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OPT STEM Extension

Optional Practical Training STEM extension gives you an additional 24 months of OPT authorization if you have a U.S. degree in an approved science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field.

To support services for the growing population of international students on OPT and OPT STEM, a service maintenance fee is charged: $100 to apply for OPT, and $150 to apply for OPT STEM.

If you are currently in your initial period of post-graduation OPT, and you graduated from a degree program in one of these STEM fields, you may be eligible to apply. Find out about eligibility requirements below. You might also want to read the latest Department of Homeland Security (DHS) updates on OPT STEM.

Can I get a STEM extension on a previously earned degree?

You can apply for a STEM extension based on a STEM degree you earned in the past if:

  • You earned that degree in the United States
  • You are currently working in a job related to that STEM field
  • You have not already applied for OPT STEM based on that degree.

Even if you earned the previous degree at a different university, Cornell will recommend the STEM extension for your previous degree on your current 1-20 SEVIS record if you are currently on OPT through Cornell.

Can I apply for a STEM extension for more than one degree?

If you get another qualifying STEM degree at a higher degree level, and you take the regular 12 months of OPT connected to that degree, you will be able to apply for the STEM extension a second time after the 12 months are finished.

Eligibility

You must fulfill all of the following requirements to be eligible for a STEM extension:

  • You must be an F-1 student currently in your first 12 months of OPT or on the cap-gap OPT extension

  • Your first 12 months of OPT or your cap-gap OPT extension will end within the next 3 months.
  • You have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. degree in the United States in a qualifying STEM field. Check that your Major 1 or Major 2 codes on Form I-20 are on the STEM field list.
  • Your current employer is enrolled in E-Verify.
  • You have a job or job offer for paid work of at least 20 hours a week in your STEM field.
  • You must be hired and paid by the company where you will work. You cannot be employed by a temporary staffing agency, for example, and then placed at another employer. Self-employment is not an option.

Got a job? Great!

How to Apply for OPT with STEM extension

  1. Make I-983 Plan
  2. Pay Fee
  3. Request I-20
  4. Complete I-765
  5. Print I-94
  6. Get Photos
  7. Get Transcript
  8. Mail Application
  9. Get EAD Doc

1 Complete a I-983 training plan.

Complete the Department of Homeland Security’s I-983 training plan with your work supervisor. For help in filling out the I-983, review these instructions and DHS's online I-983 tutorial.

2Pay the OPT STEM service maintenance fee.

Pay the nonrefundable OPT STEM service maintenance fee of $150 via Flywire.

  • Enter $150 USD which will be converted to your home country’s currency or Euro equivalent.
  • You will be given one or more choices of bank transfer, credit cards, PayPal (depending on your home country)

3 Request an updated I-20.

Complete the STEM OPT I-20 Form to request an I-20 updated with a recommendation for OPT STEM extension. Scan and attach your completed I-983 and your paid fee receipt to your request.

How long will it take to get my new I-20?

We process these requests and create the form in five business days.

Can I get my updated I-20 emailed to me?

Yes. We will email a PDF of your updated I-20 as soon as it is ready. We will also mail you the original at the address you provide on the I-20 request form.

4 Download and complete an I-765 form.

Get the I-765 form from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website; follow these instructions for filling out the formKeep a copy of your completed I-765 for your records. If you want to receive electronic notifications about your application, also fill out the G-1145 form.

5 Print your I-94.

Print your I-94 arrival record created when you entered the United States most recently. You will need your passport in front of you to retrieve your record. Go to the “get most recent I-94” tab, and print the page it generates after entering your passport information.

6 Get new photos.

You will need two brand-new passport-type photographs. These must have been taken within the last 30 days. Photos that you have previously used for a visa or passport are not permitted. (Don't cut the photos! USCIS will trim the photos to their preferred dimensions.)

Print your name and your U.S. admission record number (from your I-94 arrival record) lightly in pencil on the back of each photo. Put the photos in an envelope and attach it to the front of your I-765.

7 Order your transcript.

You will need a copy of your Cornell transcript—or a transcript from another U.S. university if you are applying based on a previous STEM degree. Alternately, you may submit a copy of your diploma if it states your degree field.

8 Mail your OPT STEM application to USCIS.

What documents do I need to include?

  • Form I-765
  • Two new passport-type photographs. Put the photos in an envelope, and attach the envelope to the front of your I-765.
  • Form G-1145, if you want to receive electronic notifications.
  • Copy of pages 1 and 2 of your new STEM OPT I-20, with your signature on page 1 and the OPT STEM recommendation on page 2.
  • Copies of all previous I-20s you have received at Cornell. Request copies
  • A printout of your I-94 U. S. Admission Record (not your travel history) from the United States Customs and Border Protection website, or a copy of your I-94 card.
  • Copy of the photo identification page of your passport with your passport’s expiration date.
  • Copy of the F-1 visa page of your passport, even if expired. (If you are a Canadian, you won't have this.)
  • Copy of transcript or diploma, if it states your degree field.
  • Photocopy of your previous OPT card or EAD, if you have one.
  • A U.S. check or money order for the $410 fee. Make your check payable to the Department of Homeland Security. Cash is not accepted. Attach the fee to the front of your application materials.

Send all documents by certified mail with a return receipt, so that you have a tracking number and proof that USCIS received your application. You can also use a courier service like FedEx or UPS.

If your return address on the I-765 is in New York State, send all documents to the following address:

For U.S. Postal Service

USCIS PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

For Express Mail and Courier (FedEx, UPS, etc.)

USCIS
Attn: NFB AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121
Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

What if my return address on the I-765 is not in New York State?

If your return address on the I-765 is not in New York State, you may need to send your I-765 to a different address. Find out more. Email the Office of Global Learning if you’re not sure where to send your application.

What if my OPT expires while I’m waiting for my extension?

As soon as USCIS receives your OPT STEM extension application, your current OPT work authorization will be automatically extended until USCIS makes a final decision or for 180 days, whichever comes first.

What are the OPT STEM reporting requirements?

You and your employer need to fulfill specific reporting obligations throughout your OPT employment, including during the STEM extension. Find out more.

What if I change jobs while on OPT STEM extension?

If you change jobs, update the Office of Global Learning within 10 days of starting your new employment.

Can I get an updated I-20 showing my new job?

If you want an updated I-20, request a new copy. Please wait one week after submitting your updated employment information before making this request.

9 Wait to get your EAD.

It takes up to five months for USCIS to process your OPT STEM extension application and issue a new OPT card. This card is also called an employment authorization document (EAD).

Once your case is under way, USCIS will send you a notice of receipt (I-797) in the mail. Please read the notice carefully as it contains a lot of important information. When you have the receipt notice, you can begin to track your case status online

As soon as USCIS receives your OPT STEM extension application, your current OPT work authorization will be automatically extended until USCIS makes a final decision or for 180 days, whichever comes first.

 

Next Up: Cap-Gap OPT Extension