International Student Services

STEM OPT Extension: After Mailing Application to USCIS

USCIS Processing: What to expect

Contact from USCIS

Your STEM OPT application will be assigned a receipt/case number after it reaches USCIS.

G-1145: If you included the G-1145 E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance form, you may receive your case number by email or text message. Otherwise, expect to receive the number by mail–the I-797 Notice of Action.

I-797 Notice of Action: USCIS will send you a receipt notice (I-797 Notice of Action). This receipt notice:

  • Confirms receipt of your STEM OPT application
  • Shows the receipt date
  • Shows your USCIS receipt/case number

Carefully review the receipt notice to make sure your name is spelled correctly. If it is not, contact your ISS adviser immediately. 

It may take several business days from delivery date for a number to be assigned to you. It is not uncommon for there to be a delay in the delivery notice saying that the packet was delivered and when USCIS issues the receipt with the case number.

RFEs, Returned, or Denied Applications

If you receive a “Request for Evidence” (RFE), returned application, or denied application, notify ISS immediately. Complete the “Have a Question” form. It may be necessary for ISS to provide a new I-20 before you can respond to the USCIS inquiry or resubmit your STEM OPT application.

USCIS Case Status Online

You can use the case number on your receipt notice to check the status of your application online.

It is normal for your case status to say ‘case received’ for most of the 3-5 month processing period.

Expedited Processing Not Likely

USCIS rarely expedites STEM OPT applications. ISS cannot contact USCIS on your behalf to request expedited processing; OPT applications between you, the applicant, and USCIS. Here is more information about the USCIS expedite criteria.

What can you do while waiting for STEM OPT approval?

1. Continue Working for Up to 180 Days

Your work authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 days while the 24-month STEM OPT extension application is pending. 

The USCIS receipt notice is documentation of the extended authorization. There is no interim EAD.

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

2. Learn the Rules to Maintain F-1 Status During Your STEM OPT Extension Period

The STEM OPT Extension is an extension of your F-1 status.
Your F-1 status is based on your STEM OPT activity and reporting requirement, not full-time study.

Visit our STEM OPT Extension: After Approval page to learn about:

  • Required STEM OPT Reporting Deadlines
  • Employment rules during STEM OPT
  • Travel

3. Changing Employers While Your Extension is Pending?

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.