24 Month STEM Extension
- Application Overview
- When to Apply
- Application Steps
- While Application is Pending
- After Approval
- Mandatory Reporting Requirements
You must meet ALL of the following criteria to be eligible to apply for STEM OPT work authorization. If you do not meet all of the requirements, then you are not eligible for STEM OPT. For more information, visit Study in States: Determining STEM OPT Extension Eligibility.
- Been granted and currently active on post-completion OPT.
- Have not exceeded 90 days of unemployment on your current post-completion OPT.
- Earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics) from a SEVP-certified school. See the list of eligible STEM majors. You can find your CIP code on page 1 of your I-20.
- Work for an employer that is enrolled in the government's E-verify program. Find out if your employer is E-verify enrolled. Your employer's (human resources office) can verify this too.
- Paid employment that is directly related to your STEM degree and is at least 20 hours per week.
- Have not previously used STEM OPT more than once. You cannot have more than one STEM OPT extension based on the same degree.
This is an overview of the application process involving all the parties: you, the
employer, ISSS, and USCIS.
Please click here to enlarge
You may apply up to 90 days before your current OPT employment authorization expires.
Please allow ample time for ISSS to process your STEM OPT I-20 request.
- Required: Update your personal information (name, telephone number, or address) and
current employment information using the SEVP Student Portal. If you do not have access to the SEVP Portal, you can submit a request using the SEVP Portal Access Form. Alternatively, use the ISSS Employment Update Report(EUR) form if you have not been using the SEVP Portal for regular OPT reporting.
- Pay the one-time $300 administrative STEM OPT fee by going to this link. Make sure you select the correct option-Payment for the STEM OPT fee. It is the
second item on the menu. Attach a proof of payment receipt along with your STEM OPT
- Request a STEM OPT I-20. Submit the following documents to ISSS by email to email@example.com for review. Combine the requested documents into a single pdf file, except Form I-983
training plan. Attach Form I-983 separately. Allow a minimum of 10 working days for
ISSS to process your application:
- Complete 24-Month STEM OPT I-20 request form
- Complete Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. For more information, view SEVP’s Form I-983 instructions. Submit a completed and signed Form I-983 training plan. Missing or incomplete information will result in a processing delay. Electronic signatures on Form I-983 will not be accepted.
- Photocopy of your current post-completion OPT EAD card (front and back).
- A copy of your most recent I-94 record of arrival into the U.S.
4. Once submitted to ISSS, processing times is 7-10 business days. ISSS will email you when the new I-20 has been issued. USCIS is acceptting digitally signed I-20's, so we will email you the I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation.You will need this I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation, to file your application with USCIS.
5. Assemble your Form I-765 STEM OPT application using the suggested checklist here. For help with the I-765, please review our I-765 Completion Guide. Mail your application to the appropriate USCIS lockbox for adjudication. Use a trackable mail option to ensure the successful delivery
of your application.
6. Mailing Deadlines. USCIS must receive your Form I-765 STEM OPT application within 60 days of a DSO recommending STEM OPT (or I-20 issuance date) AND before your current OPT EAD expires.
The average processing time at USCIS Potomac Service Center is 3 to 5 months. If you file Form I-765, on time, your employment authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 days while your STEM OPT application is pending.
You will receive Form I-797C Notice of Action or filing receipt within 2 to 4 weeks after mailing your application to USCIS. Retain the filing receipt should you need to inquire about the status of your STEM OPT application. The receipt or case number is located in the upper left corner of the document, next to the receipt date. Verify the spelling of your name, date of birth, and address listed on the filing receipt. If there is an error, contact USCIS Contact Center immediately. If you lose the receipt, it may be difficult to replace. If you did not receive the receipt notice in the mail, contact USCIS Contact Center to request a duplicate copy if possible.
Case Status Online. ISSS recommends you sign up for an account at USCIS Case Status Online. This allows you to receive automatic updates to monitor your case. To use the Case Status Online tool you will need your receipt number.
Case Inquiries. You can submit an inquiry using the Case Inquiry tool, e.g., if you do not receive your receipt or your application is pending for more than 90 days.
Address Changes. Update your address online with USCIS here.
After you received your EAD card, review the card information: check the spelling of your name, DOB, authorization dates, etc. If there is a printing error made by USCIS, you may need to send back the EAD to be corrected. If the error is made by you, depending on severity, you may need to re-file for a corrected EAD. Contact an ISSS advisor if you need assistance.
Present your STEM OPT EAD to your employer as proof of legal work authorization. Also, provide a photocopy of the STEM OPT EAD to ISSS. If you receive an approval notice (Form I797A) but not the EAD card (sent separately) , please first check with your local post office for delivery confirmation/returned mail/undeliverable mail. Check with family members, housemates if he/she received your EAD card in the mail before contacting ISSS for assistance. If the EAD is presumed to be lost, then you will need to file another Form I-765 to USCIS PSC for a replacement card.
Detailed information about your mandatory reporting requirements throughout the STEM OPT period may be found at Study in the States STEM OPT Hub. Click here to download Study in the State’s STEM OPT Reporting Requirement handout. It is your responsibility to regularly check-in with ISSS throughout the extension period. ISSS will report the information to SEVIS on your behalf.
- You must report any changes to your name, address, or employment within 10 days.
- While on STEM OPT extension, provide a validation report (confirming name, address, employment info) every 6 months even if there are no changes. Do so by completing ISSS’ Employment Update Report Form.
- Form I-983 Annual/Final Evaluation of Student Progress is due at 12 and 24 months. Upload the initial or final self-evaluation with a completed ISSS Employment Update Report Form.
- Unemployment. STEM OPT students are allowed an additional 60 days of unemployment for a total of 150 days. 90 days during the initial period of post-completion OPT plus the additional 60 days during the extension period.
- Inform ISSS if you plan to return to school full-time; transfer to another school; begin a new degree program; change your status to another visa category, or depart the U.S. prior to the STEM OPT end date.
Click here for a summary of your reporting responsibilities during STEM OPT.