F-1 STEM OPT Extension
The 24-month extension of Post-Completion OPT is for students who have completed a degree listed in the STEM Designated Degree Program List. Students who have completed a previous degree in a STEM designated program from a U.S. institution within the past ten years and have completed a new degree at Northwestern University are also eligible for STEM OPT Extension.
To verify whether you qualify for the STEM OPT Extension, check the STEM Designated Degree Program List and verify your program name and the CIP code for your major found on page 1 of your I-20 under Program of Study.
Eligibility Requirements for STEM OPT Extension
- Your program listed on your I-20 must be listed in the STEM Designated Degree Program List. If you are not sure, contact your OISS Advisor.
- You must currently be employed or have a job offer from and employer registered with E-Verify.
- Your employer/supervisor must complete the Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. The form is to be completed jointly by the STEM OPT student and employer/supervisor.
- You must apply before your post-completion period of OPT expires, and your application must be sent to USCIS within 60 days of the date the STEM OPT Extension I-20 was issued and signed by the OISS Advisor. You may apply up to 90 days before your post-completion OPT expires. Please note that you may continue to work up to 180 days while your STEM OPT Extension application is pending with USCIS and you have your receipt notice.
Employers of F-1 students on STEM OPT Extensions, or who wish to support an employee preparing an application for a 24-month STEM OPT Extension, must meet the following requirements:
- Enrolled in E-Verify electronic eligibility verification system
- All employers of STEM OPT Extension students must complete and sign the Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, together with their STEM OPT student employee. For more details on the I-983 and employer responsibilities while they employ a student on their STEM OPT Extension, view this information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. For details on the I-983 itself, view the overview and instructions linked below.
NOTE: Employers may use existing training programs as long as the existing training program or policy aligns with the goals of the STEM OPT student’s continued learning and all other regulatory requirements.
Northwestern University Hiring Departments
The following information will be helpful when completing the I-983 (NOTE: This information is specific to Northwestern University only)
- NU FEIN: 362167817
- Full Time Employees: 10,839
- NAICS Code: 611310
- E-Verify Number: 297964
OISS advisors provide guidance on the STEM OPT Extension application as a courtesy to NU students. If you have any questions about the application process, you can schedule an appointment with your OISS advisor via the OISS Portal or send your advisor an email with your specific questions.
How do I begin a STEM OPT Extension Request?
Submit your STEM OPT Extension request on the OISS Portal.
The STEM OPT Extension Request will appear as an option in the OISS Portal ONLY if both of the following eligibility conditions are met:
- You have completed a degree listed in the STEM Designated Degree Program List
- It is 100 days or less from the end date of your Post-Completion OPT
You must submit your request at least 2 weeks before your post-completion OPT end date and you can submit this request as early as 100 days before your post-completion OPT end date. Remember, the request will appear 100 days prior to the end date of Post-Completion OPT as an option in the OISS portal to STEM majors only.
Your STEM OPT Extension request will be processed and your new I-20 with the STEM OPT Extension recommendation will be ready in 10 business days.
You will receive an email notifying you when your new I-20 with the STEM OPT Extension recommendation is ready for you to access via the OISS Portal.
You will then be able to print your updated I-20 with STEM OPT Extension recommendation from your “Documents” section of the OISS Portal. This is the easiest and fastest way to receive your I-20.
Please be sure to:
- Review the top of page 2 of your I-20 to verify your STEM OPT recommendation information is correct.
- Sign both I-20s on the bottom of the first page in the “Student Attestation” section. One I-20 is for you to send to USCIS with your OPT application and the 2nd is for you to keep as your current I-20.
Application Checklist for STEM OPT Extension: Paper Application by Mail
OISS advisors provide guidance on the STEM OPT Extension application as a courtesy to NU students. If you have any questions about the application process, you can schedule an appointment with your OISS advisor via the OISS Portal or send your advisor an email with your specific questions. Below are detailed instructions. Use the one page STEM Extension OPT Application Checklist as you collect your application materials,
- Copy of new I-20 with STEM OPT Recommendation
Submit the STEM OPT Extension request on the OISS Portal to receive your new STEM OPT recommendation I-20.
- You must submit your completed Training Plan Form I-983 in the STEM OPT request on the OISS Portal and fill out every part of the request including the relevance of employment to coursework statement.
