opt stem (24-month extension)

OPT STEM Extension Rule

Eligibility Requirements

OPT STEM Application Window

How to Apply

Frequently Asked Questions

Completing the I-765 (STEM Extension)

Helpful Resources

OPT STEM Extension Rule

Certain students who are currently participating in their 12 months of post-completion OPT are allowed to file for an additional 24 months of OPT.

To improve the educational benefit of the STEM OPT extension, the rule requires employers to implement formal training programs to augment students' academic learning through practical experience. This requirement is intended to equip students with a more comprehensive understanding of their selected area of study and broader functionality within that field.  The practical training opportunity must be directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree.

Please see the additional reporting requirements for the 24-month STEM extension.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify, you must be maintaining your F-1 status and fulfill all the following criteria:

  • Approved for your initial allocation of up to12 months of post completion OPT
  • Your major field’s CIP code must appears on the STEM designated degree list. You can find the CIP code for your major in the ‘program of study’ section on page 1 of your I-20.
  • Have an offer of paid employment for at least 20 hours per week from an employer enrolled in E-verify. E-Verify information can be found here.  Students may not be self-employed.
  • The student and employer must complete Form I-983 Training Plan.
  • Kept ISSS updated with both your physical address and employer address.
  • Have not exceeded more than 90 days of unemployment while on OPT.
  • Completed a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral degree in a STEM field, OR have completed all course requirements and working on thesis or dissertation.

OPT STEM Application Window

Your STEM Extension application must be received by USCIS no earlier than 90 days prior to your current EAD expiration date and no later than this date. In addition, USCIS must receive your STEM Extension application no later than 60 days after the OPT STEM I-20 issue date. You may submit your OPT STEM I-20 request e-form, along with your completed I-983, a few weeks earlier to allow for processing and mailing of your new I-20.

how to apply

Complete Form I-983 Training Plan with your employer. Upload your completed I-983 Training Plan to the “OPT STEM Extension” e-form in iSTART. You will also need to pay the $200 OPT STEM Management Fee before your I-20 can be processed. Click here to make your payment. ISSS will review your I-983 Training Plan for completeness and issue a new STEM OPT I-20. Do not upload a password-protected copy of your Training Plan.

Note: we cannot issue your I-20 if you have not submitted the ‘OPT: Employer Information Update’ e-form. If you have not previously reported your employment, please submit this e-form in addition to the STEM Extension e-form.  

Notes on completing the I-983:

  • Leave DSO (Designated School Official) section blank. ISSS does not assign a DSO until after we have received your request.
  • CIP code: 6 digit code listed beside your major on your I-20
  • SEVIS School Code: Refer to the SCHOOL CODE section on your I-20.
  • University Recommending STEM: You may put ‘University of Illinois – UIUC’.
    If you earned the STEM eligible degree from a previous institution, list it under the ‘Name of School Where STEM degree was earned’.
  • NAICS code: The code can be found here.  Please note the NAICS code for UIUC or any institute of higher education in the US is 611310.
  • Evaluation on Student Progress: This section should not be completed at this time as the self-evaluations are completed AFTER the STEM extension has been granted.
  • Updated Form I-983 Training Plan. A new Form I-983 Training Plan must be executed and submitted to the DSO through the iSTART system within 10 days of:
    • Beginning a new practical training opportunity with a new employer during the 24-month extension
    • Any time there is a “material change” in the terms and conditions of the original I-983. 

*Please make sure all of the necessary signatures are present from both you and your employer*


Assemble documents:


  1. I-765 filing fee currently $410 payable to “U.S Department of Homeland Security”.
    •  Always check the USCIS forms page to make sure you are using the latest form version and paying the correct fee.
    • I-765 filing fee is payable by personal check, money order OR credit card payment with use of form G-1450.
  2. Two identical immigration-style photos taken within 30 days of filing Form I-765. Photos must have white to off-white background, be printed on thin paper with a glossy finish, and be unmounted and unretouched. Lightly print your NAME and SEVIS ID on the back of the photos. Place photos in a clear Ziploc-type bag. For more photo guidelines, visit the U.S State department website. ISSS recommends photos be taken professionally/locally to comply with photo regulations.
  3. Copy of Form I-20 printed with the OPT endorsement, signed by the DSO and student on page 1.
  4. Photocopies of any previous employment authorization documents (EAD cards) if applicable.
  5. Form I-765 Instructions also state that the applicant must use Form I-765 Part 6., Additional Information, to provide:
    1. "all previously used SEVIS numbers" and
    2. "evidence of any previously authorized CPT or OPT and the academic level at which it was authorized."
  6. Photocopy of Form I-94 (both sides of cardstock I-94 or copy of electronic Form I-94 printout).
  7. Photocopies of the following passport pages:
    1. Passport ID pages: photo page, page with passport validity dates, including renewal page if original has expired, and pages showing amendments such as name changes, corrections, etc.
    2. F-1 visa page (if any)
  8. "a copy of your degree" (if applicable)
    1. SEVP and USCIS have stated that transcripts or copies of diplomas that indicate the educational level and the field of study would be acceptable.

