International Students and Scholars Office

STEM Optional Practical Training (STEM OPT)

What is STEM OPT?

The STEM OPT extension allows some students with science, technology, engineering, or math degrees to apply to extend their post-completion OPT authorization. Eligible students who are currently on 12-Month OPT may qualify to apply for a 24-Month STEM OPT Extension to receive an additional 2 years of employment authorization directly related to their STEM degree program. Detailed information for students and employers can be found on the DHS webpage Study in the States OPT STEM Hub.


To be eligible for STEM OPT, you are required to:

  1. Be on post-completion OPT and hold an appropriate degree in one of the DHS-approved STEM fields.
  2. Be employed in a paying job by, or have a paying job offer from, an employer who is registered with the E-Verify employment verification system.
    • 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.
    • Employment relationships such as work for hire, self-employment, employment agencies (unless working as an employee of the agency itself), and owning a business as a sole proprietor are not eligible for STEM extension.
  3. Have had fewer than 90 days of unemployment during your 12-month period of post-completion OPT.
  4. Demonstrate that the job is directly related to your STEM field of study.
  5. Work with your employer to prepare and sign the I-983 Training Plan.
  6. Ensure that the appropriate USCIS Service Center receives your completed application before the expiration date on your current post-completion OPT card. 


The International Students and Scholars Office provides information about STEM OPT, but we do not approve the application or have the authority to influence the process. If there is a request for information or to correct a problem, USCIS will notify you of the request and it is your responsibility to contact your assigned International Student Advisor and respond to the request on time. 

Important: USCIS must receive your STEM OPT application before the expiration date of your post-completion EAD and within 60 days of the OPT STEM recommendation. You can apply up to 90 days before your post-completion EAD expiration date. 

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Application Steps

The major code on your I-20 must be listed on the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time of application.

Do not submit Form I-765 to USCIS until you receive a STEM OPT I-20. Doing so may delay or result in denial of your application.

Download the form Form G-1145 and instruction

  • It signs you up for email/text message notification of your application’s arrival at USCIS

Lightly print your name and the I-94 number on the back of each photo in pencil, not ink pen.

Check the current amount
  • Personal Check, Cashier’s Check or Money Order are acceptable. NO CASH
  • Make the fee payable to: U.S. Dept of Homeland Security

The packet includes the following items:

  • Form G-1145, e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
  • Copy of STEM OPT I-20 with your signature
  • Copy of Diploma
  • Copy of current EAD card
  • Copy of passport picture page
  • Copy of most recent F-1 visa with most recent date entry stamp
  • I-94
  • Application fee
  • Two U.S. passport sized photos

Mail Address

  • If you reside outside of California, review the USCIS mailing instructions to find the correct Lockbox location.
  • If you live in California mail the entire application to:
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680

For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

Keep a copy of the application materials for you record.

Employment and Unemployment


You must work at least 20 hours per week for an employer that

  • Unlike the 12 month OPT, volunteer/unpaid work or self-employment is not permitted under the 24 month STEM OPT Extension regulation.


  • You are allowed an additional 60 days of unemployment, for a total of 150 days (90 days from OPT + additional 60 days).
  • Each day (including weekends) that you do not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment. There is no grace period after 150 days of unemployment.
  • Prior to reaching the unemployment limit, you should prepare to transfer to another school, change education level, depart the U.S., or change to a different immigration status.

Reporting Requirements

In order to maintain their legal F-1 status, a STEM OPT student must regularly check in with their International Student Advisor (DSO) throughout the duration of the extension to validate Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) information and report changes made to the student's training plan. 

All reporting must be completed via STEM OPT REPORTING FORM. Email submission will not satisfy the reporting requirements.   

Every six months a student must work with their International Student Advisor (DSO) to confirm that the student's record in SEVIS accurately reflects their current circumstance.

As part of this six-month reporting, STEM OPT students must confirm that their SEVIS information correctly identifies their:

  • Legal name.
  • Residential or mailing address.
  • Employer name and address.
  • Status of current employment.

SEVP Portal users will receive a reminder via email 30 days before any validation report is due. Please note that STEM OPT students must report a change in this information, including any loss of employment, within 10 days of the change.

Report Now

Each STEM OPT student must complete and submit to their International Student Advisor (DSO) an annual self-evaluation describing the progress of the training experience.

The student must ensure that the DSO receives the assessment no later than 10 days following the conclusion of the training period. The student must submit the assessments for the stated periods: 

  • Initial: 12 months after the STEM OPT start date, and a
  • Final assessment that recaps the training and knowledge acquired during the complete, 24 month training period.

