Skip to main content

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.

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. Also check out the latest Department of Homeland Security (DHS) updates on OPT STEM.

To support services for the growing population of international students on F-1 OPT and OPT STEM extension, a service maintenance fee is charged: $100 to apply for OPT, and $150 to apply for OPT STEM.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) now offers online submission of your OPT I-20. If you choose to use this option, please follow the directions on the USCIS online application portal.  

Can I expedite my application at USCIS?

Starting March 6, 2023, USCIS will accept Form I-907 premium processing requests for F-1 students with a pending Form I-765 employment authorization document (EAD) application if the student is filing for pre- or post-completion OPT, or for a STEM OPT extension.

Starting April 3, 2023, the agency will accept premium processing requests from these students when their Form I-907 is filed concurrently with a Form I-765 employment authorization application.

USCIS will reject premium processing requests for a pending Form I-765 if received before March 6. USCIS will reject any premium processing request for an initial or concurrently filed Form I-765 that is received before April 3. 

The Form I-907 fee for these newly eligible categories is $1,500, and the premium processing timeframe is 30 calendar days after USCIS receives all prerequisites for the adjudication. USCIS will accept both online and paper filings of Form I-907 for these F-1 EAD applications. More information on USCIS

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.


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 90 days.
  • USCIS must receive and receipt your STEM OPT application before your current post-completion OPT ends.
  • 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 $150 OPT STEM service maintenance fee via Flywire or Credit Card. You will be asked to upload a screenshot or pdf of your purchase confirmation in the form request in Step 3.

3 Request a STEM OPT 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. If you are applying for STEM OPT based on a previous degree, please email us directly.

NOTE: You must wait to receive your STEM OPT I-20 before filing your STEM OPT extension application with USCIS.

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?

We will upload a PDF of your updated I-20 as soon as it is ready for retrieval via Cornell's Secure File Transfer service.

4 Complete an I-765 form.

There two options to apply for OPT:

  • Online
  • Hardcopy mailing

NOTE: Please choose only one of the available options.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) now offers online submission of your OPT application. If you choose to use the online option, please follow the directions on the USCIS online application portal. If you choose the paper filing, download the I-765 form from the USCIS website.

Follow these instructions for filling out the I-765 form.   

Choose a mailing address for question 5.a that you know can safely receive mail. Do not choose the Office of Global Learning or a Cornell department. Keep 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.

NOTE: USCIS will require an updated edition of the Form I-765 dated 08/25/2020 for applications postmarked on or after August 25, 2020. Please use this version of the form until further notice.

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 academic transcript.

You will need a copy of your Cornell academic transcript—or an academic 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.*

*Remember, if applying online, then follow the USCIS online portal instructions.

What documents do I need to include for mailing?

  • 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 showing CPT and/or OPT.
  • 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 U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Cash is not accepted. Attach the fee to the front of your application materials. NOTE: Due to a recent US court injunction, the fee change that was going to be effective as of October 2, 2020, is no longer applicable. Please continue with the $410 fee payment until further notice.

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

PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680

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

Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

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 in the myStatus portal. Please wait one week after submitting your updated employment information before making this request.

9 Wait to get your EAD.

It takes up to three 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.