- The I-983 training plan needs to be completed and signed by both you and your employer. Your OISS advisor must verify the information on your I-983 before recommending your STEM OPT Extension in SEVIS and issuing you a new I-20. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you change employers at any time during your OPT STEM Extension, you MUST complete and submit a new Form I-983 to your OISS Advisor and request a new I-20 within 10 days of starting any new employment.
- The I-983 is submitted only with your STEM OPT Extension request at the OISS Portal to your OISS Advisor and does not need to be submitted to USCIS with your application materials.
- Completed Form I-765 (download from uscis.gov and print single sided). Type or print legibly in black ink to complete this form. See Sample STEM OPT I-765 for instructions on completion of this form.
- Completed Form G--1145 to receive e-mail or text message alerts about your application (optional)
- Copy of your Northwestern transcript (order yours here)
- Copy of Northwestern Diploma
- Copy of I-94 Record
- Copy of Passport biographical page
- Copy of F-1 visa stamp (Canadians do not have an F-1 visa stamp)
- Copy of current EAD card (front and back)
- Two identical passport style (2" x 2") color photographs taken within the last 6 months. Your photos should be taken by a professional photographer and must meet Department of State requirements. Write your name and I-94 number on the back of your photos.
- Personal Check, Money Order, or Cashier's Check made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (check USCIS for current filing fee) View a Sample check.
Mailing your Application
Once you have all your application materials you should then file to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox. Please check The USCIS Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765 page for the most up-to-date filing address. The Last Reviewed/Updated date of 09/03/2021, instructs filers to submit these applications to the USCIS Chicago Lockbox, at:
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS):
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Attn: 1-765 C03
P.O. Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680-5374
For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Attn: I-765 C03 (Box 805373)
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517
As long as your application is received by USCIS before your current 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). Your employer may require that provide them with your STEM OPT receipt notice from USCIS to continue working.
Students 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: Send your OPT application by a mail service with a tracking number, delivery confirmation, or return receipt. It is recommended that you make photocopies or scan your entire application for your records.
Before sending your application, please be sure to confirm the Lockbox mailing information for your application on The USCIS Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765 page.
Online application for STEM OPT Extension
In addition to the paper version of Form I-765, USCIS is now accepting online Form I-765 applications for Optional Practical Training (OPT) and the 24-month OPT STEM Extension. The online I-765 application is available ONLY for F-1 students applying for Post Completion OPT or the STEM Extension of OPT. The online I-765 cannot be used for any other type of employment authorization application.
See the following links for detailed information on the online application:
Reporting Obligations for F-1 Students on the STEM OPT Extension
There are several reporting requirements for students while on STEM OPT.
Overview of Reporting Requirements While on 24-month STEM OPT
Update your STEM employment or student personal information within 10 days of the change via Northwestern’s OISS Portal for alumni. Compared to your 12-month OPT period, there are several additional requirements while on STEM OPT. Additional details about these requirements are outlined below.
The following information must be reported in the SEVP Portal during the STEM OPT period of authorization within 10 days of any changes or reporting deadlines:
- Your residential address
- Your phone and email address
The following information needs to be reported in the OISS Portal for alumni. Students on STEM OPT must report employment changes in the OISS Portal for your advisor to verify the I-983 training plan information.
- Report any changes in your employment information including job title, address changes, employment end dates in the OISS Portal using the OPT/STEM OPT Employer Update request in the OISS Portal.
- You must submit a new I-983 training plan for every new employer and every change to your I-983.
- Material Changes to your I-983 using the OPT/STEM OPT Employer Update request in the OISS Portal (see below for details)
- Validation Reports every 6 months using the STEM OPT Validation request in the OISS Portal (see below for details)
- 12-Month Evaluation I-983 using the STEM OPT Validation request in the OISS Portal (see below for details)
- Final Evaluation I-983 at the end of each employment using the STEM OPT Validation request in the OISS Portal (see below for details)
- 24-Month Final Evaluation I-983 using the STEM OPT Validation request in the OISS Portal (see below for details)
- Email your OISS advisor to report the following changes:
- Date of exiting the U.S. if you leave the U.S. and will no longer pursue employment on STEM OPT
- If your visa status changes while on STEM OPT
STEM OPT Data Validation Report - Every 6 Months
While on STEM OPT Extension, you are required to submit data validation reports 6, 12, 18 and 24 months after the STEM OPT Extension start date.
Every six months you will need to submit a STEM OPT Validation request in the OISS Portal to confirm that your record in SEVIS accurately reflects your current circumstances. All students on the STEM OPT Extension will receive email notifications when it is time for you to submit your STEM OPT validation report. In the STEM OPT Validation, students are required to confirm this information:
- Legal name.