You may also include the optional form G-1145 e-Notification of Application to receive a confirmation that your application has been received by USCIS. Note: this is NOT your official receipt notice.

Additional notes on filing Form I-765 for STEM Extension:

  • Form I-20 must be "timely endorsed by a Designated School Official (DSO) (DSO's recommendation within the past 30 days for Post-Completion OPT and 60 days for the 24-month STEM OPT extension)."
    • This instruction relates to the regulatory requirements that USCIS receive the Form I-765 requesting standard post-completion OPT with 30 days of the DSO's recommendation in SEVIS for standard post-completion OPT [8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(B)(2)] and within 60 days of the DSO's recommendation in SEVIS for STEM OPT 8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(C) ]
    • 8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(ii)(C) states that "The DSO must provide the student with a signed, dated Form I-20 indicating that OPT has been recommended," so clearly an I-20 does have to be properly signed by the student and DSO on page 1, and be submitted to USCIS within the regulatory deadlines described above. The I-765 instruction should not be read to extend any regulatory deadlines for filing described above, including the requirement that the I-765 and I-20 be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of the student's current standard post-completion OPT employment authorization.
  • Provide documentation of the student's unexpired period of regular post-completion OPT
    • Include a copy of the student's current EAD showing an unexpired period of regular post-completion OPT.
    • The Potomac Service Center also recommended in a May 17, 2017 email to NAFSA that students include a copy of the I-20 that bears the recommendation for the student's current period of regular post-completion OPT.

Mailing your OPT STEM Application

Once you have all of your application materials prepared, you should then file to the USCIS Lockbox with jurisdiction over the state you currently live in (either Phoenix or Dallas). The Lockbox will correspond to the mailing address you have listed on your I-765 form.

As long as your application is received by USCIS before the EAD expiration date, you will be allowed to remain in the US and continue employment for 180 days or until a decision is made on your application (whichever is sooner).

Student’s have the option of receiving text message/e-mail notification from USCIS if they include the optional form G-1145: https://www.uscis.gov/g-1145.

Note: Mail by certified mail with a Return Receipt Requested or Express/Overnight with Delivery Confirmation. Make photocopies of all documents you send for your records.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q:  What are the additional reporting obligations?
A:  Six-month validity reports. A student in a period of 24-month STEM OPT must confirm the validity of the following information with the DSO every six months by submitting the ‘6/12/18 month STEM reporting’ e-form through iSTART:

  • Legal name
  • Residential or mailing address
  • Employer name and address
  • Status of current employment/practical training experience

You will receive an e-mail from our Data Manager when it is time to complete this report.
STEM OPT students must also separately report changes to this information within 10 days of the change, including any loss of employment.

Q: Can I change employers with a pending STEM application?
A: Yes, but please contact ISSS to discuss your employment situation.

Q: What does the question “Based on Prior Degree” mean on the form I-983?
A: If you are applying for the OPT STEM Extension using a degree that was conferred previously and not used as the post completion OPT degree, please list that degree.

Q: When should I submit my Self-Evaluations?
A: A student must complete self-evaluations of his or her progress during the course of each "STEM practical training opportunity" his or her STEM OPT period:

  • An initial evaluation within 12 months of the STEM OPT start recorded on Form I-983; and
  • A final evaluation "no later than 10 days following the conclusion of the reporting period or conclusion of his or her practical training opportunity."
  • The SEVIS Help Hub also indicates that a student should submit self-evaluations "at the end of any employment," in addition to "the 12 and 24 month marks from the start date of the STEM extension."

Evaluations must be signed by the student and his or her immediate supervisor, and then submitted to the DSO through the ‘OPT STEM: Annual Self-Evaluation or Updating I-983’ e-form.

