International Student Services

24-Month STEM OPT Extension: How to Apply

The STEM OPT extension allows some students with science, technology, engineering, or math degrees to apply to extend their post-completion OPT authorization. Students with STEM degrees and currently in their 12-month OPT period should review the eligibility requirements, application timeline, and instructions below.

Eligibility

To qualify for the 24-month STEM OPT extension, you must:

  • Be in F-1 status
  • Be currently working in a period of post-completion OPT
  • Have a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in an eligible STEM field
    • You may be eligible use a prior STEM degree earned in the U.S. for this requirement; to use a prior STEM degree, you must:
      • Have received your most recent degree (which does not need to be STEM-related) from a currently accredited Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school in the U.S.
      • Have received your prior, qualifying STEM degree in the U.S. within 10 years of applying for the STEM OPT extension.
      • The qualifying STEM degree must be on the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time you submit your STEM OPT extension application (rather than at the time you received the degree).
  • Have a paid job offer that meets the following requirements:
    • The job is with an employer enrolled in the USCIS E-Verify program. Double-check with your employer to see if they are enrolled in E-Verify; sometimes the USCIS E-Verify database is not correct.
      (The University of Washington participates in the E-Verify program. The UW E-Verify ID number is 293411.)
    • The job offers at least 20 hours of work per week
    • The job will provide formal training and learning objectives directly related to your qualifying STEM degree
  • Be able to complete the I-983 Training Plan with your employer

Employment Requirements During the 24-month STEM OPT Extension

You must work at least 20 hours per week for an employer that a) participates in the E-Verify program and b) agrees to follow all the employer requirements in the 24-month STEM rule.

Unlike the 12 month OPT, volunteer/unpaid work or self-employment is not permitted under the 24 month STEM OPT Extension regulation.

Please review the new guidance about acceptable types of activity during the 24-month STEM OPT Extension that is substantially different than the 12 month OPT and past guidance for the STEM Extension.

When to Apply

Students with a STEM degree and currently in the 12-month OPT period:

  • USCIS must receive your STEM OPT extension application before your current 12-month OPT EAD card expiration date.
  • Apply as early as 90 days before your current 12-month OPT EAD card expiration date.
  • Take into consideration:
    • ISS needs 7-10 business days for processing your new I-20.
    • Allow sufficient time to mail your application to USCIS.

How to Apply

Students with a STEM degree and currently in the 12-month OPT period:

STEP 1: Confirm your 12-month OPT information is correct

Is your 12-month OPT information up-to-date? Check the SEVP Portal.

If your current address and employment information is correct, proceed to Step 2 below.

If your current address and employment information is not correct, submit a 12-Month OPT Report. (Do not request a new I-20 in the 12-month OPT report webform; just submit the information changes. You will request a new I-20 in the separate 24-month STEM OPT I-20 request webform below).

ISS must ensure the 12-month OPT information in your SEVIS record is accurate and updated before processing your STEM OPT I-20 request.

STEP 2: Complete and submit your STEM OPT Extension I-20 Request to ISS

  1. Gather and complete the following documents
  • I-983 Training Plan (see ISS Tips for Form I-983)
    If you will apply for the 24-month OPT extension based on employment at UW, see these tips from International Scholars Operations for completing the I-983 Training Plan for UW employment.
  • Completed I-765 Form (download I-765 form completion guide with proofreading tips)
    • It is okay to leave the E-Verify field blank in the I-765 Form in this situation. ISS maintains a list of employers who do not share the E-Verify number with university officials because the employers will submit the OPT extension application on behalf of their employees. If your employer is not on the list, your ISS adviser might contact you to ask for a confirmation letter from your employer that states their policy.
  1. Submit the online STEM OPT Extension I-20 Request to ISS:

    Request STEM OPT Extension I-20

  1. Allow 7-10 business days for processing. An ISS adviser will review your application and issue a new, updated I-20 with a STEM OPT Extension recommendation printed on the back page.