SEVP Portal users will receive a reminder via email 30 days before their self-evaluation is due. A student must complete an assessment at the conclusion of the training opportunity; usually this is a final assessment due at 24 months, but possible any time during the period of authorized employment when employment ends.* This final assessment must be submitted within 10 days following the conclusion of this training opportunity.

SEVIS only allows DSO reporting of conclusion of employment from a student during the window for 12- or 24-month reporting. Since unemployment has been accounted for by the entry of the employment end date, the earlier of these two reporting alternatives is sufficient. Not submitting a final evaluation would be a violation of the terms of the Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students,” and may jeopardize the student’s nonimmigrant status.

Students and their employers must sign the student's self-evaluation before the student submits it to their DSO, who will include it in the student's record. For more information about the annual self-evaluation, please visit the Students and the Form I-983 page.

Note: If a DSO receives an early report of conclusion of employment from a student, the DSO must shorten the employment end date to reflect the last date of the training. Shortening the last date of work is the catalyst for SEVIS counting unemployment; SEVIS will then calculate unemployment correctly.

Report Now

Each STEM OPT student must report to their International Student Advisor (DSO) any material changes to, or material deviations from, the student's formal training plan.

Material changes or deviations from the original Form I-983 may include, but are not limited to:

  • Any change of the employer’s EIN.
  • Any reduction in student compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked.
  • Any significant decrease in hours per week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity.
  • Changes to the employer’s commitments or student’s learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983.

So long as the STEM OPT student and employer meet the regulatory requirements and the modified Form I-983 meets the specified requirements, the student’s employment authorization will not cease based on a change to the plan.

Report Now

When a STEM OPT student changes employers, the new employer must be enrolled in E-Verify before the student begins to work for pay. The student must also submit a new Form I-983 to their International Student Advisor (DSO) within 10 days of starting the new practical training opportunity.

When a student begins a new practical training opportunity with a new employer less than 10 days after leaving the student’s prior employer, the student may fulfill all reporting obligations (loss of employment and new training plan) by submitting a new Form I-983.

In cases where the period of time between employers is longer than 10 days, the student must first report the loss of employment to the DSO and later submit a new Form I-983.

Report Now

STEM OPT students must report the termination of their practical training experience within 10 days of the event.

Students who are granted a 24-month STEM OPT extension are allowed an additional 60 days of unemployment beyond the initial post-completion OPT limit. This means that students who obtain a 24-month STEM OPT extension will receive, for a total of 150 days of allowable unemployment, 90 days during the initial period of post-completion OPT plus an additional 60 days during the extension period.

Report Now

If a STEM OPT student believes that their STEM OPT employer is not complying with the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, the Form I-983 instructions, and the completed Form I-983 on file with their DSO, the student may:

  • Contact the Student and Exchange Visitor Program at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by following the instructions found on
  • Report violations through this Homeland Security Investigations tip submission form.

There are a number of enforcement and oversight mechanisms to help ensure compliance, including reporting requirements, employer site visits, periodic evaluation of a student’s training and required notification of any material changes to or deviations from the Training Plan.

Please note that if a student believes that their employer is not complying with the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations and Form I-983 instructions, the student should leave that practical training opportunity and report their unemployment to the DSO.

A period of student unemployment, caused by an employer’s failure to comply with program requirements, on its own will not affect the STEM OPT student’s status so long as the student reports changes in employment status and adheres to the overall unemployment limits.

Report Now

Frequently Asked Questions

  • STEM OPT Hub –from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Study in the States

  • I-20s from June 2015 or earlier: the CIP code is printed at the top of page three of your I-20. The code is 6 digits long (xx.xxxx). Once you find your code, you can consult the entire list of individual eligible CIP codes for the STEM extension available on the SEVP website.
  • I-20s from July 2015 to present: the CIP code is printed next to your major on page one of your I-20.

It is LOS214F00334000.

Yes, if one of the degrees is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List and any job worked while on the extension is related to your STEM degree.


If you have properly filed for a 24-month STEM extension, the period of extension starts the day after the expiration of your original OPT period.

Yes. Your work authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 days while the 24-month STEM extension application is pending. There is no interim documentation of the extended authorization. If your employer needs information about what documents to collect as proof of extended work authorization, please refer to them to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services I-9 Central.

Yes, your EAD is considered extended for up to 180 days while your STEM OPT extension application is pending with USCIS. During that period, you can travel outside the U.S. even if your previous EAD is expired.

For more information about what documents to carry, and citations for this rule, see the “Travel” webpage.

Yes, you can change employers while your 24-month STEM OPT extension application is pending with USCIS.

If you change employers, fill out Form I-983 (list the information of the new employer) and report the change to the ISSO. Employment changes must be reported within 10 days.

Your International Student Adviser will provide a copy of an updated I-20 directly to USCIS.

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