Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) can be extended for STEM majors for an additional 24 months after the initial 12 month OPT for a total of 36 months. The applicant must be in a currently approved 12-month OPT period.
- STEM extension is usually based on the student’s major, not the student’s degree concentration
- May be based on a STEM degree earned at a prior university.
- Be in a current period of initial, approved, post-completion OPT (1st 12 month approval)
- Have current employment or an offer of employment from an employer participating in the E-Verify program.
- Have a degree with an eligible STEM CIP code.
- To determine your CIP code, look on your I-20 for the 6-digit numerical code listed directly beside your major
Timeline and Important Date Considerations
Students must apply for the STEM extension before the expiration date listed on their current EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) issued by USCIS. You may apply for the STEM OPT extension up to 90 days before the end of your Post-Completion OPT. We recommend eligible students apply no later than one month prior to the EAD expiration date, to allow time for formal receipt processing at USCIS.
STEM OPT Approval DatesUpon approval by USCIS, the STEM extension period will begin the day after the expiration of the first OPT period (as listed on the EAD card), and will end 24 months after that. For example, if the current EAD expires on October 1, the STEM period will begin on October 2 of the same year.
Working Before STEM OPT ApprovalIf your current EAD has expired and a STEM extension is pending with USCIS, you may continue to work for up to 180 days while the extension is pending. Upon approval, USCIS will issue and mail you a new EAD card showing the extended dates.
H1-B Cap-Gap Extension
H1-B: a temporary work visa.
CAP: the annual limit on the number of H1-B visas that are granted.
GAP remaining in-status with work authorization during the change of status period (the gap).
All F-1 students who are currently on OPT, have timely filed for an H-1B, and have a USCIS issued I-797C receipt from immigration will automatically have their status and OPT work permission extended until the effective H1-B start date. No application is required. Contact an advisor at the ISSSO for more information.
Preparation and Important Notes
- Browse these websites that contain resources to help students, schools, and employers:
- SEVP's Study in the States STEM OPT Hub
- USCIS' information on Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students
- Ensure the Form I-765, all supporting evidence, the new I-20 with extension recommendation and the fee payment reaches the proper USCIS Service Center before your current OPT expires and no later than 60 days after the DSO recommended extension in SEVIS.
- You may apply for the STEM OPT extension up to 90 days before the end of your Post-Completion OPT.
- Browse these websites that contain resources to help students, schools, and employers:
Prepare a draft of the following documents:
- Form I-765. Please note the I-765 can be filed online or by mailing a paper application. For information on how to complete the form, visit our Tips for Completing the I-765 page.
- I-765 Application Fee. For applications submitted by mail, the fee should be in the form of a check or money order made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- One of the following documents must also be included and can be ordered on Owl Express (include only one):
- Official transcripts
- Unofficial transcripts
- Copy of the diploma showing the level and the program of study
- Copy of previously issued EAD(s) card(s)
- I-20s that show OPT approval and any I-20s showing CPT approval
- Copy of passport and visa (include expired copies as well and all US Port of Entry stamps)
- Printout of I-94 from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov
- NEW passport-style photos made (full-frontal face position). For mailed applications, submit two photos and write your name, birthdate and I‐94 number on the BACK of each photo, preferably in pencil. Online applications only require one photo.
- A copy of your employer’s attestation or letter of employment showing that you have a paid job with the company, the start date, and offer to extend employment.
- Completed Form I-983. Please note that page 5 does not need to be completed for your initial application.
Request an I-20 with a STEM OPT recommendation on it through iStart. If your NetID and password are expired, access the PIN login through the bottom of the iStart homepage.
The e-form can be found under "F-1 Practical Training" and is called "STEM OPT Extension Request." In the e-form, you will be required to upload a scan of your completed I-983 and proof of STEM degree.
Once you receive it, sign the STEM OPT I-20 with extension request in BLUE ink. Keep one copy for your records and include the other with your application documentation.
Request an appointment with an ISSSO adviser HERE. At the appointment, your application documents will be reviewed.
Submit your application.
