STEM OPT Extension

The STEM OPT extension extends the initial 12 months of post-completion OPT an additional 24 months (for a total eligibility of up to 36 months) for students majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The extension can only be granted in a 24-month period; the period cannot be “split” into multiple periods.

STEM OPT Overview

To be eligible, you must:

  • Be maintaining F-1 status.
  • Currently be on an approved period of post-completion optional practical training (OPT).
    • Students on pre-completion OPT are not eligible for the extension.
  • Apply for the STEM extension based on study in a field on the Eligible CIP Codes for the STEM OPT Extension DHS webpage:
    • See above for a list of KU Degrees that are on the DHS STEM List.
    • The degree used for the current post-completion OPT does NOT have to be in a STEM field. 
    • You can apply for the STEM extension based on a prior STEM degree obtained within the last 10 years from a US, SEVP-approved, accredited school.
    • The degree must be at the bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral level.
    • If you are currently on OPT based on completion of required lecture courses with only thesis, dissertation or equivalent left in a STEM field, you can apply for the STEM extension even if you have not yet completed the degree.
  • Work for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to your major area of study in the STEM field.
  • Have a job offer from an employer registered with the E-Verify employment verification system. (IMPORTANT: Employment through “temp” agencies or consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire [even though registered with E-Verify] DO NOT qualify for the STEM OPT extension.)
  • Not have previously received the STEM OPT extension twice before.
    • For a second extension, your second STEM degree must be at a higher level than the previous STEM degree used for your first STEM OPT extension.
  • Complete, along with your employer, a Training Plan on form I-983.
  • Be paid and work at least 20 hours a week.
    • The wages must be commensurate with other employees doing the same job.
  • Google search “EVerify Employer List”. 
  • Select the website.
  • At time of publication of this website, the USCIS website is called E-Verify Employers Search Tool


  • Must work in a paid position at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify employer in a position directly related to the student’s STEM degree.
  • Must have specific training goals and objectives outlined in the Training Plan, Form I-983.
  • May work multiple jobs, but all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify and complete an I-983.
  • Must do annual self-evaluations and have the employer sign off on the self-evaluations.
  • Cannot be self-employed (you cannot sign your own I-983 as an employer).
  • Cannot be employed through “temp” agencies or consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, or any other relationship that does not constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship.

Applications for the STEM OPT extension can be filed up to 90 days prior to the end of the regular period of post-completion OPT, but USCIS must receive and receipt the application before the current OPT expires. 

ISS recommends you apply as early as possible (within the required time frame described above) to avoid driver’s license renewal issues.

If the STEM application is receipted before the current OPT expiration date, the student can continue working until a decision is made (up to 180 days from the end of the current OPT expiration).

How to Apply for STEM OPT

Understand what the STEM OPT Extension is!  Are you eligible?  When can you apply?

Important: Employment through “temp” agencies or consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire DO NOT qualify for the STEM OPT extension unless the arrangement constitutes a bona fide employer-employee relationship.

Save the following documents as separate digital documents

       (if multiple pages within the same category, create as a single multipage digital document)

  • Complete the Training Plan Form I-983 (both student & employer)
    • Download from Study In The States STEM OPT HUB --> Training Plan
    • To be completed by both the student and employer. 
      • If KU is your employer, the Dean, Chair/designee, or supervisor should complete the employer sections (pages 2-4)
    • All fields through Section 6 MUST be completed entirely (Page 5 should not be completed at this time as it is used later for self-evaluations while on STEM)
    • For a model on how to complete this form, refer to I-983 Training Plan EXAMPLE (PDF)
    • Employers may also reference the Form I-983 Tutorial or Form I-983 Instructions accessible from Study In The States STEM OPT HUB --> Training Plan
  • Print, read and sign the Student Reporting Responsibilities While On STEM OPT Extension Form (PDF)
  • Print the STEM Employer Verification Form (PDF)  and have your employer sign it
  • Proof of STEM degree (official / unofficial transcript or diploma with stated program of study)
    • if requesting STEM OPT based on a previous STEM degree for which your current post-completion OPT is NOT based, scan the following as 1 multipage PDF:
  • Most recent Electronic I-94 record; or paper I-94 card (front and back)
  • Recent passport-style photo (jpeg, jpg or png) (US passport photo guidelines)
  • All previously issued Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), including current OPT EAD (front and back)
  • Start the USCIS I-765 online form – do NOT pay yet!
    • Go to US Citizenship and Immigration Services and create account
      • After creating account, go to Form I-765 and click “File Online”
    • Begin the I-765 form (required)
      • Refer to the Online STEM Filing Tips (PDF) as you work on your I-765 draft.
      • You can upload the following evidence prior to meeting with ISS
        • Passport-style photo
        • I-94 record
        • Current OPT EAD card (upload this under “Employment Authorization Document” section)
        • Official transcript or diploma
      • DO NOT upload an I-20 until you have the STEM OPT recommendation I-20 from ISS
      • DO NOT complete the "Your Statement" section yet
      • DO NOT complete the "Your Signature" section yet
      • Do NOT pay the $470 filing fee until you have received your NEW STEM OPT recommendation I-20 from your ISS advisor during your STEM OPT appointment (filing fee is NON-REFUNDABLE)
  • Create PDF of draft I-765
    • Once the I-765 is completed (other than a few final uploads), but before you "sign" or make a payment, download the “view draft snapshot” PDF from the “review and submit - your application summary” section of the online application;
    • Save a digital image to upload to iHawk

Go to the ISS webstore to pay the ISS STEM OPT fee.