- Residential or mailing address.
- Employer name and address.
- Status of current employment.
- Submit the annual evaluation at the I-983 12-month validation period, and the final evaluation at the I-983 24-month validation period
IMPORTANT: Please note that STEM OPT Extension students must report a change in this information, including any loss of employment, within 10 days of the change.
A note about email reminders from SEVP: SEVP Portal users will receive a reminder via email 30 days before any validation report is due. The email reminder will be sent to the email address in your SEVP portal account.
12-month Annual Evaluations
- You must submit Form I-983 page 5 “Evaluation of Student Progress” each 12 months and/or any time you leave an employer. You submit this in the OISS Portal for alumni by using the STEM OPT Validation request.
- Your employer must review and sign the self-evaluation to attest to the accuracy.
- Your F-1 record may be terminated if you fail to submit your evaluations.
- Check your STEM start date and mark your calendar for each 12-month interval of your STEM Extension for your reporting deadlines. You will receive emails from SEVP reminding you of your validation and evaluation timelines as well.
Reporting Material Changes to an Existing Form I-983
Students on F-1 STEM OPT must report to their OISS Advisor any material changes to, or material deviations from, the student's formal training plan. These changes must be reported via an updated Form I-983 submitted in the OISS Portal for alumni by using the OPT/STEM OPT Employer Update request.
As outlined in the form I-983 overview, material changes or deviations from the original Form I-983 may include, but are not limited to:
- Any change of the employer’s EIN.
- 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.
If 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.
Reporting Requirements for Employers
Employer and student must report material changes to or deviations from the training plan. Material change includes, but is not limited to:
- Change in the Employer Identification Number (EIN) resulting from corporate restructuring
- Reduction in compensation or significant decrease in the hours per week
Reporting Requirements when Changing Employers
If you change employers while on the STEM OPT Extension, the new employer must be enrolled in E-Verify before you can begin to work.
You must report any new employer via the OISS Portal within 10 days of starting work for your new STEM OPT employer by submitting the OPT/STEM OPT Employer Update request. You need to submit a new form I-983 for every new employer
When leaving a job or employer, you must submit your final evaluation on your form I-983 (page 5) for that employer and report your employment end date by submitting the OPT/STEM OPT Employer Update request at the OISS Portal.
Unemployment while on STEM OPT Extension
- While on the STEM OPT Extension, you will receive an additional 60 days of unemployment time plus any of the 90 days you did not use during your Post-Completion OPT, for a total of 150 days maximum unemployment days during the entire 36 months of OPT (12 months standard post-completion OPT + 24 months STEM OPT).
- Unemployment Caution: SEVIS records may automatically terminate if have no employment reported for 150 days.
Traveling overseas on STEM OPT
Can I travel overseas while on OPT STEM Extension?
Yes. Remember that your status is still F-1. To re-enter the U.S., you must have:
- Valid EAD card
- I-20 with travel signature (no more than 6 months old) with current employer information listed on 2nd page of I-20. Need a new I-20? Request a Reprint through the OISS Portal.
- Valid F-1 visa stamp or plans to renew yours, Canadians are not required to have an F-1 visa stamp
- Current passport (valid for at least 6 months into the future unless your passport country belongs to the Six Month Club
- Job offer letter (highly recommended, but not required)
- You may travel overseas while your STEM Extension is pending, as long as you have your receipt notice, first EAD card and all other required documents.
Can I travel overseas if my original 12-month EAD is expiring soon and my 24-month STEM extension is still pending?
Please contact your OISS Advisor for guidance on your situation. If there are any problems with your application and you are outside of the U.S., you may not be able to respond to USCIS in a timely manner, which could delay processing of your EAD.
If your STEM OPT application is denied while outside the U.S., and your original OPT EAD has expired, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status and will not be able to reapply.
What do I do if my F-1 Visa has expired while on STEM OPT?
If you are traveling abroad and your F-1 visa has expired, you must obtain a new F-1 visa before returning to the U.S. (Canadians are exempt from this requirement). When going to your visa interview, bring the documents below
- Valid passport (at least 6 months in the future)
- Valid STEM OPT I-20 with travel endorsement from an OISS advisor within the past 6 months
- STEM OPT EAD Card
- Proof of current STEM OPT employment (employer should match employer info listed on the I-20)
- Evidence of sufficient funds (e.g. a bank statement, a letter from a sponsor or a job offer letter)
Check the U.S. Department of State website for the most up-to-date information about obtaining a visa and specific requirements at the local U.S. embassy or consulate.
