F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees, and who meet other requirements (see below) are eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT. As of May 10, 2016, the 24-month STEM extension replaced the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to STEM students.
24 Month STEM Extension
All four of the below criteria must be met in order for a student to be eligible for the 24-month OPT extension:
- Students who have already been approved for 12 months of post-completion OPT; and
- Who have earned a bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D. (certificate programs are not eligible) in a field included on the U.S. Government’s list of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields within the last 10 years (see below for more details about how to find out if your degree is STEM eligible); and
- Who are employed for at least 20 hours per week in a paid job directly related to his/her field of study; and
- Who are working for an employer that is enrolled in the U.S. Government’s E-Verify program.
List of degrees in STEM fields
In order to verify that your degree is on U.S. government’s office list of STEM fields, look at the code listed under “Primary Major” on Page 1 of your I-20 form, and then look for that code in the CIP code column of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security STEM Designated Degree Programs list: https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2016/stem-list.pdf.
E-Verify is a database system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration. It allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly-hired employees. E-Verify is currently voluntary in most states. For more information visit www.dhs.gov/e-verify.
24-Month Extension Available Twice
The 24-month extension of OPT is available to each student at TWO non-consecutive periods of time. Please note that this rule is different from the application rules for the “standard” 12-month OPT, under which students could be approved for multiple OPT periods for each higher degree earned in the U.S. (i.e. bachelor’s, then master’s, then doctoral). Each STEM extension must meet the above-listed STEM eligibility requirements.
24-Month STEM OPT Extension based on previous degree
Students now have the ability to apply for a STEM OPT extension based on a previously earned STEM degree from an accredited U.S. institution within 10 years under which the student has not previously applied for STEM OPT Extension. Example: a student had a bachelor’s degree in Engineering, didn’t have STEM OPT based on that degree, then got an MBA, received regular (12-month) OPT based on the MBA; the student is eligible (if meeting all other STEM OPT eligibility requirements) to apply for 24-month STEM OPT at the end of the 12-month OPT after his/her MBA.
Students and employers are required to complete the new Form I-983 in order to begin the STEM OPT extension process
Employment during STEM OPT
- Any job the student has on STEM OPT must be related to his/her program of study.
- Students on STEM OPT are only allowed to work for e-verified employers.
- Volunteering/unpaid employment is not permitted during the STEM OPT extension
- Self-employment is not permitted during the STEM OPT extension
- Students on STEM OPT may not work for less than 20 hours per week, so working for more than one employer is only permitted if each job is at least 20 hours per week
- Employment through consulting firms that provide labor for hire and other relationships that do not constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship is not permitted. In case of employment through a staffing or temporary agency, the agency cannot complete and sign Form I-983. Only the E-verified employer that provides the actual training is authorized to sign and complete Form I-983. Please see DHS website for more information
Travel Outside USA during STEM OPT
- Your passport valid for at least six months into the future and your unexpired F-1 visa stamp
- I-20 with a valid travel signature. While you are participating in OPT, travel signatures are valid for only 6 months.
- Your EAD card for STEM OPT Extension*
- Proof of employment
*If your STEM OPT application is pending and you plan to travel abroad, please make sure your Post-OPT EAD is still valid. If your Post-OPT EAD is already expired, traveling abroad is NOT recommended.
When to apply
*You cannot apply for STEM extension after your Post-OPT EAD has expired.
How to apply
STEP 2 – Submit STEM Extension I-20 Request to OGS
You must upload the following documents on the eform:
- I-983 completed by you and your employer
- Copy of OPT EAD
- Northeastern Transcript
STEP 3 – Apply for STEM OPT extension with USCIS:
- Original I-765 – please refer to the tab at the end of this section
- Original G-1145
- Copy of new I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation on page 2
- Copy of all previous I-20s
- Copy of passport identity page — include all correction and extension pages
- Copy of most current F-1 student visa stamp or change of status approval notice
- Copy of I-94
- Copy of previous EADs (front and back)
- $410 check, money order or bank check made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- If USCIS receives your application with the wrong fee payment, your application will be rejected and returned to you. (If this occurs, do not resubmit your application; contact an OGS advisor as you may need a new OPT recommendation)
- Two passport photos with white background (lightly print name and SEVIS ID on back of each photo; passport photo MUST be less than 30 days old and glasses should not be worn in photo)
- Copy of your official Northeastern transcript
- Provide a letter from your STEM OPT employer that includes job duties and specifies if employment is part-time or full-time.
IMPORTANT: All documents must be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of the 12 month period of Post-Completion OPT!
Suggestions for Completing Form I-983
- In Section 1 of the Training Plan:
- SEVIS School Code can be found in the school information section on P. 1 of your I-20, under school code and approval date.
- CIP Code is in the Program of Study section on P. 1 of your I-20, under MAJOR 1.
- For DSO Name and Contact Information, please use the following:
405 Ell Hall, 360 Huntington Ave
Boston, MA 02115
- Employment Authorization Number: USCIS# on your EAD card.
- Evaluation of Student Progress sections do not need to be completed for the initial STEM OPT I-20 request. Evaluations are required at the 12-month and 24-month points of the student’s STEM OPT.
- The Training Plan does not need to cover your regular 12-month OPT period, only the STEM OPT period.
- If you have more than one job while on STEM OPT, you must submit Form I-983 for every one of these jobs. Please note that each job you have while on STEM OPT must be at least 20 hours per week.
- It is best to type up the information on Form I-983, if possible. If not possible, you may handwrite it, but make sure that it is easy to read.
