STEM OPT Extension

The STEM OPT extension is a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT. It is available two times to eligible F-1 students who have completed a STEM degree within the last 10 years from an accredited U.S. institution. The regulations for the 24-month extension, effective May 10, 2016, replace the previous regulations for the 17-month extension of OPT. 
 

Eligibility Criteria

You must meet the following eligibility requirements to be recommended for the STEM extension:

  • You are in a valid period of post-completion OPT

  • You must have recently completed a degree, or have a prior degree, at the bachelor's level or higher, in a field on Department of Homeland Security's STEM-Designated Program List. If your STEM application is based on a previous degree, it must have been awarded within the past 10 years by an accredited U.S. institution. Your degree did not need to be STEM-designated at the time it was awarded.

  • You are employed in a paid position by an employer registered in E-verify. You must work at least 20 hours per week and the employment must be directly related to your STEM degree. Your initial post-completion OPT employer does not need to be the same as your STEM OPT extension employer.  Because the Form I-983 requires a salary amount and employer official certification, self-employment and volunteering do not qualify for the STEM OPT extension.

  • You have not previously completed 2 STEM extensions.
     

When can I apply?

You must apply for STEM OPT extension before your current period of post-completion ends.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can receive your application:

  • No earlier than 90 days before your OPT period ends.

  • No later than the day before your OPT period ends.

Normal processing time for ISS is 10 business days. Please allow additional time to mail your application to USCIS. If you have filed your application with USCIS during this period, your employment authorization is automatically extended up to 180 days. It is your responsibility to find out what documentation your employer requires to verify your extended authorization. You may continue working while your STEM extension is being processed by USCIS. We recommend against traveling outside the U.S. while your application is pending with USCIS (Read Can I reenter if my request for OPT is pending? for more information).
 

How to Apply

Applying for the STEM OPT extension is a 2-step process:

  1. Pay the $150 OPT Case Management Fee and submit the following documents to International Student Services (ISS) through the STEM OPT Extension e-form (under F-1 Student Employment) in UA International to request an I-20 recommending the STEM OPT extension:

    DocumentNotes
    Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students
    • Complete and sign pages 1-4
    • The SEVIS School Code for the UA is: PHO214F20092000

    • For the Designated School Official (DSO) enter:
      Joanne Lagasse-Long 
      915 N. Tyndall Ave.
      Tucson, AZ 85721
      (520) 621-4627
      intl-opt@email.arizona.edu

    OPT Reporting e-form

    • You must have submitted the OPT Reporting e-form within 1 month of when you submit your STEM application to ISS

    Diploma from previous institution

    • Only required if your STEM degree was not awarded by the UA

    Copy of I-20 from previous institution

    • Only required if your STEM degree was not awarded by the UA

    • You do not have an I-20 for your previous STEM degree, please submit a letter from your previous school's international office confirming the SEVIS school code and CIP code of your degree

  2. To apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card), submit the documents below to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
    Services (USCIS) in the following order (front to back):

    Document

    Notes

    Form G-1145

    • Recommended

    $410 fee

    • Check or money order made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

    • If you prefer to pay by credit card, include Form G-1450.

    Form I-765

    • Review the form instructions, then type or print your answers in black ink (your signature must be hand-written)

    • Enter code (c)(3)(C) at item #27

    • Use Part 6. Additional Information to provide all previously used SEVIS numbers and evidence of any previously authorized CPT or OPT and the academic level at which it was authorized

    • You are responsible for the completion and accuracy of the I-765

    Form I-94

    Government-Issued Identity Document

    • Copy of your current EAD (front and back)

    2 U.S. passport photos

    • For photo requirements, review the I-765 instructions (page 20, item C)

    • Photos must have been taken within 30 days of when you submit your application to USCIS

    Form I-20 stamped "copy"

    • Remember to sign and date at the bottom of page 1

    • Do not send any original I-20s to USCIS

    Copy of degree

    • Copy of diploma and transcript

USCIS must receive your application prior to the expiration of your current EAD card, and within 60 days of when your I-20 was issued by International Student Services (ISS). Your application for STEM OPT extension does not have to be approved before your EAD expires. Based on a timely filed application, your OPT employment authorization will be automatically extended up to 180 days while your application is pending with USCIS. Your I-20 from ISS recommending the STEM OPT extension and the I-797 receipt notice from USCIS showing that your application was received prior to the expiration of your EAD are your documentation of your extended OPT employment authorization while your application is pending. It is your responsibility to submit the required documentation to your employer. 

Normal processing time for ISS is 10 business days. Processing time for USCIS is approximately 3 months. For information about how to expedite your application with USCIS, read Chapter 12 – Request to Expedite Applications or Petitions of the USCIS Policy Manual.  ISS will not expedite OPT requests and cannot review letters to USCIS to request expedited processing. 
 

Where to Mail Your Documents

If you live in Arizona and would like to send your documents via express mail or courier (for example: USPS Priority Mail Express, FedEx, UPS), send all materials to: USCIS, Attn: NFB AOS, 1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S, Suite 100, Phoenix, AZ 85034.

If you do not live in Arizona or would like to mail your application through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) go to Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (under the category (c)(3)(i)). 
 

eShipGlobal

eShipGlobal (UEMS) offers an option for students to send OPT applications to USCIS offices. You can choose the carrier (UPS, FedEx, or USPS), what type of delivery (next day, 2-day, etc.), and ship at discounted rates.

Instructions:

  1. Go to study.eshipglobal.com to log in or create a free account.

  2. Select "OPT Application" or "Send Documents to USCIS."

  3. Enter your mailing information and select the correct USCIS location.

  4. Select the carrier you want to use, pay for shipping and print the label. Drop off your application at the nearest carrier location.
     

Maintain Your Status on OPT

While you are on STEM OPT, you are still in F-1 student status and your SEVIS record is still maintained by the University of Arizona.  ISS will remain your point of contact for all immigration questions and requests related to your F-1 record.

It is your responsibility to take the following actions to maintain your status:

  • Work at least 20 hours per week in paid positions for E-Verify employers in positions related to your STEM degree

  • Do not accrue more than 150 days of unemployment throughout the entire period of OPT and STEM extension (90 days during the first 12 months of OPT plus an additional 60 days during the 24 month extension)

  • Submit the OPT Reporting e-form in UA International

    • Within 10 days of any changes to your address, employment information, visa status or permanent departure from the U.S.

    • Within 10 days of any material changes to your Form I-983 (upload the updated version through the e-form)

    • Every 6 months to validate your SEVIS information, regardless of whether there have been any changes

    • Every 12 months complete and upload page 5 of Form I-983. The self-evaluation must be signed by your supervisor.

Additional information about reporting requirements, including what to do if you believe your employer is not complying with the terms and conditions of the 24-month extension regulations and Form I-983, are available at Study in the States

Students currently on the 17-month extension of OPT who did apply for the additional 7-month extension by the August 8th deadline should follow the rules of the 17-month extension regulations for the remainder of their OPT period.
 

Additional Resources