  • Pay the non-refundable $170 "ISS Fee for Recommending STEM OPT (F-1)"
    • Check email for receipt as proof of payment to upload in iHawk
    • This is separate from the USCIS application fee
    • once paid, this fee is NON-REFUNDABLE!!

Login to iHawk

  • Complete all associated e-forms under "F-1 Practical Training" --> "STEM OPT I-20 Request"
  • Upload the scanned supporting documents as prompted in the E-Forms

Overview of the STEM OPT I-20 request e-forms:

  1. Submit e-forms #1 - #5, in any order.
  2. Pay the “ISS Fee for Recommending STEM OPT (F-1)” in the ISS webstore before you submit e-form #6. You should save the receipt that you receive via email.
  3. Submit e-form #6, which will become immediately available when e-forms #1 - #5 are submitted.
  4. Wait for an email from ISS (typically within 2-4 business days). ISS will do a one-time preliminary review of your e-form #6 and will instruct you of your next step (either revise e-form #6 or proceed to e-form #7).
  5. Submit e-form #7 (this will be available only after your e-form #6 is initially reviewed by ISS and resubmitted if necessary).
  • After submitting Form #7, call ISS to make your STEM OPT appointment (available in-person or by zoom) in order to have an ISS advisor review and process your STEM OPT I-20 request.
  • Upon thorough review of all submitted documents during your STEM appointment, if eligible and all requirements are met, you will be issued a STEM OPT recommendation I-20 and will receive it through the method you selected on the final e-form.  If the ISS advisor finds your STEM request to be insufficient at the time of your scheduled appointment, as long as still eligible, you may revise and resubmit any documents but may require another appointment at a later date.
  • Once received, print out hard copy (if electronic I-20 received by email), sign and date (in black ink, no electronic signatures) the new I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation. Then scan pages 1 & 2, which you will include in your STEM OPT application. You should hold on to the original I-20. 
  • Log back into your I-765 application through the USCIS government website
  • Make edits to I-765 as recommended by ISS advisor
  • Upload new I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation given to you during the ISS appointment (under “Evidence” --> “Form I-20”)
  • Complete the "Your Statement" section
  • Complete the "Your Signature" section to confirm and SIGN the application
  • Pay attention to any Alerts or Warnings!
  • Pay $470 application fee via bank account, debit card, or credit card
  • Your receipt notice will be automatically generated and available (under “Documents” --> “USCIS Notices”)

Note: DO NOT include the original I-983 with your application. You should hold on to the original I-983 in case you are asked by the U.S. government to submit it in the future.

After you Apply for STEM OPT

  • Students who have properly filed Form I-765 (for STEM OPT extension) prior to the end date of his/her current post-completion OPT, will be able to continue employment while their extension application is pending, until a final decision is made on the I-765 or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
  • The employment authorization period for the STEM OPT extension begins on the day after the expiration of the initial post-completion OPT employment authorization, and ends 24 months later, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved.
  • You can Check your Case Status on the USCIS website by entering your receipt number (ex. PSCxxxxxxxxxx).
  • When you receive the STEM OPT EAD, upload a copy to iHawk.
  • If your ADDRESS CHANGES while your STEM OPT application is pending, the post office will not forward EADs even if you filed a mail-forwarding request with the US Postal Service so you must report address changes in 2 places:

To maintain legal F-1 status during your approved STEM OPT extension period, you must comply with the reporting requirements outlined in the table below, WITHIN 10 DAYS of any change, or due every 6 months from the start of your stem period even without any changes.