STEP 3: Pick up New I-20 and prepare your application

  1. When you receive an email from ISS, pick up your new STEM OPT Extension endorsed I-20
    • Sign the new I-20 at the bottom of page 1.
    • Photocopy after signing; you will send the photocopy, not the original I-20
  2. Gather the following documents
    • Copy of Form I-20 with your signature and STEM Extension endorsement by your DSO (ISS adviser) (must arrive at USCIS within 60 days of issuance)
    • Form I-765 (Be sure to include your employer’s name as listed in E-Verify and E-Verify Company Identification Number or valid E-Verify Client Company Identification Number)
    • Copy of your transcript
    • A copy of Form I-94 (which can be obtained at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov)
    • A copy of your current EAD card (front and back)
    • 2 passport-style photos. Lightly write your name and I-94 number on the back of each photo. (Review number 2. C on page 8 of the “Required Documentation” section of USCIS photo instructions)
    • Form I-765 filing fee paid by money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you pay by check, you must make your check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
    • Completed G-1145 Form (optional; it signs you up for email/text message notification of your application’s arrival at USCIS)
    • Note: the I-983 Training Plan does not need to be submitted to USCIS (unless USCIS requests a copy during STEM OPT extension processing). You should keep a copy of the plan for your own records, and ISS also keeps a copy.
      Also, USCIS I-765 filing instructions (both general and STEM OPT) do not require copies of previous I-20s, passport biographical page, nor F-1 visa page. You may include these copies if you want to, but they are not required.

STEP 4: Mail your application to USCIS:

Mail the documents listed in item 2 from STEP 3 to:

  • For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries

USCIS
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

  • For Express Mail and Courier Service Deliveries

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

If your I-765 mailing address is outside Washington state, review the USCIS mailing instructions to find the correct Lockbox location.

Your STEM OPT application must arrive at USCIS within 60 days of ISS I-20 issuance.

Employer Noncompliance

If you believe your STEM OPT employer is not complying with the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, the Form I-983 instructions, and the completed Form I-983 on file with ISS, you may:

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Where can I find additional government resources about the STEM OPT extension?

STEM OPT Hub –from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Study in the States

OPT Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT) –from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) [Last Updated: ]

2.. Where can I find my CIP code?

I-20s from June 2015 or earlier: the CIP code is printed at the top of page three of your I-20.  The code is 6 digits long (xx.xxxx).  Once you find your code, you can consult the entire list of individual eligible CIP codes for the STEM extension available on the SEVP website.

I-20s from July 2015 to present: the CIP code is printed next to your major on page one of your I-20.

3. What is the UW Seattle SEVIS School Code?

SEA214F00265000

4. How can I find out what date my UW degree was awarded?

Log in to your MyUW page. Click on “Academics” in the left-side navigation bar, then click on “Unofficial Transcript.” Scroll to the bottom of the transcript, and you will see what date your degree was earned.

5. If I have a dual major, can I qualify for the 24-month extension based on one of the degree programs?

Yes, if one of the degrees is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List and any job worked while on the extension is related to your STEM degree.

6. Can I qualify for the 24-month extension based on my minor or certificate program?

No.

7. When does my 24-month extension of OPT start?

If you have properly filed for a 24-month STEM extension, the period of extension starts the day after the expiration of your original OPT period.

8. Can I work with an expired EAD while my 24-month extension is pending?

Yes. Your work authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 days while the 24-month STEM extension application is pending. There is no interim documentation of the extended authorization. If your employer needs information about what documents to collect as proof of extended work authorization, please refer to them to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services I-9 Central.

9. Can I travel outside of the U.S. if my original EAD expires and my 24-month extension is still pending?

Yes, your EAD is considered extended for up to 180 days while your STEM OPT extension application is pending with USCIS. During that period, you can travel outside the U.S. even if your previous EAD is expired.

For more information about what documents to carry, and citations for this rule, see scenario #4 in our “Travel and OPT” section.

10. Do I need to use the ISS address on the I-765?

No, you are not required to use the ISS address on #3 of I-765 form. However, be sure to provide an accurate and valid address for at least 4 months into the future so you can receive your EAD card. The post office will NOT forward OPT mail. If you might change your address while your OPT application is pending, consider renting a post office P.O. Box or using a friend’s address or ISS address. 

11. Can I change employers while the 24-month extension is pending?

Yes, you can change employers while your 24-month STEM OPT extension application is pending with USCIS.

If you change employers, report the change to ISS through our 24-month STEM OPT Reporting Form. In the “comments” section, explain that your STEM OPT extension application is still pending with USCIS. Regulations state that employment changes must be reported within 10 days.

Your ISS adviser will provide a copy of an updated I-20 directly to USCIS.