STEM OPT Extension

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 For students seeking simple on-campus employment during their period of study
For students seeking to partake in employment that is integral to their study
For students seeking temporary employment directly related to their academic program
For qualifying STEM degree recipients who wish to extend their OPT allowance
For students seeking information to refine or expand their understanding of employment benefits and responsibilities.  

STEM OPT (24-month Extension)

F-1 students approved for standard post-completion optional practical training based on a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field that appears on the DHS STEM-Designated Degree Program List can apply to USCIS for a one-time 24-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 29 months). To be eligible for the extension, the student's employer must be registered in E-Verify and must agree to report to the DSO when the student is terminated or leaves employment. The student must apply for the STEM OPT extension before their standard period of post-completion OPT expires, and must also agree to make periodic reports to the DSO.

STEM OPT tutotial thumbnail

You can use either the .PDF "tutorial" here or the written information below for guidance regarding the STEM OPT process.

STEM OPT - Quick checklist

  • Here are the basic steps of a STEM OPT application:

    1. Prepare the STEM OPT materials with the employer
    2. Send STEM OPT materials to OISPS (obtain new I-20 recommending STEM OPT)
    3. Mail STEM OPT application to USCIS
    4. USCIS receives application
    5. USCIS sends receipt followed by Approval or Denial

    The application must be submitted to OISPS no later than 60 days prior to the end of your current Post-Completion OPT. The STEM OPT application must be received by USCIS before the expiration of the current OPT period. However, you can submit an application to USCIS as early as 90 days prior to the end of the current OPT period.
    If you timely file your STEM OPT extension application, you will be able to continue employment while your application is pending, until a final decision is made by USCIS or for 180 days beyond the expiration of your Post-Completion OPT, whichever comes first. It normally takes up to 90 days for USCIS to process STEM OPT extension applications.

    In addition to the regular OPT reporting requirements, there are enhanced reporting requirements for students approved for a 24-month STEM OPT extension.

    • During the 24-month STEM OPT extension, the student must report to his or her DSO within 10 days of any change of the following.  The DSO must then update SEVIS within 21 days of receiving notification of the change from the student
    • STEM OPT recipients must also make a "validation report" to the DSO every six months starting from the date the 24-month extension begins and ending when the student's F-1 status ends, the student changes educational levels at the same school, the student transfers to another school, or the 24-month OPT extension ends, whichever is first.
    Employers of students granted the 24-month STEM OPT extension must also agree to report within 48 hours the termination or departure of a student if the termination or departure is prior to the end of the authorized period of OPT. The employer must make this report "to the DSO at the student's school or through any other means or process identified by DHS."

STEM OPT Extension - Eligbility

  • Do I qualify for a STEM OPT extension?
    To apply for the 24-Month OPT STEM Extension, students must complete the application and submit it to the OISPS along with supporting documents.
    • The regulations state that "The employment authorization period for the 24-month OPT extension begins on the day after the expiration of the initial post-completion OPT employment authorization and ends 24 months thereafter, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved."
    • A student who has applied for a STEM extension can continue working for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of the prior post-completion OPT EAD while the STEM extension application is pending.
    • To be eligible for a STEM OPT extension, the student's employer must be "registered in the E-Verify program" and be "a participant in good standing in the E-Verify program, as determined by USCIS."
    • An individual is eligible for only one 24-month STEM OPT extension. According to SEVP, this is a lifetime limit.
    • A student may change employers during the 24-month period, but all employers that a student will work for during the STEM extension period must be registered in the DHS E-Verify program, and the student must report the change in employment to his or her DSO.
  • The F-1 student must ...
    • Be on a period of standard Post-Completion OPT.
    • Hold a degree in a field of study (indicated on the I-20) which qualifies as STEM eligible according to the official STEM Designated Degree Program List
    • Have a job offer from an employer enrolled in E-Verify
    • Demonstrate the job is directly related to a STEM field
    • Prepare and sign the I-983 Training Plan
    • Apply before your current Post-Completion period of OPT expires.
  • The employer must ...

    For a student who is on a 24-month extension, this employment may include

    • Multiple employers. A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to his or her degree program, he/she must work for each employer at least 20 hours a week, and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
    • Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. The company for whom the student is providing services must be registered with E-Verify. If requested by DHS, the student must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract period and the name and address of the contracting company.
    • Self-employed business owner. A student on a 24-month extension can start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must register his or her business with E-Verify and work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program.
    • Employment through an agency or consulting firm. Students on a STEM extension may be employed by an employment agency or consulting firm. The employment agency or consulting firm must be registered with E-Verify, but the third parties contracting with the agency or firm (for which the student is providing services) need not be."

