STEM OPT Extension

On This Page: Eligibility Criteria When can I apply?How to ApplyMaintain Your Status on OPT • Additional Resources

The STEM OPT extension is a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT. It is available two times to eligible F-1 students who have completed a STEM degree within the last 10 years from an accredited U.S. institution.

Eligibility Criteria

You must meet the following eligibility requirements to be recommended for the STEM extension:

  • You are in a valid period of post-completion OPT
  • You must have recently completed a degree, or have a prior degree, at the bachelor's level or higher, in a field on Department of Homeland Security's STEM-Designated Program List. If your STEM application is based on a previous degree, it must have been awarded within the past 10 years by an accredited U.S. institution. Your degree did not need to be STEM-designated at the time it was awarded.
  • You are employed in a paid position by an employer registered in E-verify. You must work at least 20 hours per week and the employment must be directly related to your STEM degree. Your initial post-completion OPT employer does not need to be the same as your STEM OPT extension employer. Because the Form I-983 requires a salary amount and employer official certification, self-employment and volunteering do not qualify for the STEM OPT extension.
  • You have not previously completed 2 STEM extensions.

When can I apply?

You must apply for STEM OPT extension before your current period of post-completion ends.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must receive your application:

  • No later than the day before your OPT period ends.
  • No earlier than 90 days before your OPT period ends.
  • Within 30 days of when your STEM OPT I-20 is issued by ISS.

You must receive your I-20 with OPT recommendation from ISS before you file your application with USCIS. Normal processing time for ISS is 10 business days. Please allow additional time to mail your application to USCIS. You must file Form I-765 while in the United States. If you have filed your application with USCIS during this period, your employment authorization is automatically extended up to 180 days. It is your responsibility to find out what documentation your employer requires to verify your extended authorization. You may continue working while your STEM extension is being processed by USCIS. We recommend against traveling outside the U.S. while your application is pending with USCIS (Read Can I reenter if my request for OPT is pending? for more information).

How to Apply

Applying for the STEM OPT extension is a 2-step process. Do not file the application without the I-20 with the recommendation for the STEM OPT Extension. You must file Form I-765 while in the United States.

Step 1: Apply for an I-20 Recommending STEM OPT from ISS

Submit the following documents to International Student Services (ISS) through the STEM OPT Extension e-form (under F-1 Student Employment) in MyGlobal to request an I-20 recommending the STEM OPT extension:

Document Notes
Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students
  • Review Completing the Form I-983 for instructions
  • Complete and sign pages 1-4
  • The SEVIS School Code for the University of Arizona is: PHO214F20092000
  • For the Designated School Official (DSO) enter:
    Marie Willard
    615 N. Park Ave.
    Tucson, AZ 85721
    (520) 621-4627
OPT Reporting e-form
  • If you have not already done so, report your current employment and address. To review what you previously reported, log into the SEVP Portal or review previously submitted OPT Reporting e-forms in MyGlobal.
Diploma from previous institution
  • Only required if your STEM degree was not awarded by the University of Arizona
Copy of I-20 from previous institution
  • Only required if your STEM degree was not awarded by the University of Arizona
  • You do not have an I-20 for your previous STEM degree, please submit a letter from your previous school's international office confirming the SEVIS school code and CIP code of your degree
$150 Case Management Fee Email Receipt

Step 2: Apply for an EAD card from USCIS

You must file Form I-765 while in the United States. Download the appropriate checklist below. USCIS offers the option to file electronically or to send the complete application to USCIS by mail. You must choose one filing option. Do not file both. You can read more about the Benefits of a USCIS Online Account on the USCIS website.

USCIS must receive your application prior to the expiration of your current EAD card, and within 30 days of when your I-20 was issued by International Student Services (ISS). Your application for STEM OPT extension does not have to be approved before your EAD expires. Based on a timely filed application, your OPT employment authorization will be automatically extended up to 180 days while your application is pending with USCIS. Your I-20 from ISS recommending the STEM OPT extension and the I-797 receipt notice from USCIS showing that your application was received prior to the expiration of your EAD are your documentation of your extended OPT employment authorization while your application is pending. It is your responsibility to submit the required documentation to your employer.

Processing Times

Normal processing time for ISS is 10 business days. Processing time for USCIS varies. Follow these steps to check current case processing times:

  1. Visit

  2. For Form, select I-765 | Application for Employment Authorization.

  3. For Form Category, select Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student [(c)(3)].

  4. For Field Office of Service Center, select Potomac Service Center.

Online filing of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, is now also available to F-1 students who wish to pay an additional fee for express processing (within 30 days). Visit the USCIS website for the fee amount and filing instructions.

For students who do not request Premium Processing, expedite options are extremely limited, and requests are frequently denied. For information about how to expedite your application with USCIS, read Chapter 5 – Request to Expedite Applications or Petitions of the USCIS Policy Manual. ISS will not expedite OPT requests and cannot review letters to USCIS to request expedited processing.

Maintain Your Status on OPT

While you are on STEM OPT, you are still in F-1 student status and your SEVIS record is still maintained by the University of Arizona. ISS will remain your point of contact for all immigration questions and requests related to your F-1 record.

It is your responsibility to take the following actions to maintain your status:

  • Work at least 20 hours per week in paid positions for E-Verify employers in positions related to your STEM degree
  • Do not accrue more than 150 days of unemployment throughout the entire period of OPT and STEM extension (90 days during the first 12 months of OPT plus an additional 60 days during the 24 month extension)
  • Submit the OPT Reporting e-forms in MyGlobal:
    • Within 10 days of any changes to your address, employment information, visa status or permanent departure from the U.S.
    • Within 10 days of any material changes to your Form I-983 (upload the updated version through the e-form)
    • Every 6 months to validate your SEVIS information, regardless of whether there have been any changes
    • Every 12 months complete and upload page 5 of Form I-983. The self-evaluation must be signed by your supervisor.

Additional information about reporting requirements, including what to do if you believe your employer is not complying with the terms and conditions of the 24-month extension regulations and Form I-983, are available at Study in the States.

Additional Resources