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OPT STEM Extension

Cover image of STEM OPT Tutorial video

In order to learn more about the process of applying for STEM OPT, we recommend that all students view the STEM OPT Tutorial.

Watch the Tutorial

To be eligible for the 24-month STEM OPT extension, you must:

  • Be in valid F-1 status on Post-Completion OPT.
  • Not have acquired more than 90 days of unemployment on Post-Completion OPT.
  • Have not had more than two STEM OPT extensions granted (only two extensions in student's lifetime).
  • Have earned your most recent degree in a STEM field specified by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) or use a previously earned U.S. degree in STEM.  Degree must be from a U.S. accredited school and earned within last 10 years.
  • Have an offer of employment directly related to the degree that qualifies you for STEM.
  • Have an offer of paid employment from an employer registered in the E-Verify program.
  • Have an employer who agrees to complete the I-983, review periodic evaluations, and report your departure or termination of employment.
  • Have an offer of employment for at least 20 hours per week for each employer.
  • Agree to make reports to UMD within 10 days of any change in employment status regarding your employment, or every 6 months if no change has occurred.

Not all employment relationships are permitted under the STEM extension. Students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Training Plan (I-983), and the employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience. Some employment arrangements that may not be permitted under the STEM extension include:

  • Sole proprietorships;
  • Employment through "temp" agencies;
  • Employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire; and
  • Other relationships that do not constitute a bona-fide employer-employee relationship.
  • DHS must receive the OPT STEM Extension packet by the last day of the initial 12 month OPT EAD expiration.  
  • STEM applications may only be submitted up to 90 days prior to initial 12-month EAD expiration. 
  • Check that your degree is in the STEM category or was in a STEM category at the time of program completion.
  • Check that your employer is an E-Verify employer.

Before filing the I-765 application, students MUST receive an I-20 endorsed on the 2nd page with the OPT STEM recommendation. Do NOT submit your I-765 to USCIS without receiving and including your STEM recommended I-20 from ISSS.

How to request your STEM I-20 from ISSS:

  • Log into iTerp, go to F-1 Student Services, and complete the Stem: STEM I-20 Request e-form.  You will need to upload the following documents:
  • An ISSS advisor will review your information and contact you with the status of your OPT Stem Extension Request.  If approved a new I-20 will be created and instructions sent regarding the mailing of the I-20.
  • For information on Premium Processing visit our FAQs page.

Filing the I-765 Application Online

As of April 12, 2021, F-1 students applying for the OPT STEM extension are eligible to file their I-765 application online through the USCIS. Please review this walkthrough guide on how to file your I-765 application online.

Filing the I-765 Application by Mail

​F-1 students applying for the OPT STEM extension who do not wish to file online may apply by mail instead. Please review this walkthrough guide with recommendations for how to file your I-765 application by mail. If you are filing by mail, it is strongly recommended to make an appointment with an ISSS advisor before mailing your application. Mailed applications can often result in a higher likelihood of RFE of denials when not completed in consultation with the DSO.

Once you have applied for the 24-month STEM OPT Extension you may continue your OPT employment while your extension request is pending for up to 180 days following the end date of your 12 month EAD card while waiting for the STEM EAD card.
You may not accumulate a total of more than 150 days of unemployment, including unemployment during Post-Completion OPT.

Any employment during the 24-month STEM OPT Extension period must be with an employer registered with the E-Verify program requires an I-983 for each employer.

Please click here for detailed instructions on OPT reporting requirements.

  • Report new employment or update your existing employer's address within 10 days of changing employment via iTerp. (Once you are logged in click OPT/STEM Related > OPT/STEM :  Report New Employer Information).  A new I-983 is also required which should be uploaded with the form.
  • Report material changes to an existing Form I-983 through the iTerp eform OPT/STEM Related > STEM:  I-983 Final Evaluation. 
  • Complete the STEM 6 month validation eform every 6 months
  • If you will end employment report termination of a position through iTerp by submitting your I-983 exit self-evaluation (iTerp eform - STEM-I-983 Evaluation for 12 and 24 Month Evaluations)
  • You are required to complete two self-evaluations during the STEM OPT period.  The first one within 12 months of the STEM OPT start date and a second one at the end of employment (iTerp eform - STEM-I-983 Evaluation for 12 and 24 Month Evaluations).
  • Any changes in your address needs to be updated in iTerp within 10 days of your change through the iTerp eform OPT/STEM Related>Address Update While on OPT or on your SEVP Portal
  • You are still considered to be in F-1 student status while on STEM OPT, so any questions or concerns can be addressed by an ISSS advisor during this time.
  • You may not accumulate a total of more than 150 days of unemployment (90 days while on OPT and additional 60 days on STEM OPT)
  • If you plan to end STEM OPT early or change to a different status you must complete the I-983 final evaluation and the Exit Plan under OPT/STEM services in iTerp.

You may travel while on STEM OPT. However, please keep in mind that you are still in F-1 status and that you will need the following in order to re-enter the U.S.:

  • A valid travel signature on your most current I-20 (within 6 months of re-entry).  You may request a travel signature via iTerp by completing the Travel Signature while on OPT eform in iTerp.
  • Your unexpired EAD
  • A letter from your employer indicating that you currently hold a job in your field of study and will be returning to the U.S. to resume employment
  • A valid passport
  • A valid F-1 visa
  • If an H-1B application is pending or approved for your H-1B cap-subject employer, you may continue your employment until your employment start date (October 1 of the following fiscal year) or until your application is denied. You will need an updated I-20 from ISSS to prove your work authorization during this period.
  • If your H-1B is approved for Consular processing, you need to inform ISSS by completing the Exit Plan eform in iTerp. 
  • You are entitled to a 60-day grace period beyond the last day of training as indicated on your EAD. You may not work during your 60-day grace period. You will need to notify ISSS if you plan to begin another course of study another program after your OPT.

Premium processing provides expedited processing on Form I-765 for an additional governmental fee. In exchange for the additional fee, USCIS guarantees that it will take some adjudicative action (approval, denial, request for evidence, notice of intent to deny) within 30 calendar days. Visit our premium processing page for more information.

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