STEM Extension OPT

This extension of the post-completion OPT period for students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Please note that the STEM Extention OPT carries additional visa restriction and reporting requirements. Review these restrictions and requirements.

You may have read or heard about the proposed changes to the OPT STEM Extension.  We are still waiting for a final rule, and will email you again once we have more information.    If you are STEM eligible (and within 120 days of your OPT end date), you have two options:

1.  Apply for your STEM extension now

2.  Wait for the new rule to be announced and apply for STEM later

Please contact your IO advisor to discuss your situation and to make the best decision.  

Are you eligible?

  • You must have earned a degree in a field included on the STEM Designated Degree Program List (check with your IO advisor)
  • You must currently be on a period of post-completion OPT based on a STEM degree
  • You must have a valid EAD card
  • You must be working for an employer that is enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify program. You may find out if your employer is in the E-Verify system on the USCIS website or ask your Human Resources Office (HR)
  • You may apply for the STEM extension 120 days before the end of your first period of OPT.  Check your EAD card for your OPT end date!

How to apply

STEM Extension OPT Timeline

1. Ensure your degree program is eligible for STEM

Contact your IO advisor before proceeding with the application.

2. Report any/all employment during your 12-month period

Complete the OPT Reporting Survey BEFORE applying for the STEM extension.

3. Collect your application materials

Application materials checklist


  • See the USCIS website for the most up-to-date version of Form I-765. Here is a sample I-765.
  • USCIS must receive your STEM application before the end date of your first period of OPT.

4. Submit your complete application to the IO.

If you are not in the Chicago area, then please coordinate your STEM application with your IO advisor via email.  If you are still in Evanston/Chicago, please come to the IO during walk-in hours.

5. Pick up your materials from IO and prepare your application for USCIS.

  • Pick up your new I-20 with your STEM OPT recommendation from the IO.  Not in Evanston/Chicago? Create an account in eShipGlobal and we will mail you your packet.
  • You will receive a packet containing two I-20: one to keep and one to send to USCIS with your OPT application. Sign page 1 of each I-20.
  • Make a photocopy of your I-765.

6. Mail your application to USCIS.

  • Mail your application to USCIS within 15 days (or else it will be rejected!)
  • Send your application to either the Phoenix or Dallas USCIS office, depending on your current U.S. state of residence.  Please check with your IO advisor to see where you should mail your application.  DO NOT E-FILE your application!
  • You will receive a receipt notice in the mail 2-3 weeks after filing the application. You may track the progress of your application on the USCIS website. Please note that USCIS does not regularly update the steps and most students see their status as 'initial review' until it jumps to 'card production.'

7. Wait to receive EAD card in the mail.

Once approved, you will receive a new EAD card for your OPT STEM Extension.

8.  Report your employment! (REQUIRED)

Report your employment in the OPT Reporting Survey every 6 months (required even if nothing changes) or within 10 days of any changes.

Application materials checklist

The following items need to be reviewed by the IO. Items marked with an asterisk also need to be submitted to USCIS:

  1. OPT 17 Month STEM Extension Form
  2. Employment verification letter*
  3. Completed form I-765 (view a sample)*
  4. Check or Money Order made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (check USCIS for current fee)*  Sample check
  5. Copy of current EAD Card (front and back)*
  6. Copy of I-20 issued for first period (12 months or less) of Optional Practical Training*
  7. Copy of I-94 Record*
  8. Copy of Passport Bio Page*
  9. Copy of F-1 visa stamp*
  10. Two identical passport style (2" x 2") color photographs taken within the last 30 days*
  11. Copy of transcript or diploma reflecting conferred degree/major. Registrar's Office*
  12. Employer Verification of Compliance form
  13. Optional Practical Training 17 Month STEM Extension form
After all documents are reviewed, you will receive a Extension OPT Recommended I-20 signed by International Advisor. This needs to be submitted to the USCIS along with the above documents.