Ending STEM Extension, Departing the U.S., and Changes of Status
While on STEM OPT, you continue to hold F-1 status sponsored by Northwestern University and your F-1 record remains active in SEVIS. It is extremely important that you notify your OISS advisor of any changes to your immigration status.
If you are planning to leave the U.S. permanently
You must notify OISS BEFORE you leave the United States and submit a completed final employment evaluation from page 5 of the Form I-983 within 10 days of changing your status (leaving your job). You can submit your evaluation and employment end date by submitting the OPT/STEM OPT Employment Update at the OISS Portal.
If you change to another visa status in the U.S.
If you change to another visa status in the U.S., such as H-1B, E-3, G-4, TN, etc. or obtain Permanent Resident status, you must notify your OISS advisor. To report this change, you will need to send your advisor evidence of your new status (e.g. new I-94 arrival/departure record, I-797, or green card). You will also need to submit a completed final employment evaluation from page 5 of the I-983 within 10 days of changing your status.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are CIP codes?
Classification of Instructions Programs (CIP) codes are published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NES). Your CIP code determines whether your major has been designated as a STEM major eligible for the STEM OPT Extension. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) STEM Designated Degree Program List is a complete list of fields of study that DHS considers to be science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields of study for purposes of the 24-month STEM optional practical training extension.
My department changed CIP codes. Can I apply for the STEM OPT Extension?
There is an administrative process that NU departments must go through to change the CIP code. Once the CIP code change has been approved, the NU registrar updates the CIP code based on the parameters of the approval. After the registrar updates the CIP code, the OISS will update the CIP codes in SEVIS. You may request a new I-20 with the updated CIP code. Please request a reprint for your I-20 via the OISS Portal. In the request, please choose Other from the drop down and explain that your CIP code changed in the area provided.
Once the CIP code has been updated, you may meet the CIP code requirements for STEM OPT Extension eligibility.
Can I apply for the OPT STEM Extension based on a prior degree?
If you otherwise qualify for the STEM OPT Extension and can fill-out the I-983 training plan with your current employer outlining how you are using your STEM coursework in your job, you can apply for the STEM OPT extension based on a previously earned degree as long as both degrees were received from currently accredited educational institutions.
You will need to contact your OISS Advisor to initiate a STEM OPT Extension request based on a prior degree.
Can I apply for STEM OPT more than once?
If you complete another STEM-eligible degree at a higher academic level, you may apply for a second 24 month period of STEM OPT if you otherwise meet the STEM OPT Extension qualifications.
What is the H-1B Cap- Gap Extension?
A cap-gap extension is a regulatory provision which extends an eligible F-1 student's status to bridge the gap between the end of F-1 status and start of H-1B status, thereby allowing the student to remain in the U.S. during the "gap”. The cap-gap extension is available to students who, as of April 1st, were either on approved OPT or in their 60-day grace period and have a pending or approved change-of-status H-1B petition with USCIS that was filed in a timely manner.
To qualify for the "H-1B cap-gap extension" you must be in valid F-1 status, and you must be the beneficiary of an H-1B petition that meets all of the following:
- Has been timely filed.
- Requests an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year
- Requests a change of status
Cap-Gap extensions cannot be used if you will be in H-1B status in a non-profit or research educational institution.
For more information, please contact your OISS advisor.
The Northwestern University Office of International Student & Scholar Services (OISS) offers guidance on Optional Practical Training (OPT) and OPT STEM applications as a courtesy to NU students. We make every attempt to ensure that we provide you with the most up to date information available. However, any advice provided to you by our office does not constitute legal advice. You should always independently check all deadlines and all OPT and STEM OPT application documents for accuracy before mailing them or submitting them online to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The OPT application is a personal application for which you are responsible. The application preparation and USCIS case decision will vary depending on the facts at issue in your particular case. While OISS exercises best efforts to provide you with the most current guidance, please be aware that USCIS may change its interpretation of applicable policies, procedures, regulations, and eligibility requirements at any time. OISS is not responsible for, and expressly disclaims liability for, any errors or omissions relating to your OPT application and any decisions made by USCIS. For legal advice, students are encouraged to consult with a licensed and experienced immigration attorney at their own expense.