The 24-month STEM Extension for OPT (Optional Practical Training) allows students in qualifying fields, and with employment through an E-Verify employer, to request an additional two years of U.S. work authorization in their field of study following their first year of OPT.

Find current information on the STEM Extension from USCIS and check the DHS list of STEM Majors and E-Verify employers.

Steps to Request STEM OPT Extension

Step 1: Contact International Student Programs (ISP) 90 days before your current EAD expires to request an updated I-20 recommending you for the STEM extension

  1. Verify your current employer and address are correct in the SEVP portal. Your employer must participate in E-Verify and your work must be directly related to your field of study.
  2. Complete pages 1-4 of the I-983 in partnership with your employer. In section five, the site name should be your employer’s name and the site address should be your physical place of employment. If you work remotely, indicate your home address in this section.

Step 2: Gather all STEM OPT Application Materials (to be completed while ISP is preparing your STEM OPT I-20)

Prepare the bulleted items, which are required by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as part of the OPT application:

  • Form G-1145 (used by students who wish to receive electronic notification that their application has been received at USCIS)
  • Form I-765 (original, signed). Use most recent version available at http://www.uscis.gov/i-765
    • Note: As of April 2021, USCIS has added the option of filing online by creating a USCIS account
      • If you choose to file online, first make sure that you contact ISP for your STEM OPT I-20 and upload this document within your online application. 
      • DO NOT file both the electronic and the paper version of the I-765 as duplicate applications may be denied.
      • Learn the benefits of online filing. Since the online option is new, ISP may not be able to anticipate some of the potential drawbacks of filing online.
    • The following instructions apply to the paper version of the I-765. 
      • On page 1, select 1.c to indicate that you are renewing your work authorization
      • For question 8, find your Alien Registration Number (or A number) on your OPT EAD. Include this number on the back of your photographs and your money order 
      • On question 27, use code (c)(3)(c) to indicate that you are applying for the STEM extension
      • On question 28a, list your bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree
      • On question 28c, indicate your employer’s E-Verify number. Many students confuse E-Verify number with Employer Identification Number (EIN) that they enter on their Form I-983. E-Verify and EIN are not the same number! Make sure you obtain a correct E-Verify number from your employer before you fill out this form. 
      • Questions 29-31 do not apply to the STEM Extension application and can be skipped
      • On page 5, sign by hand and date for the day you sign the application
      • In part 6, reference page 3, part 2, item 28a. In Item 3.d.  write out your full major and CIP code as listed on your I-20. For example, Davidson’s Economics major is officially referred to as “Econometrics and Quantitative Economics, 45.0603”
  • Check or money order for $410 stapled to I-765, made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Verify current fee at USCIS.gov
  •  Two identical color passport-style photographs (2″ x 2″) taken within 30 days of filing date. Write your full name and A-Number (same as USCIS #, which should be listed on your current EAD card) using a pencil or a felt pen on the back of each photo. Paperclip the photos to the I-765. For specific photo requirements, please refer to the I-765 Instructions available at http://www.uscis.gov/i-765. Make sure you don’t wear glasses when the photo is taken!
  • Copy of the new I-20 with the STEM OPT recommendation from ISP (sign your I-20 before photocopying). Must be mailed within 60 days of issuance. Keep your original I-20 for your records.
  • Copy of your current and previously issued EAD(s) (front and back).
  • Copy of diploma and/or transcripts clearly showing graduation in a STEM field.  If diploma does not list your field/major, you must include transcripts.  Unofficial transcripts are fine. USCIS does not need sealed, official transcripts.
  • Copy of most recent I-94 record. Download your most recent I-94 record from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94.
  • Copy of an offer or employment verification letter from a qualified E-Verify Employer indicating job title, job description, and work location.
  • Copy of the I-20 with the initial OPT recommendation from ISP. 

Step 3 (optional): Schedule to Have your Complete STEM OPT Application Reviewed by ISP

After you are informed that your OPT I-20 is ready, make an appointment with Thomas Greene or Sara Parrott to review the completed OPT application. When you come for the appointment you are expected to have all of the above items (see Step 2) so that ISP can review the material that is otherwise ready to be submitted to USCIS.

Step 4: Send the complete OPT application to USCIS so that it arrives at USCIS within 60 days of ISP recommending you for OPT.

Mail the original I-765, copies of all supporting documentation, along with a $410 application fee and two passport-sized photos. Mail to the following address based on your method of mail (double check for current address at USCIS.gov):

  • For U.S. Postal Service (USPS):
    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

Step 5: Wait!

It will generally take USCIS at least 90 days to process the OPT application and there is no way to expedite the process. However, as long as you receive your filing receipt from USCIS prior to the expiration of your EAD, you may continue working for up to 180 days until your new EAD is approved or denied. Check your mail frequently throughout the application process so that you can timely respond to Requests for Evidence (RFEs).

Step 6: Maintain your Legal F-1 Status During STEM OPT

Remember that throughout the entirety of your OPT, your legal immigration status is F-1. If you need to renew your visa, it would be an F-1 visa for which you apply; you must maintain a valid travel signature on your I-20 within 6 months of travel if you are traveling internationally.

Keep your SEVP Portal active throughout your STEM Extension.  While on OPT, students are required to report any of the following within 10 days:

  • A change in name or residential address
  • The name and address of your employer. If you have more than one employer, you must provide each employer's name and address. A new I-983 is also required for each employer. Email this to ISP with any changes.
  • End date if you end your employment. The final evaluation on section 5 of the I-983 is also required if you leave an employer.
  • Any period(s) of unemployment, including those days between the end of one job and the beginning of the new job
  • If you decide to cease STEM OPT and depart the U.S., report to ISP
  • If you change to another immigration status in the U.S., report to ISP

Step 7: Complete Employment Verification Every 6 Months

Throughout your STEM Extension, you are required to check in with ISP every 6 months. This deadline is calculated based on your EAD, so mark your calendar and be proactive in completing each required check in.

Six Month Verification

  • Verify that your employer name, employer address and your own address are correct in the SEVP Portal. Then email Thomas Greene or Sara Parrott to indicate that your information is still correct in the Portal.

12-month Evaluation

18-month Verification

  • Verify that your employer name, employer address and your own address are correct in the SEVP Portal. Then email Thomas Greene or Sara Parrott to indicate that your information is still correct in the Portal.

24-month Evaluation