STEM OPT Extension

F-1 students who earned bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in certain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are eligible for an extension of post-completion OPT - called STEM OPT Extension.

This page provides a comprehensive guide for international students intending to do STEM OPT Extension.


To access the STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form, please click here.


STEM OPT Extension Administrative Processing Fee:

Effective October 1, 2018, the International Students & Programs Office (ISPO) will implement a new administrative processing fee for STEM OPT Extension. The STEM OPT Extension Administrative Processing Fee is required for ISPO to comply with mandatory federal regulations and maintain U.S. Department of Homeland Security systems for F-1 and J-1 SEVIS records while students are no longer enrolled at UC San Diego.

The STEM OPT Extension Administrative Processing Fee is $300. STEM OPT I-20 Requests received ON or AFTER October 1, 2018 will be assessed the new administrative processing fee and proof of payment will be required with the application. Eligible students are encouraged to submit their request before October 1, 2018 to avoid the fee.

Before Submitting your STEM OPT Extension Application to USCIS:

Check your Eligibility for 24-Month STEM OPT Extension

These are the eligibility requirements:

  • Qualifying degree and school
    • Valid F-1 status.
    • Completed a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a STEM degree listed on the STEM Designated Degree Program List and are currently engaged in post-completion OPT.
      • Double major degrees will be considered, but not minor degrees.
  • Qualifying job
    • Job must be paid employment for a minimum of 20 hours per week.
  • Qualifying employer
  • Employer Requirements and Responsibilities
    • For USCIS employer requirements and responsibilities, see USICS website. Your application may be denied if your employer does not meet the listed requirements and responsibilities. Currently that may include applicants who are working remotely because USCIS may need to conduct site visits. For more information see the STEM OPT HUB
  • Form I-983 Training Plan
    • Employer must design a training program and sign agreement on Form I-983.
  • Filing deadlines
    • Application must be received by USCIS no earlier than 90 days before the expiration of current post-completion OPT and no later than the expiration of the current post-completion OPT AND no later than 60 days from the date the DSO recommended the STEM OPT Extension on the new I-20, whichever is earlier.

Provide your Employer with more Information

Complete Form I-983 and Request your STEM OPT I-20

Because it takes at least 90 days for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to approve your application, you are strongly encouraged to apply early. You can apply up to 90 days before your OPT end date, but no later than the end date of your OPT.

 


Start your STEM OPT Extension application process by following the steps below:

Complete your Form I-765

Make sure you complete the most recent version of Form I-765 available at www.uscis.gov. USCIS periodically updates this form so they will not accept outdated versions.


Complete your Form I-765 as per the instructions below:

