OPT STEM Extension

Graduates currently on post-completion OPT may be eligible for a 24-month extension of their work authorization if they have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in an eligible STEM field, as designated by USCIS. The STEM OPT Extension allows graduates the opportunity to gain an additional 24 months of work experience, resulting in up to 36 months of total work eligibility in the United States following graduation from Methodist University.

All STEM OPT Extension applications are adjudicated (i.e. processed and approved) by USCIS. Successful filing of a STEM OPT Extension application will result in issuance of an EAD valid for an additional 24 months following post-completion OPT, during which graduates are able to legally work in the United States in positions directly related to their STEM majors.

Students who are interested in applying for the STEM OPT Extension are required to read the STEM OPT Extension Instructions below.

Step 1: Get your employer to fill out an I-983 form.

Step 2: Check out these two resources:

Requirements for 24-month OPT Extension

  • Student must be currently participating in a 12-month period of OPT, working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study.
  • Student must have successfully completed a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in a field on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List, from a SEVIS-certified college or university.
  • Student must have a job offer from an employer registered with the E-verify employment verification programs.
  • Student will have to apply for the 24-month OPT extension on Form I-765 with fee.
  • The student must apply on time (i.e., before the current post-completion OPT expires). Students who timely file an application for the 24-month OPT extension will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending, until a final decision on the I-765 or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
  • Student has never received a 24-month OPT extension.
  • The employer must agree to report the termination or departure of the student to the DSO or through “any other means or process identified by DHS.” An employer must consider a worker to have departed when the employer knows the student has left employment, or if the student has not reported for work for a period of five consecutive business days without the employer’s consent.
  • The DSO must recommend the 24-month OPT extension in SEVIS, after verifying the student’s eligibility, certifying that the student’s degree is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, and ensuring that the student is aware of his or her responsibilities for maintaining status while on OPT.

What are the eligible STEM degrees?

To be eligible for the 24-month OPT extension, a student must have received a degree included in the STEM Designated Degree Program List. This list sets forth eligible courses of study according to Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes developed by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

  • Actuarial Science. CIP Code 52.1304
  • Computer Science Applications:
    • CIP Codes 11.xxxx (except Data Entry/Microcomputer Applications, which are CIP Codes 11.06xx)
  • Engineering. CIP Codes 14.xxxx
  • Engineering Technologies. CIP Codes 15.xxxx
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences. CIP Codes 26.xxxx
  • Mathematics and Statistics. CIP Codes 27.xxxx
  • Military Technologies. CIP Codes 29.xxxx
  • Physical Sciences. CIP Codes 40.xxxx
  • Science Technologies. CIP Codes 41.xxxx
  • Medical Scientist (MS, PhD). CIP Code 51.1401

A full list of CIP Codes is available online.

What is E-Verify?

E-Verify is an Internet-based system operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). E-Verify is currently free to employers and is available in all 50 states. E-Verify provides an automated link to federal databases to help employers determine employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security numbers. More information is available at the USCIS web page on E-Verify.

Do I need a job offer before I apply for the STEM OPT extension?

Yes. STEM extension requires that you have an offer from a U.S. company that has registered in the E-Verify program.

Application Process

  1. Complete USCIS Form I-765
  2. Complete Request for OPT Extension Form
  3. Schedule an appointment with IPO and bring the following items:
    • The completed Request for OPT Extension Form
    • The completed I-765 form

When you meet with your international students advisor, he/she will issue you your new I-20 with the OPT authorization on P. 3. OPT Processing time is two business days. It is your responsibility to make sure that your information is up to date and correct.

Mailing your OPT STEM Extension Application to USCIS

Send the following documentations to USCIS to apply for OPT extension, arranged in the order listed below:

  1. Paperclip payment and passport photos on top.
  2. Form G-1145 typed, not handwritten
  3. Original, Signed Form I-765. Be sure to download most recent version of form and instructions from the USCIS link above to prevent STEM OPT Extension denial. Typed, not handwritten. Use black ink to sign name in the signature box. Ensure the signature stays within the box.
  4. Photocopy of Complete STEM OPT Extension I-20. Sign and date the “Student Attestation” section.
  5. Printout of Most Recent Electronic Form I-94.
  6. Photocopy of Passport Page. Page that includes photo, passport number and expiration date. Must be valid for at least six months prior to application date.
  7. Photocopies of all previously issued EAD cards, CPT I-20s and OPT I-20s
  8. Two (2) U.S. Style Passport Photos. Write your name and I-94 number on the back of each photo. Do not use photos from your home country. Passport photos must be 2″ x 2″ with proper facial dimensions of U.S. Style passport photos.
  9. $410 Application Fee Payment. Choose one of two options: Form G-1450 for U.S. credit card payment -OR- Check (personal, cashier’s, or money order) from a U.S. bank. Make check payable to: U.S. Department of Homeland Security. For the amount, write: Four hundred ten dollars. For the memo section (front, bottom left corner), write date of birth (MM/DD/YYYY) and I-94 number. If check is a cashier’s check, money order, or from another account holder, be sure to also write your name (last name, first name). Do not write or sign on the back of the check. The check must have an imprinted name on upper left corner and imprinted or handwritten address.
  10. Verification of Graduation from Methodist University. Copy of official or unofficial MU transcript -OR- Copy of MU diploma showing degree earned and program of study

Mailing Instructions

  1. Make photocopies of the entire application for your records.
  2. Mail application packet by certified U.S. mail to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox Facility—see address below.

IMPORTANT: Remember to check the expiration date of your OPT EAD and “Date Issued” on Page 1 of your STEM OPT Extension I-20. If your application is received by USCIS after the expiration of your OPT EAD and/or more than 60 days after “Date Issued” on Page 1 of your STEM OPT Extension I-20, your STEM OPT Extension will be denied.

Please contact IPO before mailing your application to USCIS if you are at risk of missing either deadline.

Please check USCIS website for mailing instructions. As of March 30, 2021, these are the new filing addresses. The most current information can be found here: Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization | USCIS.

USCIS Chicago Lockbox

U.S. Postal Service (USPS):

USCIS
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

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

Reporting Requirements while on STEM OPT Extension

For reporting requirements, please visit STEM HUB website: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/form-i-983-overview.

Additional Information

Students who file the STEM extension application in a timely manner will be able to continue employment until a final decision is made by USCIS or for 180 days, whichever is earlier. IPO advises students not to travel until STEM Extension application is approved and a new EAD card has been received.

Note: Once you have received your receipt notice, you may check on the status of your application online. Go to www.uscis.gov and click on “Check my case status.” You will use the receipt number (3 letters and 11-14 digits) as your reference number.

What happens if I become unemployed while on OPT or OPT STEM Extension?

STEM OPT students must report the termination of their practical training experience within 10 days of the event.

Students who are granted a 24-month STEM OPT extension are allowed an additional 60 days of unemployment beyond the initial post-completion OPT limit. This means that students who obtain a 24-month STEM OPT extension will receive, for a total of 150 days of allowable unemployment, 90 days during the initial period of post-completion OPT plus an additional 60 days during the extension period.