The 24-Month STEM OPT Extension is an additional benefit from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that allows international students in F-1 status who receive a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in an approved STEM field to apply for a 24-month extension of their standard 12-month Post-OPT period, twice in a lifetime. This allows international students the opportunity to gain additional off-campus work experience in their field of study after completion of course studies and Post-OPT.
- F-1 student must currently be participating in 12-month Post-OPT, and working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to their major area of study.
- F-1 student must have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a school that is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency and that is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) at the time you submit their STEM OPT extension application.
- Previously obtained STEM degrees: If you are an F-1 student participating in a 12-month period of Post-OPT based on a non-STEM degree, you may be eligible to use a previous STEM degree from a U.S. institution of higher education to apply for a STEM OPT extension. You must have received both degrees from currently accredited and SEVP-certified institutions within the last 10 years, and cannot have already received a STEM OPT extension based on this previous degree. The practical training opportunity also must be directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree.
- For example: If you are currently participating in OPT based on an MBA but you previously received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, you may be able to apply for a STEM OPT extension based on this math degree as long as it is from an accredited U.S. college or university and the OPT employment opportunity is directly related to your degree in mathematics.
- STEM degrees you obtain in the future: If you enroll in a new academic program in the future and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level, you may be eligible for one additional 24-month STEM OPT extension.
- For example: If you receive a 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor’s degree in engineering and you later earn a master’s degree in engineering, you may apply for an additional 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your master’s degree.
- F1 students must have successfully completed a bachelor's, master’s, or doctoral degree in a STEM field included in the STEM Designated Degree Program List. To find out if your program is in the STEM list, look for the CIP code on your I-20 under the section entitled PROGRAM OF STUDY listed under MAJOR.
- F1 student’s prospective employer must be registered with the eVerify Employment Verification System and meet all employer requirements listed in the STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities section.
- A student may not engage in practical training for less than 20 hours per week.
When to Apply for STEM OPT (24-month) Extension
To allow for the 10-day ISSC processing time and the 90-day USCIS processing time, ASU ISSC recommends applying for 24-Month STEM OPT no more than 100 days prior to end date of your Post-OPT. This will maximize your opportunity to receive your EAD card on time.
- STEM extension applications must be received by USCIS before the end date listed on the Post-OPT EAD card or the STEM extension will be forfeited.
- Students whose applications are received by USCIS before the EAD card expires will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending until they receive the final decision from USCIS or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
How to Apply for STEM OPT (24-month) Extension
Submit the STEM OPT e-Form to ISSC
Submit your application materials to the ISSC through the ISSC eForms Portal (not to be confused with the SEVP Portal) no more than 100 days prior to the end date listed on your Post-OPT EAD card. The ISSC will release your I-20 on or after the 90th day prior to the end date listed on your EAD card.
Please have the following materials ready prior to submitting the e-Form:
- Form I-983 to be completed by you and your employer. Form instructions. Pages 1 through 4 only. Please refer to ISSC’s Self-Guided Form I-983 Review Canvas Course and/or the Form I-983 overview found on Study in the States https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/form-i-983-overview for instructions on how to complete this form.
- Copy of the biographical page of your passport (page with your picture on it) valid for at least six months into the future (NOT your visa).
- Copy of your most recent I-94 arrival record (NOT your travel history).
- Copy of the front and back of your prior EAD cards at your current degree program level.
- Copy of $200 OPT Case Management Payment receipt email notification (NOT a screenshot of your “cart”).
*Incomplete applications cannot be processed.
Pick up the 24-month STEM OPT I-20 from the ISSC
- You will receive an email notification from the ISSC of the availability of your STEM OPT I-20 and supporting documents.
- The notification will provide detailed information on how to provide authorization for the pick-up of the materials and mailing instructions using eShipGlobal if you choose to have the STEM OPT Information Packet shipped.
- If you apply prior to the 90th day to ISSC, your I-20 will be held and ready after the 90th day before your program end date. USCIS will return applications received prior to the 90th day before the student’s Post-OPT EAD card end date.
Mail Application to USCIS for Processing
After receiving your 24-Month STEM OPT I-20 from the ISSC, mail your document to USCIS within 60 days of the date the ISSC signed your I-20 and with enough time that USCIS will receive it before your Post-OPT end date. Applications received after the 60-day signature limit or after your Post-OPT end date will be denied by USCIS.
