STEM OPT Extension

The STEM OPT extension is a 24-month period of temporary training that directly relates to an F-1 student's program of study in an approved STEM field, including Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Some fields in Social Science have been added. Eligible F-1 students with STEM degree who finish their program of study and participate in an initial 12-month Post-Completion OPT have the option to apply for a STEM OPT extension.

Master of Arts in Industrial & Organizational Psychology with CIP Code 42.2804 now is eligible for STEM OPT Extension.


To qualify for the 24-month STEM OPT extension, an F-1 student participating in an initial 12-month Post-Completion OPT must:

  • ​Have a degree in an eligible STEM field from a SEVIS Certified school that is accredited by SEVIS recognized accreditation agency.
  • Have maintained a good status during study and 12-month OPT and SEVIS Portal is active.
  • Pursue STEM OPT extension through an employer that is enrolled in  E-Verify program and able to provides formal training and learning objectives
  • Have a paid job offer that meets the following requirements. 

               - The job is with an employer enrolled in the USICS E-Very program with an E-Very Number.

               - The job offers at least 20 hours of work per week
               - The job must be paid. Volunteer, Unpaid work, or Self-Employment are not eligible for STEM OPT                   Extension.
               - The job will provide formal training and learning objectives directly related to your qualifying                            STEM degree.

When to Apply

USCIS must RECEIPT your STEM OPT extension application BEFORE your current 12-month OPT EAD card expiration date – not only receive your application, but you must be receipted by the OPT End Date.

  • ​You can apply as early as 90 days prior to your current 12-month OPT End Date (EAD Expiration Date).
  • You must submit your application so that USCIS RECEIPTS your submission within 60 days of your DSO's recommendation AND prior to your OPT End Date​. 

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It can take USCIS 3-5 months to adjudicate your application, please start early to prepare the paperwork and coordination with your employer, so your DSO can recommend in SEVIS and issue you the STEM OPT I-20 on the 90th day prior to your current OPT End Date. Please take into consideration:

  • ​Your DSO needs 2-3 weeks for processing your STEM OPT I-20
  • You must make an appointment with your DSO to go through your paperwork and your entries in the online application platform before you submit. 

How to Apply

In order to better grasp with the complicated requirement and process, you are required to attend the STEM OPT Extension Workshop.

Step 1: Request STEM OPT Recommendation from IPS
Send the following to your DSO for review:

  • Complete and sign the STEM OPT Request Form
  • Complete Form I-765This is a sample form DSO will review before you apply online at 
  • Complete Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. This must be completed and signed by your employer. 
  • Job Offer Letter for STEM OPT
  • A copy of your EAD for your 12-month post-completion OPT. 
  • If your request is based on a degree earned somewhere other than The Chicago School, submit proof of that degree: 

             - I-20 from your previous school showing approved post-completion OPT, or 
             - Verification of Degree Form filled out by your previous school's international office
Step 2: Collect Required Documents to Apply Online with USCIS
When you are waiting for your DSO's recommendation and the STEM OPT Recommended I-20, you should have all the following ready, so you can apply online immediately once you receive your I-20:

STEM OPT Extension Evidence 
Evidence    Example   Notes  
2 x 2 photo of youPassport Photo  See “Photo Requirements"  
U.S. Department of State photo requirements  
DOS also has a photo tool that you can use to check the photo ahead of time.  
Form I-94Entry I-94  Download your most recent I-94 here:  
Change of Status I-797 Approval 
Employment Authorization DocumentOPT EAD Card  EAD for current OPT 
Valid passport The biographical page only
Form I-20Newest I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation  This is referring to the recommending I-20 for STEM only 
College degreeDiploma and / or transcripts showing degree conferral    
Institution accreditation Proof of Accreditation (screenshot from school or accreditors website) Required only if you are filing STEM OPT based on a prior degree (i.e., not the OPT degree). ​ 

Step 3: Make an Appointment with DSO to Review Entries Prior to Pay
This is to ensure accuracy and avoid any possible complications for your STEM OPT Application.

  • Make an appointment with your DSO to go over the online entries to ensure accuracy BEFORE you make payment
  • Once you click 'submit' after entering all the credit card information, you cannot make any edits
  • Your DSO doesn't have access to correct any errors
  • USCIS communicates with you via your account for receipts and RFE
  • Might call you to verify information if needed

         - Caller ID will be 202-838-2200; Please pick up. 

         - Officer should have all your personal information, so do not give SSN info or other sensitive info                     on the phone.

Unemployment, Travel, and Grace Period

  • With a timely filed application, you can continue working for 180 days past your OPT End Date when your STEM application is pending adjudication
           - If adjudicated, the 180 days will cease.
           - If rejected, you must stop working once your OPT ends
  • ​You are allowed to accumulate maximum 60-day unemployment during your STEM OPT
  • You have 60-day grace period at the End of STEM OPT to
          - Leave the country
          - Transfer to another degree level or program
          - Transfer to another school
  • You can travel abroad during STEM OPT but must carry all required documents, however it is always risky once main  purpose of the visa status is fulfilled.
           - Valid Passport
           - Valid visa
           - STEM I-20 with travel signature (within 6 months)
           - STEM EAD card and job offer letter.
  • If your employer applies H-1B for you in a timely manner and your STEM OPT end date is before the decision period, you will receive an automatic extension until Oct. 1 when a H-1B is effective.

Reporting Requirements

Requirement for Students

  • ​On-going Reporting Requirements: Must report any change on the following within 10 days to your DSO
          - Name change
          - Residential or mailing address change

          - Employer name or address change
          - Employment status change

  • Six-Month Validation Reports. You must:

Report the information below every 6-months, and within 10 days of the due date, even nothing is changed: 
          - Student Name
          - Student's email address and telephone number
          - Student's home address
          - Name of Student's employer – organization
          - Student's job title
          - Employer's address
          - Supervisor's phone number and email address

Requirement for Employers and Students

  • Every 12-months, must evaluate student's progress towards the training goals listed on Form I-983
  • Supervisor must sign the evaluation
  • Student must send to your DSO 10 days prior to the deadline

If Student leaves training earlier than any of the deadlines, employer must complete the evaluation prior to leaving the position.