    For more information, refer to USCIS website

  • Eligibility for the Second Period of STEM OPT After Higher degree

    If you enroll in a new academic program in the U.S. in the future and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level, you may be eligible for the second period of 24-month STEM OPT (i.e. two 24 month STEM OPT extensions may be permitted).

    Example: If you receive a 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor’s degree in computer science, and you later earn a master’s degree in computer science or another STEM eligible field, you may apply for Post-Completion OPT and then the additional 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your master’s degree.

  • Eligibility Based on a Previously Obtained STEM Degree

    If you are currently in a degree field (or on Post-Completion OPT from that degree) that is not identified as STEM eligible, but have previously earned a STEM eligible degree from an accredited U.S. higher education institution, you may be eligible to apply for a STEM OPT extension under certain conditions:

    • You must have received both degrees from currently accredited and SEVP-certified institutions
    • Your previous degree cannot have been conferred more than 10 years ago at the time of application
    • Your previous degree is assigned a STEM eligible code found on the STEM Designated Degree Program List (above) at the time of application
    • You haven't already received a STEM OPT extension based on this previous degree
    • Your practical training opportunity is directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree
    • Your employer meets the criteria listed above

    Example: If you are currently participating in Post-Completion OPT based on a master’s degree in business and management, but you previously received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, you may be able to apply for a STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor’s degree in mathematics as long as meets the other criteria above.

STEM OPT Application Process

  • 1. Prepare the documents below for your STEM OPT application.

    Review the STEM OPT Tutorial for instructions on how to complete the STEM OPT application.

    Below is a list and explanation of the documents you will need for your STEM OPT application. A full overview of the new application requirements can be found on The Study in the States hub, the SEVIS student instructions website.

    The first document to obtain, however, is your new I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation. Please start the process by competing the 24 Month STEM Extension application then submit the application and supporting documents to the OISPS. A brief explanation of the relevance of your work to your degree/coursework is also required. Please also send the I-983 Training Plan.

    OPT STEM Extension Request Form
    The 24 Month STEM Extension Request Form collects information we will need to recommend you for the STEM extension. Things to keep in mind:

    • Students must also submit a completed Form I-983 Training Plan before the DSO can recommend the STEM OPT extension in SEVIS.
    • Contact your employer to obtain the company's EIN (tax ID number)

    Form I-983 Training Plan
    The purpose of the Form I-983, a new requirement for 24-month extension, is to ensure that students continue a rigorous training program that builds on the skills obtained as a full time student. The student and their supervisor must agree on the components of the plan as follows:

    • the role of the student in the work place,
    • the goals and objectives of the proposed training,
    • how the employer will provide oversight of the plan, and
    • what set of measures and assessments will be used.
    Both student and supervisor must sign this form and send it to the OISPS adviser for review.
    • Students will need to provide this form with appropriate signatures to their OISPS adviser before receiving their new I-20.
    • The SEVIS school code for Lamar University is: HOU214F00143000

    Form I-765
    The purpose of the Form I-765 is to request renewal of your permission to accept employment. Here are some tips for completing the PDF form:

    • Type this form, except for the signature box
    • Part 1, Question 1: Check the third box ("Renewal of my permission to accept employment")
    • Part 2, Question 5: Make certain that the address you put in item #3 will be valid for the next 90 to 120 days as this is where your receipt and EAD will be sent. Mail from USCIS will not be forwarded by the U.S. Postal Service. If you have any doubt where your mail will be delivered after graduation, we strongly advise that you use the OISPS address: P.O. Box 10263, Beaumont, TX 77710.
    • Part 2, Question 21.a: Number from your online I-94 record.
    • Part 2, Question 27: Eligibility code: (c)(3)(C)
    • Part 2, Question 28: Degree awarded and field of study. Employers EIN or E-Verify number, as form requests
    • Signature: Sign in black ink and make sure your signature does not touch any text or line
    Above advisement valid for form edition dated 08/25/20

    For detailed USCIS guidance on filling and completing the I-765, please see USCIS' Instructions document.

