Employment / 24-month STEM OPT Extension
24-month STEM OPT Extension
Extension of post-completion OPT for F-1 students with certain science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) degrees.
Eligibility for STEM OPT Extension
- You must have earned a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in a major that appears on the STEM Designated Program List. Check your I-20 to view if your major's CIP code is eligible. The STEM degree may be either a CSUF degree with which you applied for your current post-completion OPT, or a previous STEM degree conferred within the last 10 years from a U.S. institution of higher education that is accredited and SEVP-certified.
- Your current approved OPT must be current and not expired.
- You must be currently working for or have a job offer from an employer enrolled in the E-Verify program and has an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN). There must be a “bona fide employer-employee relationship”; you cannot be self-employed.
- Your job must be a paid position for a minimum of 20 hours per week.
When to ApplyUSCIS may receive your STEM OPT application as early as 90 days before your current OPT end date. We recommend you submit your request to the ISS office 90 days before your OPT expires or as soon as possible to allow ample time for processing.
How to Apply
Step 1: View the STEM OPT: Eligibility & How to Apply video for an overview of the application process.
Step 2: Submit Your STEM Extension Request and Form I-983 to ISS
- Download and complete Form I-983 with your STEM eligible employer. Refer to Guidelines for Completing Form I-983 while filling out the form. Pages 1,2 and 4 must be signed. Wet/pen signatures or electronic signatures are accepted.
- Submit the ISS 24-Month STEM OPT Extension Request Form and upload your Form I-983.
Step 3: Make corrections to I-983 if requestedThe ISS Advisor must verify that the I-983 has been properly completed by student and employer prior to issuing the STEM Extension OPT I-20.
- If corrections to your I-983 are needed, an ISS Advisor will notify you by email with an itemized list. You and your employer need to edit the I-983 and sign pages 1, 2 and 4.
- Processing time of 8-10 business days begins once ISS receives a complete and accurate I-983.
- Once processed, ISS will send an electronic STEM OPT Extension I-20 to the email address associated with your SEVP Portal. You do not need an SEVP Portal account to receive this email.
Step 4: Assemble Documents for your STEM Extension Application
After you receive your STEM OPT I-20 from ISS, assemble the documents using the appropriate guide. Please note that there is one checklist to file by Mail and a separate checklist to file Online.
- Mailing Checklist: use the STEM OPT Extension Application Checklist. Be sure to also follow the Guidelines for Completing Form I-765 while preparing the required I-765 form.
- Online Checklist: use the E-Filing STEM OPT Document Checklist to assemble all the necessary documents to submit to USCIS.
Step 5: File your STEM Extension OPT application to USCIS
After you have assembled the documents for your application using your preferred method, follow the appropriate instructions below to file with USCIS.
1) Mail method:
- Make copies of the entire application for your records before mailing.
- Using the U.S. mailing address you indicated on item #3 of your I-765, determine which lockbox you should send your application to by going to the USCIS’ I-765 addresses website. Click “Foreign Students” and look under “F-1 Optional Practical Training."
- Use a trackable mail option to ensure successful delivery of your application to USCIS.
- Note that USCIS must receive your complete OPT STEM application no later than 60 days after the STEM OPT I-20 has been issued by ISS AND before the end date of your current post-completion OPT as noted by your EAD. Please remember to factor in a few extra days for mailing.
2) Online method:
- Follow all of the steps contained in the STEM OPT Step by Step E-Filiing Guide.
- Note that USCIS must receive your complete OPT STEM application no later than 60 days after the STEM OPT I-20 has been issued by ISS AND before the end date of your current post-completion OPT as noted by your EAD.
While Your STEM Packet is Being Processed by USCIS
You can continue working in the U.S. for up to 180 days while the STEM OPT Extension application is pending with USCIS, even if your Post-Completion OPT EAD has expired. This benefit only allows you to work with the employer on your STEM request I-20. Your employer will require the expired OPT EAD and the STEM Extension OPT I-20 to verify your employment eligibility.
ISS advises students not to travel until the STEM Extension application is approved and you have received a new EAD card. For more information, visit our Travel Outside the U.S. webpage.
Employment changes while your STEM OPT packet is being processed are not recommended. This is due to the fact that the paperwork that you submitted to USCIS for the STEM OPT benefit are for a specific employer. When you change employers, the documentation that USCIS holds is no longer accurate (STEM request I-20 that ISS issues and the I-765 with E-Verify employer name and number). For that reason, we strongly discourage changing employers until you receive the STEM OPT EAD card.
Maintaining Status While on STEM OPT Extension
Visit our Maintaining Status While on STEM OPT Extension webpage to learn more about mandatory reporting requirements and how to maintain status while on STEM OPT Extension.