STEM OPT Extension

F-1 students participating in post-completion OPT who have earned or are currently earning a bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. from a qualified degree program on the government STEM-designated list, may be eligible to apply for the 24-month STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension.

Eligibility for F-1 Students

  1. Be maintaining valid F-1 status.
  2. Currently participating in post-completion OPT administered by Stevens, working in the U.S. in a job related directly to  major field of study.
  3. Must have reported employment to ISSS using the Employer Update Form or through the SEVP Portal.
  4. Have not exceeded 90 days of unemployment during the post-completion OPT period and will not exceed that limit prior to the STEM OPT extension start date.
  5. Have previously earned (in the past ten years) or are currently earning (in thesis/dissertation status at Stevens Institute of Technology only) a bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. which has its field of study/major listed on the government STEM-designated list.
  6. Must have a job or a job offer for paid employment of at least twenty (20) hours per week with a company enrolled in and using the government's E-Verify employment verification system.
  7. Must not be self-employed. Self-employment is not an option on the STEM OPT extension.
  8. Have not previously used the STEM OPT extension for this degree level.
  9. Have not previously used the STEM OPT extension more than once.

When to Apply to USCIS

The earliest you can apply is 90 days prior to the end date of your post-completion OPT expires. USCIS must receive your STEM OPT application before your post-completion OPT expires.You cannot apply for STEM OPT during your 60-day grace period.

If you file your STEM OPT extension application on time and your OPT period expires while your extension application is pending, USCIS will automatically extend your employment authorization for 180 days. This automatic 180-day extension ceases once USCIS adjudicates your STEM OPT extension application.

How to Apply

Step 1: Submit materials to [email protected]:

ISSS processing time is 10 business days.

Step 2: Receive your new I-20

ISSS will issue you a new I-20 with the STEM OPT recommendation. You will receive an email when your new I-20 is ready.

Step 3: Review and sign your I-20

Once you receive your new I-20, sign the I-20 and make a photocopy. You will need the photocopy for your application.

Step 4: Gather and prepare your documents

Gather the documents found on the STEM OPT Checklist and Instructions.

Step 5: Mail your documents to USCIS

Once you have gathered all your documents, you will mail your package to USCIS. Please refer to the USCIS Lockbox webpage for shipping instructions.  Applications must be received by USCIS within 60 days of the issuance date on the I-2 and no later than the end date of post-completion OPT, whichever comes first.

Step 6: Receive USCIS Receipt Notice

USCIS will issue an I-797C Receipt Notice within 2-4 weeks after receiving your application. You can check the status of your case on USCIS.gov.

Contact [email protected] if you receive any other notice, such a Request for Evidence (RFE) or rejection notice, from USCIS.

Step 7: Continue employment while your application is pending

If you file your STEM OPT extension application on time and your OPT period expires while your extension application is pending, USCIS will automatically extend your employment authorization for 180 days. Your employer may refer to section 7.4.4 the I-9 Manual if they have questions on how to complete the Form I-9 while your application is pending.

Step 8:  Receive your STEM Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

If your application is approved, USCIS will mail you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for the STEM OPT extension, which will list the start and end dates you are authorized to work on the STEM OPT extension.

Contact [email protected] if you receive any other notice, such a Request for Evidence (RFE), from USCIS.

STEM OPT Reporting Requirements

6-month STEM Reporting

This must be done every 6 months and is due to ISSS prior to your reporting date. You will be filing a report at the 6-month, 12-month, 18-month, and 24-month mark of STEM OPT. To file your six month report, complete the STEM OPT Report Form and email it to [email protected]. If this is your 12-month or 24-month, you must also include the evaluation from page 5 of the I-983. You must submit the entire I-983, not just page 5.

Changing or Ending Employment with Employers

It is possible to change or add a concurrent employer while on STEM OPT. To update ISSS you will need to submit the following to [email protected]:

  1. OPT Employment Update form
  2. Completed Form I-983, using the I-983 Guide to complete the form, for the new employer
  3. If you are changing employers, the final evalaution (bottom half, page 5) of the I-983 for the previous employer. You must submit the entire I-983, not just page 5.
  4. Copy of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

Reporting a New Client or Site Location

This is considered a material change and you will need to update ISSS by sending the updated I-983 to [email protected].

Other Material Changes to the I-983

Material changes or deviations may include, but are not limited to:

  • Any change of the employer’s Employer Identification Number, (i.e., the company’s Federal Tax ID number) resulting from a change in the employer’s ownership or structure.
  • Any reduction in student compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked.
  • Any significant decrease in hours per week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity.
  • Changes to the employer’s commitments or student’s learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983.

If any of these changes occur, you will need to update ISSS by sending the updated I-983 to [email protected].

STEM OPT Resources and Links