You must file the following documents with your application:
- 24-Month STEM OPT application checklist.
- Payment (choose one of the following):
1. Payment Form G-1450 (for credit card payments) or
2. Personal or cashier’s check, or money order for $410.00 payable to "US Department of Homeland Security" (do not abbreviate).
- Form G-1145.
- Form I-765.
- USCIS frequently updates this form which changes the edition (date). Your application will be rejected or denied if you use the incorrect form. Before mailing your application be sure to verify that you are using the correct edition.
- A separate single-sided copy of pages 1 and 2 of new I-20 signed by DSO and student (do not include F2 dependent I-20s).
- Copy of recent I-94 arrival record (NOT your travel history).
- Copy of the front and back of prior EAD cards at the current program level.
- Copy of biographical page of passport (page with your picture on it) valid at least six months into the future (NOT your visa).
- Two passport-style photos (2” x 2”) with name and I-94 admission number written lightly on back in pencil placed in an envelope.
- Copy of degree or diploma.
Carefully follow all mailing instructions provided to you when submitting your application materials to USCIS, and keep copies of all completed applications for your personal records.
For a comprehensive step by step review of your STEM Extension packet and mailing instructions enroll in the Self-Guided STEM Extension Packet Review Canvas course.
Tips for Avoiding Application Rejections, Denials, Delays, and Receiving a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS:
- DO NOT mail your application to USCIS prior to 90 days before the end date of your Post-OPT listed on your EAD card. USCIS will cash your payment and deny your application if it is received prior to 90 days before the end date of your Post-OPT listed on your EAD card.
- USCIS must receive your application within 60 days of the date the ISSC signed your I-20. If your application will not make it to USCIS within 60 days, you must request a new I-20 from the ISSC by completing the Replacement for I-20 eForm, and choosing the “I-20 cannot be submitted after 60th day of issuance” option.
- Sign and date your STEM OPT I-20 in blue ink.
- Sign and date Form I-765 in black ink.
- Do not staple anything, bind your entire application packet with one binder clip.
- Fill out a personal check or money order, including the date, payable to the US Department of Homeland Security and write the amount in numbers ($410.00) and words (Four hundred ten dollars and 00/100), and sign it. Add your I-94 admission number in the “Memo:” or “For:” line on your check (bottom left), or somewhere appropriate on the money order.
- Follow the mailing instructions and checklist provided by the ISSC.
- If you have not received your receipt notice within 30 days, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and include the tracking information of your delivery confirmation.
- If a change of address is unavoidable, you must inform the USCIS and the ISSC of the new address. The United States Postal Service (USPS/ “the post office”) will not forward EAD cards. If you are moving, you must update your address within 10 days. Inform USCIS and the ISSC of the new address by filing an online change of address with USCIS and updating your Local Address through My ASU.
- Sign the STEM OPT I-20 on page 1, under Student Attestation. Typed or electronic signatures are not accepted on form I-983.*
*USCIS is temporarily allowing electronically reproduced original signatures during the COVID-19 crisis. However, you must also retain copies of the original documents containing the “wet” signature. USCIS may, at any time, request the original documents, which if not produced, could negatively impact the adjudication of the immigration benefit.
If for any reason you receive your materials back from USCIS or the postal/shipping service, do not resend the materials. Double-check the signature dates on the I-20 and contact ISSC immediately if you need a new or updated form I-20 for the resubmission of the application.
I-765 application should be resent no later than 50 days after the ISSC signature on the I-20.
What to expect:
Students will receive a Notice of Action (i.e., receipt notice) from USCIS within four weeks of applying. If you do not receive a receipt notice from USCIS within four weeks, please contact USCIS to follow up.
- The receipt number printed on the receipt notice, text or email will allow you to track your application’s progress using USCIS’s website.
- It takes approximately 90 days to process a STEM OPT application. You may check the USCIS website for current processing times.
- If your application is still processing after USCIS currently posted processing times, you may submit a case inquiry with USCIS regarding their delay in processing times.
- If you have not received your EAD card within 90 days and have moved your residence, submit an online change of address with USCIS. Additionally, update your address at My ASU.