To be eligible for the 17-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 no previous 17-month STEM OPT extension granted (only one extension per student, regardless of degree level).
- Have earned your most recent degree in a STEM field specified by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
- Have an offer of paid employment from an employer registered in the E-Verify program.
- Agree to make reports to International Students & Scholars (ISS), within 10 days of any change in employment status regarding your employment, or every 6 months if no change has occurred.
When to Apply
You must apply for the 17-month STEM OPT extension before your Post-Completion OPT expires.
- Check that your degree is in the STEM category.
- Check that your employer is an E-Verify Employer. Please note that there is no official list of E-Verified employers.
- Gather the following documents for the application packet:
Materials to be sent to ISS:
Materials to be sent to USCIS:
- A personal check made out to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” (Check USCIS website for current filing fee)
- Two color passport photos (2"x2", write name and SEVIS number on back of both photos; must be taken within 30 days)
- The original Form I-765
- Question #16 should be filled with (c) (3) (C)
- Question #17 should include your degree (as listed on your I-20), Employer’s name and E-verify number
- A photocopy of the new I-20 the ISS advisor will process for you which shows your request for STEM OPT
- Photocopies of all previous I-20(s)
- Photocopy of previous EAD card(s)
- Photocopy of passport information and expiration page
- Photocopy of visa
- Photocopy of I-94 card
- Copy of your most recent diploma in a STEM field (this could include: official transcripts or unofficial transcripts). ISS recommends official transcripts.
- Recommended, but not required: Statement from the employer regarding how the employment relates to the STEM field
After an ISS advisor reviews the required documents, send your completed packet to the appropriate service center according to your residence. If you are in California the address is:
USCIS Phoenix Lockbox
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
For Express mail and courier deliveries:
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
- On the bottom of the envelope write: “I-765: Optional Practical Training/STEM Extension”
You should receive an official USCIS receipt notice within a month of mailing your packet. After receiving this, you may check on the status of your application in the Case Status Online Section of the USCIS website. If you do not receive a receipt notice within 5 weeks of mailing your packet, you should call USCIS at (800) 375-5283 to ensure your application was received.
Once you have applied for the 17-month STEM OPT Extension:
- You may continue your OPT employment while your extension request is pending for up to 180 days; OR
- After you have received the EAD.
- Any employment during the 17-month STEM OPT Extension period must be with an employer registered with the E-Verify program.
While on OPT (Important to Remember)
- You are still considered to be in F-1 student status while on OPT, so any questions or concerns should be addressed by an ISS advisor during this time.
- You must continue to verify your information in SEVIS within 10 days if there has been a change or every 6 months if no change has occurred.
- If you change to a different visa status, please inform ISS so that your records can be updated.
- If you terminate your OPT early, please inform ISS so that your records can be updated.
Travel on OPT
You may travel while on 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 5 months of re-entry)
- Your unexpired EAD or I-797 receipt notice
- 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
After completing your 17-month STEM OPT Extension
- 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 ISS to prove your work authorization during this period.
- 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 ISS if you plan to begin another course of study another program after your OPT.