  • The SEVP Portal is optional. ISS recommends:
    • You use the SEVP Portal only for VIEWING accuracy of data.
    • You report all changes through iHawk.
    • You should NOT report changes in both iHawk and the SEVP Portal.
  • Report through iHawk by submitting in F-1 Practical Training > OPT reporting.
    • ISS reviews information for compliance before submitting to SEVIS.
    • ISS automatically issues a new I-20 when appropriate.

iHawk OPT Reporting e-forms

  • Mandated Reports (even without any change) - more details below
  • Due every 6 months from start of STEM
    • 6 months from STEM start: validation report
    • 12 months from STEM start: self-evaluation (I-983 p.5 Annual Evaluation of Student Progress) & validation report
    • 18 months from STEM start: validation report
    • 24 months from STEM start: self-evaluation (I-983 p.5 Final Evaluation of Student Progress) & validation report

Reports Based on Change

Due within 10 days of change/end/departure

  • Upload STEM OPT EAD
  • Email & Phone Number Update
  • U.S. residential or mailing address*
  • Material Changes to Existing I-983 Training Plan - more details below
  • Loss or termination of STEM employment – requires a completed and signed I-983 p.5 Final Evaluation of Student Progress
  • New (change of) STEM employer – requires new completed and signed I-983 Training Plan & STEM Employer Verifications Form from new employer
  • Change immigration status classification (ex. F-1 to H-1B)
  • Leaving the U.S. and forfeiting the remainder of OPT
  • Passport Name

Employer Reporting Requirements During STEM OPT

  • The employer MUST complete and sign the Training Plan on Form I-983 along with the student.
    • Employers must complete Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6.
  • The employer is required to report to ISS any job termination or early departure within five business days.
  • The 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 employer must review the student’s annual self-evaluation and sign it verifying its accuracy.
  • Employers must report to ISS any material changes or material deviations from the Training Plan (Form I-983). Material changes include but are not limited to:
    • Change in Employer Identification Number (from a corporate restructure)
    • Reduction in student compensation not tied to a reduction in hours.
    • Significant decrease in hours per week
    • Changes to employer’s commitments or student’s learning objectives.

Employers should report the termination or departure of an employee who is on the STEM OPT extension by emailing Provide the following in the email:

  • Subject: “STEM OPT Employment Termination"
  • Body of email: Employee’s full name, date of birth and SEVIS ID Number. Date of termination. Employer’s contact name, title, department, and phone number. Company name.

Validation Reports (1 due every 6 months)

  • Submit a Validation Report confirming:
    • No change in legal name
    • Residential and mailing addresses
    • Whether still employed, and if so,
      • Employer Name
      • Employer Address

Self-Evaluations (1 due every 12 months)

  • First One – Due within 12 months of STEM OPT Start Date
    • Complete and sign a self-evaluation on Form I-983
    • Obtain employer’s signature verifying accuracy of self-evaluation
  • Second One - Due upon completing STEM OPT period
    • Should recap all the training and knowledge acquired during the entire training period
    • Complete and sign a self-evaluation on Form I-983
    • Obtain employer’s signature verifying accuracy of self-evaluation
  • Exception: Additionally, a completed and signed I-983 self-evaluation is due any time you terminate a STEM job, at the time of termination.

Material Changes to the Existing Training Plan Form I-983 (due within 10 days of the change)

  • Material changes include, but are not limited to:
    • Change in job title or supervisor;
    • Significant decrease in compensation or work hours;
    • Changes to the employer’s commitments or your learning objectives;
    • Change in employer’s EIN (Employer Identification Number)
    • Change in employee (trainee) worksite - Section 5

If my STEM OPT application is still pending, I must report address changes in 2 places (even if I request the post office to forward all my mail):

  • Know and comply with your reporting responsibilities (see above)
  • Since F-1 status is dependent on employment, you cannot accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during the total 36-month OPT period.  If unemployment exceeds the limits, DHS may deny future immigration benefits and/or may terminate your SEVIS record.
  • You may change employers during the STEM OPT extension, however, the new employer must also be an E-Verify employer, the job must be directly related to your STEM major and you must submit to ISS within 10 days a new, completed and signed I-983 for the new employer.
  • You are allowed 60 days after the expiration of the OPT EAD to remain in the U.S. for the purpose of preparing for departure, to change education levels at the same school, to transfer to another school, or apply for a change of status.
  • Your duration of status and possibly also work authorization may automatically be extended if you are a beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition and change of status request. See more details on H-1B Cap-Gap OPT Extension

Do not travel outside the United States if your EAD is expired and the STEM extension request is pending.  Wait until you receive the new EAD. Otherwise, your application may be considered abandoned when you depart the U.S. and subsequently denied.

See our Travel Outside the United States and look for the section on “F-1 Students on OPT”.​

The STEM OPT Extension ends when you:

  • reach the end of the authorized STEM OPT Extension period (as indicated on your EAD card)
  • accrue an aggregate of 150 days of unemployment during the entire 36-month post-completion OPT period
  • transfer to another school (release your SEVIS record), or begin study at another education level (this automatically terminates any remaining portion of OPT)
  • change your status to another immigration status, or adjust to U.S. permanent resident
  • depart the U.S. permanently (not for temporary visit/vacation) and report forfeiting the remainder of OPT

The Federal government has put together a STEM OPT Hub with detailed information on such topics as:

  • eligibility requirements
  • reporting responsibilities
  • Form I-983
  • employer responsibilities
  • eligible STEM fields

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