STEM OPT

STEM Extension OPT allows F-1 international students with a qualifying STEM degree to apply for an additional 24 months of OPT work authorization. While STEM Extension OPT is recommended by the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISSS), it is an application that is sent to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for processing and approval.  

Eligibility

In order to be eligible for STEM Extension OPT, you must:

  • Have maintained your F-1 status.
  • Have completed a STEM approved degree (based on the CIP code on your I-20).
  • Currently be on approved post-completion OPT.
  • Have an employer who is e-Verified.
  • Have not been approved for STEM extension two other times or at the same degree level.
  • File your application with USCIS before your OPT end date.
  • File your application with USCIS no more than 90 days before your OPT end date.
  • File your application with USCIS no more than 60 days after the DSO recommendation on your new I-20.
  • Have completed the Form I-983 “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students”  with the employer you are requesting to work for on the extension.

Reminders

  • If you have not completed your degree requirements or don’t have proof of your degree, you will not be able to apply for STEM extension as the application requires proof of degree.
  • Double-check your application and make a personal copy of your entire packet before you mail it to USCIS.
  • When you send your STEM Extension application to USCIS, make sure that you use a tracking number. When the packet has been received, make sure you have proof of the delivery saved.
  • It will take at least 90 days for USCIS to adjudicate your application.
  • If you file in a timely manner, you will receive a 180 day grace period during which you are eligible to continue working without your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  • While on STEM Extension, you must maintain your F-1 visa status; this includes reporting any changes to OISSS within 10 days.
  • Save a copy of your Form I-983 so that you can easily edit or make changes in case of any updates to your employment. A full Form I-983 must be turned in even if you are only making a couple of changes.
  • Make sure the information on your Form I-983 reflects your employer information and follows the Form I-983 Sample. Any I-983 that has been submitted with incorrect or missing information will not be accepted.
  • All signatures on the Form I-983 must be handwritten, inked signatures. Digital/electronic signatures cannot be accepted.
  • Full-time employment in terms of your immigration equates to at least 20 hours per week; anything below 20 hours is part-time.
  • You are responsible for keeping track of your unemployment; you are granted an additional 60 days of unemployment while on STEM extension to be added to the unused unemployment days from your post-completion OPT.
  • Once you are on STEM Extension, you are required to report to Bradley every 6 months even if there are no changes to report; an email will be sent to the email address on file so make sure you keep your email address up-to-date and check it regularly.

Application Timeline

The earliest you can apply for STEM extension OPT is 90 days before your current OPT authorization end date. It will take the USCIS Service Center approximately 3-5 months to process your application, so we recommend that you apply early.

The absolute latest USCIS can received your application for STEM Extension OPT is the final day of your post-completion OPT. It is your responsibility to ensure that all application materials are received by USCIS prior to the end of your post-completion OPT period. Please note that students who wait to apply until the end of the post-completion OPT period may be rejected. It is recommended that students apply for STEM extension as soon as you are eligible.

Procedure

There are two steps to apply for STEM extension OPT:

  1. Apply for a STEM Extension recommended I-20 with OISSS –
  2. Apply for STEM extension OPT authorization with USCIS –
    • Include the following materials in your OPT application packet (ordered from on top to on the bottom)
      • Two passport-style photos
        • Must be less than 30 days old
        • On the back, lightly write your name in pencil or felt-tip pen
      • Check or money order for $410.00
      • Form G-1145 “e-Notification of Application/Petition”
        • Not required but recommended
        • USCIS will send you an electronic confirmation of your application when it’s received
      • Form I-765 “Application for Employment Authorization”
        • Sample of the Form I-765
        • It is recommended that you complete the form online and print
        • If you need to hand-write something in, use black ink
      • Copy of the front and back of current Employment Authorization Document (OPT Card)
      • Copy of the new I-20 with the STEM Extension recommendation on the 2nd page
        • Must be less than 60 days old
        • Make sure to sign on the first page
      • Copies of all Bradley I-20s issued to you
        • Ordered newest on top to oldest on the bottom
        • Not required but highly recommended, especially if you have previous CPT/OPT authorization
      • Copy of Bradley diploma or final transcripts showing degree award date
      • Copy of passport biographical and expiration page(s)
      • Copy of F-1 visa
      • Copy of most recent Form I-94
    • Binder clip (not staple) the materials together and submit the packet to the appropriate lockbox destination
      • If sending by regular mail (USPS), submit to:
        USCIS
        P.O. Box 21281
        Phoenix, AZ 85036
      • If sending by express courier service (FedEx/DHL/UPS), submit to:
        USCIS
        Attn: AOS
        1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
        Suite 100
        Phoenix, AZ 85034

Documentation Required for STEM Extension OPT Recommended I-20