STEM OPT is a 24-month extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization available to F-1 students who graduated with U.S. degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics and will be working for an employer who is part of the E-Verify program. The STEM OPT application is reviewed by ISSS and submitted to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) for processing.
- Apply early! USCIS processing times for STEM OPT applications can take over 3 months.
- You may apply for an extension up to 90 days before expiration of the original OPT authorization. USCIS must receive the application no later than the expiration date of the original OPT.
- Once an application is submitted, applicants may work up to 180 days beyond the expiration date of their original EAD while the STEM application is pending with USCIS.
- There is a $175 ISSS Administrative Fee for all OPT extension applications. The fee is charged even if your employer will file the OPT application on your behalf.
- You are allowed up to 150 days of cumulative unemployment during your OPT period, including both your initial OPT period and the STEM OPT extension period. Should you accumulate 150 days or more of unemployment, you are considered to be in violation of your F-1 immigration status and must depart the United States immediately.
- The primary major CIP code, found on the first page of the I-20, must appear on this list of designated majors.
- Employment must be paid while on STEM OPT.
- Applicant must be working on post-completion OPT.
- Applicant must be working for an E-Verify employer while on STEM OPT. USCIS has created an online E-Verify Employer Search Tool.
- Applicant must be working directly for the employer. Applicants must be supervised by the employer and not a client of the employer.
- Pay the OPT Administrative Fee at least 24 hours prior to submitting your application materials to ISSS.
- Submit your STEM OPT application materials to ISSS:
- If you are in Austin, schedule an International Student Advising-STEM OPT Application appointment so an international student advisor can issue your STEM OPT I-20.
- If you are outside Austin, you may use the secure STEM OPT remote application to apply remotely.
- Bring the following documents to your appointment:
- Completed and printed out I-765 form(PDF).
- Include company’s E-Verify number on the I-765 (usually five or six digits).
- Completed and printed out Form I-983.
- Copy of your newest passport.
- Copy of your F-1 visa (or most recent entry visa).
- Most recent I-94. If you have an electronic I-94, be sure to print it out before the appointment.
- Copy of your previous EAD's (front and back).
- Check or money order for $410 made payable to: Department of Homeland Security (do not write on or make corrections to the upper portion of the check).
- Two recent, passport-style photos on white background. See photo requirements. These photos must be different than the photos used for your visa and passport.
- Photo must be 2 inches by 2 inches
- The height of the head (top of hair to bottom of chin) should measure 1 inch to 1 3/8 inches (25 mm - 35 mm)
- Make sure the eye height is between 1 1/8 inches to 1 3/8 inches (28 mm – 35 mm) from the bottom of the photo
- Copy of diploma AND official transcript showing your graduation from an eligible STEM field.
- Completed and printed out G-1145 form (PDF).
- Completed and printed out I-765 form(PDF).
- Mail your application to USCIS. ISSS will give you mailing instructions after your STEM I-20 has been issued.
If you are not in Austin, you may use the secure STEM OPT remote application to apply remotely. Your case will be assigned to an international student advisor who will work with you via email. The advisor will review your documents and let you know if any edits need to be made. When ready, the ISSS advisor will issue your STEM OPT extension I-20 and email you instructions on how to compile your application. If you wish to speak to an advisor, you may schedule an appointment. Indicate in the reservation that you require a phone appointment and list the phone number where we can reach you. An advisor will call you at the scheduled appointment time.
Report STEM OPT Employment
Please report at your required reporting periods (6, 12, 18, 24 months) and anytime there is a change to your employment, using the Report Employment link. Upload your EAD card and I-983 Evaluation on Student Progress using the Upload your STEM Documents link.
Once your STEM OPT is approved and your EAD card arrives, upload a copy for ISSS to review. This is an important step because it allows ISSS to review important details in your immigration record and make any corrections if necessary.
STEM OPT Reporting
While engaged in Optional Practical Training, even during the STEM OPT extension period, you are still considered to be in F-1 student status and are required to report your employment information throughout your OPT period.
Immigration regulations require you to report certain information to ISSS at 6-month and 12-month intervals even if your information has not changed.
If your information does change, you must report it within 10 days of the change or be considered in violation of your immigration status.
Any time there is a change to your employment, you must report the change via the SEVP portal and upload a new I-983 using the links above. When you change employers, you must complete and upload the final evaluation page of the I-983 and complete and upload a new I-983 with the new employer.
Reporting your employment will allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to verify that you are currently employed and not in violation of the 150-day unemployment rule.
If you change your immigration status, upload a copy of your Change of Status Approval Notice notifying us of your new status. An international student advisor will review your information to confirm that USCIS appropriately completed your record.
If you decide to return to your home country and not use your STEM OPT authorization, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm that you don’t want to use the remainder of your STEM OPT along with the date you plan to leave the United States. An international student advisor will complete your SEVIS record and report your departure from the United States.
Still have questions?
International Student Advisors are available to assist you while you are on STEM OPT. For general questions or requests, please email email@example.com. For non-general inquires, please schedule an appointment to speak with an International Student Advisor. If you are no longer in the Austin area, you may schedule a phone appointment by listing your phone number in the comment section of your appointment reservation. Please keep in mind that International Student Advisors are trained in student visa topics. For information on employer-sponsored visas or residency applications, please consult with your employer's representative or a qualified Immigration Attorney.