    Two recent photographs on thin, glossy paper per instructions from USCIS. Write your name and SEVIS number in pencil on the back of the photos. Do not cut to size or staple.

    Check or Money Order
    $410 payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. We highly recommend a cashier’s check or money order. Always check and ensure you are paying the correct filing fee amount by verifying the information on the USCIS I-765 webpage.

    Photocopies of...

    • All previous I-20s (you will receive one additional I-20 to add to your application after OISPS review).
    • F-1 visa page and passport ID pages (including your photo, passport number and expiration date)
    • All previous employment authorization documents (EAD cards), including your current EAD card.
    • Printed online I-94 record
    Proof of STEM Degree
    Proof of your STEM degree can include a copy of your Lamar University’s diploma accompanied by an official transcript. Please contact our Records Department for instructions on how to obtain your official transcript.
  • 2. Submit the forms to the Office of International Student Services
    Students applying for the 24-month extension must submit the following documents to the OISPS at least 60 days prior to the expiration of their current employment authorization end date:
    The adviser will review your submission and contact you if s/he has questions.
  • 3. Receive Your New STEM OPT I-20 Recommendation
    The OISPS will notify you by email and then mail the updated SEVIS I-20 (recommending the STEM OPT extension) wherever you choose in eShip Global once the process is complete (and eship has been paid). This updated SEVIS I-20 will be submitted by the student with their application (see instructions for Submitting to USCIS). You may opt to have a friend pick up your I-20 for you by notifying the OISPS via an email ( that includes the authorization statement, the student's name, and his/her LU ID.
  • 4. Submit to USCIS
    Learn about submitting your application to USCIS and processing (under "Where to File").

USCIS Processing

  • Submitting Your Application to USCIS

    Once you receive your new STEM OPT I-20 from OISPS, you are ready to mail your application to USCIS.

    • You must first sign page one of the new I-20, then include a copy of this new I-20 with the rest of your OPT application that you submit to USCIS.
    • Make a copy of all application materials for your records and attach them using a paper clip.
    • Make sure to send your application via certified mail with a return receipt or tracking number.
    • Your OPT application must be received by USCIS within 60 days of the issuance of your new STEM OPT I-20.
    The application and all of the required documentation must be sent to the appropriate USCIS Service Center Lockbox facility in Dallas, TX. or Phoenix, AZ. Students can find the correct address in the instructions handed out with the I-20 with the STEM OPT recommendation.
  • Checking the Progress of Your OPT Application
    Within 2 - 3 weeks, USCIS will send you a receipt notice (Form I-797). This is proof that USCIS has received your application. Make sure to check the spelling of your name. If you notice an error, notify USCIS National Customer Service Center immediately at the telephone number listed on the receipt notice. The receipt will also have your case number printed on it with which you can track the progress of your application on the USCIS website.
  • Request for Additional Documentation
    Occasionally, a student will receive a Request for Further Evidence (RFE) from USCIS. These requests are typically because the application is missing a document or new photographs are required. If you receive such a request, reply immediately to USCIS with the requested documents. Be sure to make copies of your materials before you mail them, and send the reply by courier mail. If you do not understand the RFE or require assistance, please contact OISPS Adviser immediately.
  • EAD Delays
    If you do not receive your EAD card within 90 days from the date immigration received your application, contact OISPS and we can check the status of your application. If you have applied to USCIS for your 24-month STEM extension and you have not received your new EAD by the end of your Post-Completion OPT, you may continue to work for up to 180 days after the end of your Post-Completion OPT. You should receive your new EAD before you reach 180 days.


  • Travel during STEM OPT
    While on STEM OPT, you are required to show your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) along with your other immigration documents (see list below) in order to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status. In many cases, students will also need to apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate for a new F-1 visa before returning to the U.S.

    If you need to leave the U.S. before you receive your EAD, speak with an OISPS adviser.

    If your employer has filed for H-1B on your behalf, check with your employer about any travel plans as leaving the U.S. while an H-1B application is pending may jeopardize your application. 