  • Document must be typed or completed in black ink
  • Answer all questions fully and accurately. Include all pages, even if they do not apply to you. If a question does not apply to you, type or print ‘N/A’ or ‘None’ unless otherwise directed.
  • Part 1: Reason for Applying, select “Renewal of my permission to accept employment".
  • Part 2, Your Full Legal Name, Number 1.a. Family Name (Last Name): Use your legal family/last name as it appears on your birth certificate or legal change of name document.
  • Part 2, Number 1.b. Given Name (First Name): Use your legal given name/first name as it appears on your birth certificate or legal change of name document. If you do not have a given name, enter N/A.
  • Part 2, Number 1.c. Middle Name: If you have a legal middle name on your birth certificate or legal change of name document, enter it here.  If not, enter N/A.
  • Part 2, Other Names Used, Numbers 2.a. – 4.c.: List other names you might use or have used on official documents such as an American name or a maiden name. If you do not have any, enter N/A in 2.a. – 4.c.
  • Part 2, Your U.S. Mailing Address, Numbers 5.a. – 6: This is where your receipt and EAD card will be sent. If it is a friend’s or relative’s address in the U.S., enter their name in Number 5.a. If you are using your own address, enter “N/A” in Number 5.a. Whatever address you use, make sure it is a valid address for the next 3-5 months. The U.S. Postal Service cannot forward your new EAD card.
  • Part 2, U.S. Physical Address, Numberes 7.a. – 7.e.: If you answered “Yes” to Number 6, enter “N/A” in Numbers 7.a. – 7.e. If you answered “No” to Number 6, enter your current address at the time you are preparing the application.
  • Part 2, Number 8: Write “None” in the fields.
  • Part 2, Number 9: Write “None” in the fields.
  • Part 2, Number 10: Select “Male” or “Female.”
  • Part 2, Number 11: Select marital status at the time of completing this form.
  • Part 2, Number 12: Select “Yes.”
  • Part 2, Number 13.a.: Check the box for ‘Yes’ if you have received a social security number in your lifetime (even if you were in a different visa status or at a different school at the time). If you have never received an SSN, check ‘No.’
  • Part 2, Number 13.b.: If you have a Social Security Number, write it here. If you do not have one, enter “None”.
  • Part 2, Number 14: Check ‘Yes’ if you would like to be sent a social security card. Note: If you already have a SSN, you can check ‘Yes’, and you will be sent a replacement card. If you do not already have a SSN, you can check ‘Yes’ and you will be mailed a SSN card. If you do not want a SSN card, check ‘No.’
  • Part 2, Numbers 15 – 17.b.: If you mark ‘Yes’ for #14, you must mark ‘Yes’ for #15 and fill in Numbers 16.a. – 17.b. If you mark ‘No’ for #14, leave #15 blank and enter ‘N/A’ for 16.a. – 17.b.
  • Part 2, Your Country or Countries of Citizenship or Nationality, Numbers 18.a. and 18.b.: Write your country of citizenship from your most recently issued passport in 18.a. If you are a dual citizen, write your second country of citizenship in 18.b. If you need extra space or need to include passports documenting your entries, include with Part 6.
  • Part 2, Place of Birth, Numbers 19.a. – 20: Enter all the fields.
  • Part 2, Information About Your Last Arrival in the United States, Number 21.a.: Write the 11 digit number from your most recent I-94.
  • Part 2, Number 21.b.: Enter passport number of your passport that you most recently entered the U.S. with.
  • Part 2, Number 21.c.: Enter “None.”
  • Part 2, Number 21.d.: Enter country that issued your passport. This should match Number 18.a.
  • Part 2, Number 21.e.: Enter expiration date for most recently issued passport in mm/dd/yyyy format.
  • Part 2, Number 22: Write the most recent day of entry into the USA. This should match your most recent I-94.
  • Part 2, Number 23: Write the city where you last entered the USA.
  • Part 2, Numbers 24 and 25: This is the I-94 status you had when you last entered the USA. For most students, it will be F-1 or F-1 Student. It is only different if you changed your status after entering the USA.
  • Part 2, Number 26: Enter SEVIS Number.
  • Part 2, Information About your Eligibility Category, Number 27: For STEM Extension OPT, write (c)(3)(C).
  • Part 2, Numbers 28.a. – 28.c.: Enter the Degree Name (Major) not the Education Level. Enter employer's name as listed in E-Verify and E-Verify Identification number (a 4-7 digit number).
  • Part 2, Numbers 29 and 31.a.: Enter ‘None.’
  • Part 3, Applicant’s Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, Certification, and Signature, Numbers 1.a. – 2: Check 1.a. for “I can read and understand English, and I have read and understand every question and instruction on this application and my answer to every question” and enter ‘N/A’ for Numbers 1.b and 2.
  • Part 3, Number 3: Enter daytime telephone number.
  • Part 3, Number 4: If your mobile telephone number is the same as your daytime telephone number, re-enter it.  If you do not have a mobile telephone number, enter ‘N/A.’
  • Part 3, Number 5: Enter a personal non-UCSD email address or ‘N/A.’
  • Part 3, Applicant’s Signature, Numbers 7.a. – 7.b.: Sign the form and enter date. 
  • Part 4, Interpreter’s Contact Information, Certification, and Signature, Numbers 1.a. – 7.b: Enter ‘N/A’ in all fields.
  • Part 5, Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature of Person Preparing the Application, If Other Than the Applicant, Numbers 1.a. – 8.b: Enter ‘N/A’ in all fields.
  • Part 6, Additional Information, Numbers 1.a. – 7.d: If you do not need to use this space, enter ‘N/A’ in each field. If you need extra space to provide any additional information within the application, use this space or attach a separate sheet of paper. If you use a separate sheet of paper, print your name at the top of each sheet and indicate the Page Number, Part Number, and Item Number to which your answer refers, and sign and date each sheet. If you need more space than what is provided, you make copies of this page.

Review the Guidelines for Application Fee Payment

When mailing your STEM Extension OPT Packet to USCIS, make sure you inclue the US$410 check or money order made payable to "US Department of Homeland Security." Make sure that your name and SEVIS # (N000...) are written at the top of the check or money order. No cash is accepted.

NOTE: Effective 12/23/16, all applications received by USCIS on 12/23/16 and beyond will be subject to an increased application fee of $410.

