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.

Eligibility

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. 

Apply

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. 

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.

  • Download Form I-983 and instruction
  • Upload the completed I-983 and notify your International Student Advisor.
  • Your assigned International Student Advisor will review the submission and issue STEM OPT I-20.

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
USCIS
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680

For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
USCIS
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

Employment

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.

Unemployment 

  • 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.

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.

No.

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” section on this 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 your International Student Advisor. Employment changes must be reported within 10 days.

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

CEU Footer