STEM OPT Extension

STEM OPT Extension

The STEM OPT extension allows some students with STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) degrees to apply to extend their post-completion OPT authorization. Students with STEM degrees and currently in their 12-month OPT period should review the eligibility requirements, application timeline and instructions, and reporting requirements below.

To qualify for the 24-month STEM OPT extension, you must: 

  • Be in F-1 status 
  • Be currently working in a period of post-completion OPT
  • Have a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in an eligible STEM field 
  • Have a paid job offer that meets the following requirements: 
    • The job is with an employer enrolled in the USCIS E-Verify program. Confirm with your employer to see if they are enrolled in E-Verify. 
    • The job offers at least 20 hours of work per week. 
    • The job will provide formal training and learning objectives directly related to your qualifying STEM degree 
  • Be able to complete the I-983 Training Plan with your employer

USCIS must receive your STEM OPT extension application before your current Post-Completion OPT EAD card expiration date. 

Apply as early as 90 days before your current Post-Completion OPT EAD card expiration date. Make sure to allow yourself sufficient time to mail your application to USCIS.

Follow the steps below:

Step 1. Confirm your 12-month OPT information is correct by logging into your SEVP Portal account. 

  • If your current address and employment information is correct, proceed to Step 2. 
  • If your current address and/or employment information is not correct, make the necessary updates to your address and employment information before proceeding to Step 2.

Step 2. Gather the following documents:

  • Completed Form I-983 Training Plan
  • Completed Form I-765
  • Completed Form G-1145 
  • Copies of all I-20s that have been issued to you 
  • Copy of your diploma from your most recent degree 
  • Copies of transcripts showing your most recent degree awarded
  • Most Recent I-94 
  • Copy of F-1 visa or, if applicable, copy of USCIS Approval Notice for change of status 
  • Copy of passport information page 
  • Copies of all previous EAD cards 
  • Check or money order for $410 payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” 
  • 2 passport style color photos

Step 3. Submit your STEM OPT Extension Request through the Student Portal.

Step 4. Make an appointment with an IP advisor to have your documents reviewed and receive your new I-20 with STEM OPT Extension recommendation. 

Step 5. Mail your completed application with a copy of your new I-20 to USCIS. 

Prior to mailing your application, make copies of all documents for your own records. Check USCIS website for mailing address. 

USCIS uses USPS to send your Receipt Notice, EAD card, and all other notices to you. It is recommended to set up mailing tracking with USPS through their website. This way you can be notified via email when your card may be arriving. If approved you will be sent an EAD card or Employment of Authorization Document card.

At every 6 months of your STEM OPT Extension period (6, 12, 18, and 24 month marks) you are required to report your employment to International Programs. You must report your personal information as well as your employment information, even if no changes have occurred to either. Please note the 12 months report requires you to submit the "Evaluation on Student Progress" (page 5 of the I-983) and 24 months report requires you to submit the "Final Evaluation on Student Progress" (page 5 of the I-983). 

Failure to submit these 6-month reports by your reporting date is considered a violation of F-1 regulations and can jeopardize your F-1 status or future immigration benefits.

It is essential to review and understand the information on the Department of Homeland Security's Study in the States website for STEM OPT Reporting Requirements

To submit your 6-month report please login to SCDGlobal.

What type of employment can I work while on my STEM OPT Extension period? 

You must work at least 20 hours per week for an employer that a) participates in the E-Verify program and b) agrees to follow all the employer requirements in the 24-month STEM rule. Unlike the 12 months OPT, volunteer/unpaid work or self-employment is not permitted under the 24-months STEM OPT Extension regulation. Please review the new guidance about acceptable types of activity during the 24-months STEM OPT Extension that is substantially different than the 12 months OPT and past guidance for the STEM Extension. 

Where can I find additional government resources about the STEM OPT extension?

STEM OPT Hub – from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)

Study in the States OPT Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT) – from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) 

Where can I find my CIP code? 

The CIP code is printed next to your major on page one of your I-20. 

When does my 24-month extension of OPT start? 

If you have properly filed for a 24-month STEM extension, the period of extension starts the day after the expiration of your original OPT period. 

How much unemployment do I receive for my 24-month extension?

You will receive an additional 60 days of unemployment in addition to your 90 days of unemployment from your 12-months OPT period. If you have not used all of your initial 90 days of unemployment it is still available to you.

Can I work with an expired EAD while my 24-month extension is pending? 

Yes. Your work authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 days while the 24-month STEM extension application is pending. If your employer needs information about what documents to collect as proof of extended work authorization, please refer to them to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services I-9 Central

Can I change employers while the 24-month extension is pending? 

Yes, you can change employers while your 24-month STEM OPT extension application is pending with USCIS. Please first inform an IP advisor if you plan to change employers. Regulations state that employment changes must be reported within 10 days. Your IP adviser will provide a copy of an updated I-20 which you will need to send to USCIS. 

Can I travel while waiting for my OPT approval? 

While you are waiting to receive your OPT card, we recommend you not to travel outside the U.S. unless you have an emergency. This is because you may not be able to reenter the United States if you have not yet received your EAD card. 

Can I travel internationally while I am on OPT? 

If your OPT is granted, you should be able to travel with the following documents: 

  • Valid F-1 visa 
  • Passport valid at least 6 months into the future 
  • Valid EAD card 
  • SEVIS Form I-20 with valid travel endorsement from DSO 
  • Employment letter(s) - It is best to have an official letter of employment 

*Time spent outside the U.S. counts towards your total 90 days of unemployment unless you are employed and take approved vacation or business travel. 

Will I have medical insurance while I’m on STEM OPT Extension? 

Unfortunately, North Seattle College cannot offer the student health insurance plan for STEM OPT Extension students. You will need to make sure your employer offers health insurance coverage or purchase coverage on your own. 

How can I find out the status of my OPT application? 

You will receive a receipt number of application from USCIS. You can check the status online at: 

Can I take classes while on OPT? 

Students may study part-time while on OPT. If you are attending a new school, you must inform the school of your intention to take classes part-time while you are on OPT. 

What happens if I am taking full-time classes (12 credits or more)? 

Your OPT will automatically be cancelled and you will be out of status. 

What if I want to transfer to a new school during my OPT? 

Your OPT is automatically terminated when you transfer to another school. You must complete the transfer out process for the International Programs office at NSC to have your SEVIS record transferred to your new school. 

What should I do once my OPT has ended? 

You have a 60 day grace period to prepare to return home, transfer to a new school, or began a new program of study. Transferring to a new school during your OPT period will automatically cancel your OPT.