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STEM OPT 24-Month Extension

STEM OPT is a 24-month extension of OPT for those students with a degree in a designated science, technology, engineering or math-related discipline. Students can only apply for STEM OPT if they are currently within a valid OPT post-completion period.

A student must be considered ‘in status’ under the F-1 visa and also have a job or a job offer from an employer who is participating in E-Verify. If the company is not in E-Verify, you cannot apply for the STEM extension with that company.

If you are in a period of post-completion OPT and engaged in a STEM-eligible Master’s or Ph.D. program, completed all required coursework, and have only a thesis or dissertation to complete you would still be able to apply.


  • Currently on an approved 12 Month post completion OPT in F-1 Status
  • Completed a STEM eligible degree program and have a STEM Eligible CIP code. Majors only, minors do not count.
  • You are physically within the U.S. at the time of your submission to USCIS.
  • 90 days of unemployment were not exceeded during your 12 month OPT.
  • All start and end dates for any employment completed during your OPT have been reported in SEVIS
  • You have employment in your field of study and are being compensated for the work you do.
  • Your employer is enrolled in the E-verified system and you will remain working 21 hours or more per week.
  • Together with your employer you have completed the form I-983 form

Things to Know

  • STEM OPT is an extension of your previously authorized OPT under F-1 status. It is not a different type of visa
  • Any employment under STEM must meet the STEM requirements throughout the 24-month extension.
  • Self employment, freelancing, contracting, side jobs, volunteer work, etc. would not be permitted.
  • The earliest you can apply with USCIS for a STEM extension is 90 days before the end date of your OPT (listed on your EAD card). Within this 90 days period your OPT STEM application must be received by USCIS.
  • If your application is received by USCIS any time after the end date of your OPT, as listed on your EAD card, your application will be denied.
  • You will need submit the STEM OPT extension request first to receive the “STEM OPT recommendation I-20”
  • The USCIS application for STEM OPT is $410 USD
  • Premium processing is available for applicants at an additional fee of $1,500. This service only works to hasten the process of reviewal for more time sensitive cases. It does not guarantee approval.
  • Similar to OPT, the application will take on average 90 to100 days to be adjudicated  by USCIS. However, while waiting for your STEM OPT approval you can work at your company for up to 180 days after your OPT EAD card end date.
  • You will need to have a professionally taken 2×2 passport style photo in JPEG format.This picture needs to be different from the one you previously used when applying for OPT. This new passport picture will be placed on your new STEM OPT extension EAD card.
  • The biggest difference between applying for the STEM OPT Extension as opposed to normal OPT is the additional needed document known as the I-983 Training Plan. You and your employer will need to coordinate and work together to fully complete this form.


For our office to review eligibility and to generate the STEM OPT recommendation I-20 you will need to submit the STEM OPT request here. Once your request is reviewed for total completion, ISS will reach out to you via email with your STEM OPT recommendation I-20 attached. This I-20 will need to be printed and signed by you before submitting in your application.

The STEM OPT application is very similar to that of the normal OPT application that would have been previously filled out with the assistance of our office. While employed on OPT students likely work at varying times & locations around the country and have gained a massive amount of experience. To this point, as a working professional, it is considered the F-1 visa holders’ responsibility to submit the STEM OPT application on their own with USCIS in a timely manner. However, for assistance students can follow this guide here by USCIS, for when you do file your application.

Unlike OPT, you will be able to continue to work at your company while waiting for your STEM application to be approved by USCIS for up to 180 days after your current EAD cards end date. Although knowing this reduces urgency, we still recommend that upon receiving the STEM OPT recommendation I-20 from our office, students still look to apply with USCIS as soon as they are eligible to do so. Also, important to note, the recommendation on the STEM OPT recommendation I-20 will become invalid after 60 days of being issued. At that point, a new recommendation must be placed on an I-20 and submitted before the end date of the original OPT listed on the EAD card.

To begin the application students will need to visit their “myuscis” account and look to file a new online I-765 form. 

Once the STEM OPT application is submitted to USCIS, the average waiting time for approval is 90 – 100 days. During this waiting period, traveling abroad prior to STEM approval can be viewed as a risk for re-entry and STEM OPT processing, so we do not recommend international travel during this time. Should at any time an RFE (Request for more Evidence) be issued by USCIS, this must be brought to the attention of that global education office immediately. If approved, you will receive communication from USCIS of your approval and have physically mailed to you an updated EAD card. You should receive this card within 2 – 4 weeks. It is vital that you immediately send a copy/picture of this card to our office for our review. We will need to ensure that the start and end date provided on your EAD card accurately reflect what is listed in your SEVIS record. Once confirmed we will generate for you a new STEM OPT approved I-20, showing the employment and will also include a new travel endorsement signature valid for 6 months at a time.

After STEM OPT approval by USCIS

If there are any changes with your employer such as a change of employment, a new employer, salary decrease, employer address change, or if you are adding another employer, you will need to complete and submit a new Form I-983 to our office in order to receive a new I-20 with the updated information.

On the STEM extension you are permitted a maximum of 150 days of unemployment cumulative with any days previously used while on OPT. Surpassing the 150 days of unemployment is a violation of your F-1 status.

As an F-1 student on the OPT STEM extension you have 2 additional responsibilities to abide by during this employment period:

  1. Every 6 months you will receive an email from SEVP/ICE requesting that you confirm your employment and personal information.
    • You will do this by contacting If everything’s the same, we can verify this for you in SEVIS. If there is a change, we will need to make adjustments in your record.
  2. At your 12 month and 24-month periods on your STEM extension, you are required to also submit your I-983 self- evaluation form signed either in ink or electronically by you and your employer.