If you are mailing your application, obtain a large shipping envelope and write “I-765 for OPT Extension” at the bottom. Make copies of your entire application packet prior to mailing. Mail using a postage tracking number as per the below instructions. Be sure the packet is received by USCIS within 60 days or less from issuance date of the OPT Extension I‐20. Mail your application to the appropriate USCIS lockbox accepting OPT applications. For the current lockbox mailing address, see the "Where to File" section of the USCIS I-765 webpage.
Employment and Reporting Requirements
Students on STEM OPT employment MUST:
- Work in a paid position for an E-Verify employer at least 20 hours per week
- Work in a position related to the STEM degree
- Report within 10 days of the following: Legal name change, change in residential or mailing address, change in employer (a new I-983 Form will be required along with the employment details), or loss of employment
- Report every 6 months from the start date of the STEM period using the STEM OPT Reporting e-form in iStart.
- Complete the Annual Evaluation every 12 months from the start of the STEM period using page 5 of the I-983
Students on STEM OPT must NOT:
- Work for any employer who is not enrolled in E-Verify
- Accrue more than 150 days of unemployment during the entire 36-month OPT period
- Be self-employed or work for a staffing agency as a contractor
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I apply for 36 months of OPT at one a time?
No, you can only apply for the 24-month extension within the last 90 days of your current OPT.
Can I change my major to become eligible for the extension?
An F-1 student may change their major and request a new I-20 from the ISSSO. However, please be aware this may cause delays in completing your degree. An F-1 student currently on OPT cannot change their major in order to be eligible for the extension.
What is E-Verify?E-Verify is a free internet-based system operated by United States Immigration and Citizenship Services in partnership with the Social Security Administration, which determines new employees' eligibility to work. Understand very few companies are currently participating in the E-Verify program.
What should I do if my employer is not enrolled in E-Verify?Speak with your employer about enrolling in E-verify and direct them to the USCIS website for more information.
Can students work multiple jobs during an OPT STEM extension?Students may work for multiple employers but all employment must be related to each individual student’s degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify. Students must work a minimum of 20 hours per week in each job while on a STEM extension.
Can students count volunteer experience as employment during an OPT STEM extension?Students on a STEM extension are allowed to volunteer, incidental to their status. This means that volunteer work is allowed but does not count as employment for the purpose of maintaining F-1 status. Any volunteering must be in addition to your full time job.
My employer is asking for a new EAD card with the 24 month time frame for the I-9, the document that verifies my eligibility for employment. What can I show them?
You can direct them to the M-274, the Employer Guide to the I-9:
“If the student’s Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766) expires while his or her STEM extension application is pending, he or she is authorized to work until USCIS makes a decision on his or her application, but not more than 180 days from the date the student’s initial OPT Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766) expires. The student’s expired Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766), together with his or her Form I-20 endorsed by the designated school official recommending the STEM extension are acceptable proof of identity and employment authorization for Form I-9 purposes. Enter these documents in Section 2 under List A of Form I-9. You should re-verify employment authorization no later than 180 days from the expiration date of the previous Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766). (From Page 25 of M-274, the
Employer Guide to the I-9, found HERE.)
Can a student travel outside of the United States if his or her employment authorization document expires and the STEM extension request is pending with USCIS?Yes, students are permited to travel outside the U.S. while the extension is pending. Please contact an ISSSO advisor if you are thinking of traveling outside the U.S. while your extension request is pending.
What do I need in order to travel internationally?If you plan to travel while on OPT Extension you will need the following:
- Valid visa
- I-20 (must be signed for travel by a KSU designated official within 6 months of re-entry from travel)
- Valid Passport
- Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
- Letter from Employer authorizing you to travel and verifying you will work there before and after travel.
- Pay stubs (recommended)
I have a pending H1-B and a cap gap, where can I find information for my employer?USCIS provides information about the H1-B Cap-Gap regulations on their website HERE.
What if my H1-B is denied after my original OPT has ended?Students will have a 60 day grace period from the notification date of the denial to depart the United States, obtain admission to a new F-1 SEVIS-approved school, or file an application for a change of status.
What should I do if I am not a STEM student and did not file for the H1-B?Students will have 60 days after their OPT end date to either depart the United States, obtain admission to a new F-1 SEVIS-approved school, or file an application for a change of status.
Where can I find more information?You can find additional, detailed information on the Study in the States STEM Hub.