The school whose DSO recommended the student's STEM OPT extension is responsible for ensuring that SEVP has access upon request to each student evaluation (in either electronic or hard copy), beginning 30 days after the document is submitted to the DSO and for three years following the completion of each STEM practical training opportunity.

*You do not have to submit a self-evaluation when requesting the initial STEM OPT I-20*

Q: How can I report my employment information?
A:  OPT applicants are now only allowed a total of 90 days unemployment during their initial 12 month OPT allocation, and 150 days during their 36 month total OPT allocation (post-completion OPT and STEM OPT). It is therefore vital that you keep ISSS updated with your employer information to avoid being erroneously viewed as unemployed. This can be done through iStart at https://sunapsis.illinois.edu within 10 days of the change. Please note that if you accrue 90 days or more of consecutive unemployment, your F-1 status will be automatically terminated in the SEVIS system.

If you have an active netID and password, login under Full Client Services. If your password is expired, login under Limited Services using your UIN, Date of Birth and a temporary PIN number that you can have emailed to yourself.

Q: If my employer has obtained an H-1B for me, effective this coming October, do I still need the extension?
A:  The H-1B cap-gap extension states that the duration of your F-1 status and work authorization will be automatically extended for a student on OPT, who is the beneficiary of a timely filed Change of Status to H-1B petition requesting an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. This applies to all students on OPT, not just STEM students. The extension of duration of status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf. This will allow the continuation of employment between the expiry of OPT and the start of the H-1B without filing for the 24 month extension for all students on OPT.

Q: I was previously on a STEM extension as a Bachelor’s student but now I am finishing another STEM degree at the Master’s level, can I apply for another STEM extension?
A: Yes. F-1 students who subsequently enroll in a new academic program and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level are eligible for one additional 24-month STEM OPT extension. (2 STEM Extensions lifetime).

Q: Can I apply for the OPT STEM Extension based on a prior degree?
A: The rule permits an F-1 student participating in a 12-month period of post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree to use a prior eligible STEM degree from a U.S. institution of higher education as a basis to apply for a STEM OPT extension, as long as both degrees were received from currently accredited educational institutions.

Q: How do I know if I need to update my I-983 Training Plan?
A: Please refer to the information provided from the Study in the States website indicating when a material change to Form I-983 needs to be reported to a DSO:

“Both STEM OPT students and employers are obligated to report to the DSO material changes to, or material deviations from, the student’s formal training plan. 

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.

So long as the STEM OPT student and employer meet the regulatory requirements and the modified Form I-983 meets the specified requirements, the student’s employment authorization will not cease based on a change to the plan.”

Q: I am currently working on OPT at UIUC but I did not receive my degree from The University of Illinois. What should I do?
A: Employees of the University on OPT from another institution should contact the International Office at their home institution that recommended post-completion OPT for further information on applying for the STEM Extension.

Q: Can I travel outside of the U.S. if my original EAD expires and my 24-month extension is still pending?
A: Yes, please contact ISSS for details.

Completing the I-765 (STEM Extension)

Note: As of 09/17/2018, applicants MUST use the 05/31/2018 edition.

  • Please follow the I-765 instructions provided on the USCIS website, particularly page 15 - 19. For your reference, please see below for general guidelines to assist you.

    • Part 1.
      • For the STEM extension application, this is considered a ‘renewal of permission to accept employment’.
    • Part 2.
      • Provide basic biographical information about yourself. Note: If using a friend or relative’s address, complete Question #5.a (In Care of Name).
      • Question #26 – provide your CURRENT SEVIS number, listed at the top of your I-20 document.
      • Question #27(C)(3)(C) is the eligibility category for STEM extension. You MUST complete Question 28.
    • Part 3.
      • You must select the appropriate ‘Applicant’s Statement’ and provide your contact information. 
      • Read carefully the Applicant’s Declaration and Certification section BEFORE signing your Form I-765.
      • Don’t forget to sign within the ‘Applicant’s Signature’ box. Signature should not touch or go beyond the space provided.
    • In general, Part 4 and Part 5 do not apply to student’s applying for OPT/STEM as students do not generally have an interpreter assisting with the application.
    • Part 6.
      • This section can be used to provide information on previously used SEVIS numbers and to indicate attached files such as previous EAD, approval notice and I-20s.
      • Example: Page 3. Section 2. Number 27.
        • List previously used SEVIS numbers and indicate “previous CPT/OPT authorization documents attached.”
    • Put ‘N/A’ if a question does not apply to you.
    • You must complete and submit ALL 7 pages with your application.

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