    Required documents to re-enter the U.S.. while on STEM OPT Extension
    • Valid I-20 - Page two should list your employer's information and be signed by an OISPS adviser for the travel endorsement within the last six months.
    • Valid F-1 Visa - If your F-1 visa is expired, you must apply for a new one at a U.S.. embassy or consulate prior to your return.  (Note: Canadian citizens do not need a visa.)
    • Valid Passport - The expiration date should be at least six months into the future at any given time.
    • Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
    • Evidence of a job offer or resumption of employment - If you are returning to the U.S. without evidence of a job offer, you may be questioned at the port of entry.
  • Employment Limitations
    • Employment must be paid.
    • Employment must be full time. More than 20 hours per week.
    • Employment must be directly related to your course of study. 
    • Limitation on Unemployment for the STEM OPT Extension. Students approved for the 24-month STEM OPT extension may not accrue more than a total of 150 days of unemployment throughout their entire 36 months on OPT. Time spent outside the United States, if not employed by a U.S. employer, is counted towards the 150-day period of unemployment. To count as “employed” a student should be able to provide evidence, acquired from the student’s employer, to verify that he or she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of reported employment.
    • Unemployment Caution: SEVIS records will automatically terminate for students who have no employment reported for 150 days. Be sure that you have made alternate plans and communicated them to OISPS before your record is terminated. If you have any concerns, you can always contact your OISPS adviser (
  • Reporting Requirements Categories

    There are three types of reporting requirements for students while on the STEM OPT extension:  

    • General Reporting: Any changes in the student’s legal name, address, employer, email address, or employment status.
    • Validation Reporting: A validation report to the DSO that confirms the student’s name, address, employer name and address, and employment status are correct and up-to-date.
    • Self-Evaluations: A self-evaluation of the student's progress- how they've met goals, developed skills and competencies, acquired new knowledge, etc. signed by the student and his/her employer.
  • Category 1: General Reporting

    During the STEM OPT extension period, just as in the initial 12 months of post-completion OPT, the student must: 

    • Report to the DSO any changes in the student’s legal name, address, employer, email address, phone number, or employment status within 10 days of the change.
    • Change in status of current employment, including loss of employment, change of status to H-1B, transfer to another F-1 program, or change employers.  If you change employers, you and your employer will need to complete a new Form I-983 and submit it to OISPS. 
    • To report a change, students must complete the form listed below then submit to the OISPS with supporting documents:
      • Employment change: Employment Information Waiver From
      • Address change: Change of Address Form
      • Name change or status change: Special Request Form
      • Students and employers must also report a change in any of the following via the Form I-983:
        • Employer name and address
        • Decrease in student's compensation
        • Reduction in hours worked to less than 20 hours a week
        • Employer's EIN
        • Termination of employment 
  • Category 2: Validation /OPT Participation Report

    During the STEM OPT extension period, the student must make a 6-month, 12-month, 18-month, and 24-month validation report to the DSO that confirms the student’s current name, address, employer, and employment status are correct.  This report is required every 6 months regardless if there is a change or not.

    To fulfill the validation report requirement, students must complete the OPT Participation-Validation Report during the appropriate validation period.

    OPT Participation-Validation Report Deadlines

    Activity Timeline
    Validation Reports Due
    • 6 months after start of STEM OPT Extension
    • 12 months after start of STEM OPT Extension
    • 18 Months after start of STEM OPT Extension
    • 24 months after start of STEM OPT Extension


    Students must fulfill this important requirement to have their SEVIS record validated four times during the STEM OPT extension. SEVIS will auto-terminate the student record if the following statements are true:

    •   The student is in a period of active STEM OPT extension.
    •   SEVIS record was not updated to reflect the validation report.
    •   The date is 46 days after the reporting deadline
  • Category 3: Self-Evaluations

    Students must submit self-evaluations via the Form I-983 during the first 12 months on the STEM OPT extension and at the completion of the 24-month extension period or at the conclusion of employment, whichever comes first. Evaluations should be submitted within 10 days of the required date.

    Students must create self-evaluations that detail the progress made toward the training goals outlined on the Form I-983 for that particular employer. An employing supervisor must confirm and sign each self-evaluation. DSOs must keep these self-evaluations in the student’s archived files. The submission timelines are below:

    • Student still works for original employer: Must submit a self-evaluation within 10 days of the 12-month and 24-month marks of the start date of STEM OPT employment authorization.
    • Student changes employers before the 12-month and/or 24-month marks: must submit self-evaluation (final evaluation) within 10 days of ending employment with current employer.
  • Advice: Keep Records of your Employment
    Keep records of your employment history in your personal file to present as evidence of maintaining lawful status should you apply for future immigration benefits.

    Examples of records to keep: 
    Offer letters, Contracts, Payroll Stubs, Letters describing volunteer activity and hours