.

 

How to Apply for the STEM OPT Extension

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Step 1: Speak with an International Student Advisor

Make an appointment to speak with an advisor to discuss the process of STEM OPT. You can schedule an appointment through Google Calendar (links in the sidebar of this webpage).

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Step 2: Submit the required completed documents to the Slater International Center for review

You can use our online STEM OPT Application Form to submit the below required documentation or set up an appointment to meet with your International Student Advisor three to four months before your initial OPT ends. If you will be meeting in-person, bring copies of all the documents.

  • Form I-765
    • The Form I-765 should be typed, saved, and printed. After printing, please sign in black ink. Use Adobe Acrobat to fill in the application.
    • For Part 2, Number 5, carefully consider the address you indicate.  You should use the address where you will be in 2-4 months, when your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will be mailed to you. You may use the Slater International Center address: c/o Tana Ruegamer, Wellesley College, 106 Central St, Wellesley, MA 02481.
    • Under Part 2, Number 27, write either (C) (3) (C) for the STEM OPT Extension
    • Under Part 2, Numbers 28, add your degree leve and name, the name of your employer, and their E-Verify number. Ask your HR department for their E-Verify number.
    • You can download a sample here (pdf).
  • Form I-983 (See the Guide for Completing Form I-983)
  • Passport ID page
  • F-1 visa (does not apply to Canadian citizens)
  • Your most recent Form I-94
  • Most recent Form I-20
  • All previous Forms I-20 (include forms from previous U.S. schools)
  • Your diploma and official transcript showing your STEM OPT eligible degree
  • Two (2) passport-sized photographs (taken within the past 6 months) with your name and SEVIS ID# on the back in pencil. You can use this photo specification guide.
  • A personal check or money order for $550 made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Write your SEVIS ID # on the front of your check in the memo section.
  • All previously issued Employment Authorization Documents (EAD)
  • Copy of all previously issued EADs
  • Form G-1145 (optional)
  • Updated OPT Audit Form
  • Immigration Document Mailing Form (if you will not be picking up your packet in-person)
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Step 3: Correct any errors on your Form I-765 and Form I-983 and receive your new Form I-20

A Slater International Center staff member will review your application and inform you of any necessary changes. STEM OPT Extension applications can take up to five (5) business days to process. Your new Form I-20 with a recommendation for a STEM extension will be express mailed to you if you have completed the Immigration Document Mailing Form.

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Step 4: Submit your STEM OPT application to United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)

You may submit the STEM application up to 90 days before your initial OPT period ends. You must submit your completed application to USCIS and it must be received within 60 days of the date your Designated School Official (DSO)/International Student & Scholar Advisor signed your new Form I-20 and before your current OPT period ends.

Include the following documents in your application to USCIS in the following order:

  • A personal check or money order for $550 (made out to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”. Write your SEVIS ID # on the front of your check in the memo section.)
  • Form I-765
  • Copy of new Form I-20 (signed). Do not send your original Form I-20
  • Copy of your passport ID page
  • Copy of your F-1 visa (does not apply to Canadian citizens)
  • Copy of your most recent Form I-94
  • Copies of all previous Forms I-20 (include forms from previous U.S. schools)
  • Copy of your diploma and official transcript (showing your major in a STEM field)
  • Copy of all previously issued EADs
  • Form G-1145 (optional)
  • 2 passport-sized photographs (taken within the past 6 months with your name and SEVIS ID# on the back in pencil)

IMPORTANT REMINDERS: 

  • Do not mail your Form I-983 to USCIS. 
  • Make copies or scans of all of your documents prior to mailing your application to USCIS

Send your application packet to the appropriate address with delivery confirmation.

If you live in... Use the DALLAS Lockbox
Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New  Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New  York, North  Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, or West Virginia For U.S. Postal Service (USPS):
USCIS
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
USCIS
Attn: NFB AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business
Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
If you live in... Use the PHOENIX Lockbox
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Guam, or the Northern Mariana Islands
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS):
USCIS
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
USCIS
Attn: NFB AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Please see the USCIS website for the most recent information.