Prepare your STEM OPT Extension Application

Prepare the following items for your STEM OPT Extension application:

  • US$410 Application fee. US$410 check or money order made payable to "US Department of Homeland Security." See the "Guidelines for Application Fee Payment" above for example
  • Two US-style passport photos. The photos must be taken within the past 30 days. Lightly print your name and SEVIS # on the back of each photo. For exact specifications go to https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/photos.html
  • Original Form I-765 application form (available at www.uscis.gov). NOTE: The I-765 form was updated on 01/17/2017 and is now 2 pages instead of 1 page. USCIS will not accept the old I-765 form after 02/17/2017.
  • Copy of updated I-20 (all pages) with 24 month STEM OPT recommendation on page 2 (signed on front page)
  • Copy of passport information page (including photo, birthdate, and expiration date); include passport extension page (if applicable). NOTE: Passport must be valid for at least 6 months in the future.
  • Copy of F-1 visa page or change of status to F-1 approval notice (Form I-797)
  • Copy of I-94 (front and back page if in a paper form). Retrieve from here: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/recent-search 
  • Copy of current valid OPT EAD card (I-766)
  • Copy of diploma showing the level and program of study

 


Important Notes:

  • DO NOT SEND THE I-983 TO USCIS.

  • If you would like ISPO to review your documents before submitting them to USCIS, e-mail the STEM OPT Extension Application package to istemopt@ucsd.edu

Mail your STEM OPT Extension Application to USCIS

Important Notes:

  • You must mail your EAD application packet within 60 days of the STEM OPT Extension recommendation date listed on your STEM OPT Extension I-20, but before the end date of your current EAD card.

  • If your package does not arrive on time, your application may be denied. Please plan accordingly.

  • If the STEM Extension OPT is timely filed, employment authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 days while the application is pending with USCIS. 8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(C) and 8 CFR 247a.12(c)(6)(iv)
  • DO NOT SEND THE I-983 TO USCIS.

 


If your mailing address is in California:

Mail your entire package via USPS certified mail to:

USCIS
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

 

NOTE: Do not use the PO Box address listed above if you are sending your package via FEDEX, UPS, DHL or other courier mail provider. Express mailings require a physical street address. Send your package via courier mail to:

USCIS
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

 


If your mailing address is outside of California:

Send your package to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox Facility depending on the state in which you live. Addresses are listed on the I-765 application instruction form at www.uscis.gov

After Submitting your STEM OPT Extension Application to USCIS:

Receive your I-797 Receipt Notice

USCIS will send a receipt (Form I-797) within 7-10 business days confirming they received your application. Your receipt will have a case number.

Keep the original receipt in a safe place. This is the only way you can track your application at the USCIS Service Centers. You can check the status of your application at www.uscis.gov. Select "Check Case Status", and enter your case number.

 

Extension of Work Authorization and F-1 Status

Your work authorization and F-1 status is automatically extended for up to 180 days while the STEM extension application is pending. This applies even if your current EAD is expired. Please retain your I-797 receipt notice as documentation of your pending STEM extension application. 8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(C) and 8 CFR 247a.12(c)(6)(iv)

Important note: F-1 OPT STEM extension applicants can only work while the OPT application is pending if the application was received by USCIS before the current EAD expiration date.

Travel Outside the USA and Reentry

If you need to travel outside the US and then reenter while your STEM OPT application is pending with USCIS, please review the following guidelines.

In general, ISPO advises students to try to avoid travel outside of the U.S. while they have a STEM extension application pending with USCIS. In addition, students with expired visas may find it extremely difficult to renew their F-1 visa for practical training purposes. Students on practical training are advised to plan carefully before leaving the USA.

 


General clarification by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS):

"Students on STEM OPT extensions (including those whose application for a STEM OPT extension is pending) may travel abroad and seek reentry to the United States in F-1 status during the STEM OPT extension period if they have a valid F-1 visa that permits multiple entries and a current Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility endorsed for reentry by the DSO within the last six months. The student's status is determined by CBP upon admission to the United States or through a USCIS adjudication of a change-of-status petition" (preamble to the 24-month rule [81 FR 13103 par. 774]).

Changing Employers while your Application is Pending

If you have already submitted an application for a STEM OPT extension, and are changing employers while your application is still pending, you must:

  1. Fill out a STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form directly on our website
  2. Upload a new I-765 (must include the company’s e-verify number) to your STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form 
  3. Upload a I-983 Final Evaluation (last page of I-983) from your previous employer to your STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form
  4. Upload a new I-983 Training Plan (first 4 pages of I-983) for your new employer to your STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form

After Receiving STEM OPT Extension Approval from USCIS:

Maintain Status, REPORT your STEM OPT Participation

When you receive your EAD card, your employer will request a copy for their records to verify your eligibility to work in the USA. In addition, please submit a copy of your EAD card (front and back) to ISPO by submitting a STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form

How to maintain F-1 status:

Students on STEM OPT Extension must do the following in order to maintain their F-1 status:

  • Work in a paid position for an E-Verify employer and signed I-983 at least 20 hours per week.
  • Work in a position related to the STEM degree.
  • Report your STEM OPT participation (see below)

 

What and when to report:

As per United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations regarding STEM OPT extension, all F-1 students currently on STEM OPT must report their employment details to their Designated School Officials (DSOs) at following reporting dates in order to maintain their F1 status:

  • 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months after the STEM OPT Extension start date listed on the STEM OPT EAD card, you must submit a new fully completed STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form
  • 12 months after the STEM OPT Extension start date listed on the STEM OPT EAD card, you must upload the “Evaluation on Student Progress” section on the last page of your Form I-983 to the STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form
  • 24 months after the STEM OPT Extension start date listed on the STEM OPT EAD card, you must upload the “Final Evaluation on Student Progress” section on the last page of your Form I-983 to the STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form
  • In between the 6-month reporting dates, if you experience a change in information (i.e. change of address, change of contact information, loss of employment, etc.) you must submit within 10 calendar days of the change a new fully completed STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form
  • In between the 6-month reporting dates, if you change an employer, you must submit the following items within 10 calendar days of the change:
    1. Fill out a new fully completed STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form
    2. Upload the “Final Evaluation on Student Progress” section on the last page of your Form I-983 from your previous employer to your STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form
    3. Upload a new I-983 Training Plan (pages 1-4, including sections 1-6) for your new employer to your STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form 

Please Note: Failing to complete your 6-month OPT STEM Reporting is not complying with USCIS regulations, and you may be considered out of status.

STEM reporting chart:

For easy reference, please follow the chart below for STEM reporting requirements (*all dates are calculated from the start date on your STEM OPT EAD card):

6 months

Submit a STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form

12 months

Submit a STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form and an Evaluation on Student Progress

18 months

Submit a STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form

24 months

Submit a STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form and a Final Evaluation

 

What is not allowed while on STEM OPT:

  • Work in a paid position for any employer that is not an E-Verify employer.
  • Have more than 150 days of unemployment time during the entire period of post-completion OPT (regular post-completion OPT and STEM Extension OPT).

What to do when something is not clear:

For questions, please email istemopt@ucsd.edu. Include your FULL NAME and PID in ALL e-mail inquiries.

Please allow for 2-5 business days (not including weekends) for an advisor to review your message and respond.

Travel Outside the USA and Reentry while on STEM OPT

If you need to travel outside the US and then reenter after you have already received your STEM OPT EAD card, please review the following guidelines.

Students on OPT are still in F-1 student status. To reenter the USA, you must have:

  • Current passport that is valid up to six months after reentry date
  • Current F-1 visa
  • Current I-20 with valid travel signature on page 2
    NOTE: For post-completion OPT, travel signatures are valid for only six months—unlike one year validity for continuing students.
  • Original EAD card
  • Original job offer letter or verification of employment from employer

NOTE: Students with expired visas may find it extremely difficult to renew their F-1 visa for practical training purposes. Students on OPT are advised to plan carefully before leaving the USA.

Visit our Travel & Reentry page for more information on this topic.

Changing Employers while on STEM OPT

 If you have already received your STEM OPT EAD card for your STEM Extension, you must:

  1. Fill out a new fully completed STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form directly on our website
  2. Upload a I-983 Final Evaluation (last page of I-983) from your previous employer to your STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form
  3. Upload a new I-983 Training Plan (first 4 pages of I-983) for your new employer to your STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form

Completing STEM OPT Extension

Early completion of STEM OPT:

  • If you would like to complete your STEM OPT extension period before your STEM OPT EAD card expires, you must complete the following item regardless of whether you have recently done it for other reporting reasons:
    1. A new fully completed STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form

 

Regular completion of STEM OPT:

  • Your STEM OPT extension period ends on the expiration date listed on your STEM OPT EAD card (usually 24 months after the STEM OPT start date), provided that you have maintained your F-1 status throughout your STEM OPT period.
  • You must submit the following items upon completion of your STEM OPT extension period:
    1. A new fully completed STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form
    2. Upload the “Final Evaluation on Student Progress” section on the last page of your Form I-983 to your STEM OPT Application & Reporting Form
  • At the completion of the full approved period of STEM OPT extension (usually 24 months), students receive a 60-day grace period to remain in the US. Please note the following about your 60-day grace period:
    • You can remain in the USA during this period.
    • You cannot work in the USA during this period, unless you obtain additional employment authorization under another I-94 status.
    • Once you depart the USA, your grace period ends - even if you had time remaining.
    • If you plan to stay in the USA to continue in another academic program or using a different visa status, please contact ISPO directly so the appropriate action can be made on your SEVIS Record.

Contact Us

Questions regarding STEM OPT? Please e-mail istemopt@ucsd.edu. Please allow for 2-5 business days (not including weekends) for an advisor to review your message and respond.