NOTE:  If you successfully file the application for your STEM OPT extension prior to the expiration of your current OPT period; you may continue employment up to 180 days following the expiration of your original OPT. If your application is denied, you must stop working immediately.

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Step 5: Wait for approval

USCIS will send you a Form I-797 (STEM OPT Receipt Notice) for your STEM OPT application within 2-4 weeks. Once you have received your receipt notice, you can track the status of your case using the case status search feature of the USCIS website. You may elect to receive e-mail alerts about your case status.

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Step 6: Receive your new EAD

USCIS will send you your new EAD and Form I-797 Notice of Action (STEM OPT Approval Form) indicating your new STEM OPT dates to the address listed on your Form I-765. You must send a photocopy of your new EAD and STEM OPT Approval Form to the Slater International Center via the Document Upload Form to update your record. Do not email your documents to Slater as it is not secure.

Additional Information

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Employers’ STEM OPT Responsibilities

If you are an employer who wants to hire an international student for the STEM OPT extension you must:

  • Be enrolled in the E-Verify program and remain in good standing.
  • Provide an employment opportunity that is commensurate with those of similarly situated U.S. workers in duties, hours, and compensation
  • Document and provide a formal training program to augment the student’s academic learning through practical experience.
  • Complete the Form I-983, Training Plan. In this form, you must attest that:
    • You have enough resources and trained personnel available to appropriately train the student;
    • The student will not replace a full- or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker; and
    • Working for you will help the student attain their training objectives.
  • Report material changes to the student’s employment to the DSO within 5 business days.

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may visit your worksite(s) to verify whether you are meeting the STEM OPT program requirements, including whether you are maintaining the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences for the student.

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Maintaining F-1 Status during the OPT STEM OPT Extension

Reporting

You are required to report the following information to the Slater International Center throughout the entire period of your STEM OPT extension:

  • Your legal name
  • Your residential or mailing address
  • Your email address
  • Your employer’s name
  • Your employer’s address

You must report any change in this information to the Slater International Center within 5 business days of the change.  Failure to report properly could be considered a violation of your F-1 student immigration status and could result in the termination of your SEVIS record.

It is your responsibility to follow these reporting requirements but the Slater will send reminder emails with a form to update every six months to verify your contact and employment information. Please complete the form and return it to the Slater International Center within 5 business days.

Evaluation Reporting

You must also complete two self-evaluations. These evaluations are found on page 5 of the Form I-983.  The first evaluation must be submitted within 12 months of the STEM OPT start date.  The second evaluation must be submitted at the end of the STEM OPT period.  You and your immediate supervisor must sign the evaluation and submit it to the Slater International Center.

Changing Employers while on STEM OPT

If you leave your current place of employment while on STEM OPT, you must let the Slater International Center know within 5 days of ending employment and complete the “Final Evaluation on Student Progress” on page 5 of the Form I-983 and submit it via the STEM OPT Validation Report.

If you begin new employment, you must also submit a new Form I-983 with your new employer information and training plan. Please submit the new Form I-983 via the STEM OPT Validation Report prior to beginning your employment. A Slater International Center staff member will review your training plan and if it is complete, issue you a new Form I-20 with your new employer information. You may not begin employment until your Form I-983 has been reviewed and approved.

Unemployment

For STEM OPT, you are granted an additional 60 days of unemployment for a total of 150 days of unemployment for the duration of your OPT. Please let the Slater International Center know if you are approaching 150 days of unemployment so we may assist you in maintaining your status.

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Additional Resources

You may have additional questions about whether or not you meet the eligibility requirements or want further details on the requirements; we recommend three excellent resources for more information:

Study in the States

Planning tool for 24-month extension of STEM OPT

NAFSA STEM OPT

USCIS 24-Month Extension Guidance