Please note: if you are employed through a staffing or temporary agency, the agency cannot complete and sign Form I-983. Only the E-verified employer that provides the actual training is authorized to sign and complete Form I-983.
For any other assistance completing Form I-983, please refer to U.S. Department of Homeland Security web site: studyinthestates.dhs.gov/form-i-983-overview.
Suggestions for Completing Form I-765 for STEM Extension
The numbers below correspond to the numbered items on Form I-765. This form may be downloaded from uscis.gov. Please refer to USCIS I-765 Instructions. Below are some general guidelines for completing Form I-765 for STEM OPT Extension. Please read the instructions for each item and write the information on the form, printing clearly and legibly or you may type the form online and print it.
- The Form I-765 should be completed in its entirety and signed in blue ink.
- Item Number 1: Type your family name in capital letters, followed by a space, and then followed by your first name. If you have any middle name(s) enter it after your first name. Be sure to type your name as it appears on your passport.
- Item Number 2: Other Names. Complete this section only if you use other names on official documents, or if you have a maiden name (name used prior to marriage, usually applies to women who have married and changed their family name). If this does not apply to you, then leave Box 2 blank.
- Item Number 3:S. Mailing Address. The U.S. address you enter here should be the address to which correspondence can be sent for the next 3-4 months during the STEM OPT application period. If you are using someone else’s address (e.g., a friend’s), put “c/o … (person’s name)”. For example: “c/o John Smith” – “care of John Smith”. The post office will not deliver government mail if the name of the person on the mail is not on the post box as well.
- Item Number 4: Country of Citizenship/Nationality. Enter the nation of your current passport. If you have multiple passports, then enter the passport nation under which you have received your F-1 visa
- Item Number 5: Place of Birth – Enter first the town or city in which you were born, followed by the province or state name (if any), and then the country name of your birth.
- Item Number 6: Date of Birth. Enter the numerical date of birth as month, day, and year (4 digit) e.g., March 8, 1992 should be entered as 03/08/1992.
- Item Number 7: Select your gender, as it appears on your passport.
- Item Number 8: Marital Status. Select your current marital status. If you will be getting married in the future, you should still enter what your Marital Status is on the date you submit the I-765, and not what your future plans are.
- Item Number 9: Social Security Number. Enter your 9 digit Social Security Number, if you have one. If you do not currently have one, then leave this item blank.
- Item Number 10: Alien Registration Number (A-Number) or I-94 Number (if any). If you do not have an A-Number number, then list your I-94 number. If you last entered the U.S. before July 2013, then you will have an I-94 Card stapled in your passport. It will have an 11 digit number on it, which is your I-94 number. If you last entered the U.S. after July 2013, then you will not have a physical I-94 card, but you will have been given an electronic number that you will need to retrieve though the I-94 retrieval website.
- Item Number 11: Have you ever before applied for employment authorization from USCIS? Check “Yes” and answer the questions as follows. “Which USCIS Office” – Check your EAD for the number and note the three letter prefix.
- EAC – Vermont Service Center
- WAC – California Service Center
- LIN – Nebraska Service Center
- SRC – Texas Service Center
- YSC – Potomac Service Center
- For “Dates,” enter the dates of employment listed on your EAD card. Under “Results” enter “Granted” and attach a copy of your EAD.
- Item Number 12: Date of Last Entry into the U.S., on or about.Enter the date of last entry listed on your I-94 card in your passport even if you have received more recent entry stamps from visits outside the U.S. lasting less than 30 days. Enter the date in mm/dd/year format: For example, if you last entered the U.S. on August 10, 2015, you will enter 08/10/2015.
- Item Number 13: Place of Last Entry into the U.S. This information is on the stamp in your passport and also on your electronic I-94 record (or paper I-94 card if you have one).
- Item Number 14: Status at Last Entry. Enter the visa status you entered the U.S. under the last time you came into the country. Unless you had a Change of Status while in the U.S., then this will likely be F-1 Student.
- Item Number 15: Current Immigration Status. This should be entered as Student.
- Item Number 16: As a former student applying for STEM Extension, please enter (c) (3) (c).
- For Item 17:
- Enter your degree as it appears on your transcript or diploma. Write out the degree and do not abbreviate.
- Enter the name of the E-Verify employer, and the employer’s E-Verify number.
- Certification: Please make sure you sign your name by hand (it cannot be typed), enter your telephone number, and enter the date on which you have signed the form. You’re done!
Mailing your application to USCIS
Once you have your documents and I-20 for the 24-month extension, and you have copied all documentation and assembled the packet, you should send it to one of the following addresses depending on where you live (the address you put on Form I-765). It is recommended that you mail your OPT packet certified return receipt requested if using U.S. Postal Service.
If your mailing address on I-765 is in: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands or West Virginia
You will be sending your application to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox.
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
For courier service deliveries (non-USPS):
2501 S. State Hwy. 121
Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
If your mailing address on I-765 is in: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, or Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
You will be sending your application to the USCIS Phoenix Lockbox.
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
For courier service deliveries (non-USPS):
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
We strongly recommend that you make copies of your complete application for your records before mailing your application to USCIS.
eShipGlobal Mailing Option
This service is not a Northeastern service. All inquiries should be directed to eShipGlobal directly.
Northeastern does not ship OPT applications to USCIS for students.
For More Information on how to use this service please see the instructions linked below:
- The OGS requires 10 business days to process a request for STEM OPT recommendation.
- Note that USCIS advertises normal processing time for STEM OPT requests as 90 days.
- If you receive your EAD and there are errors on your card, please call the USCIS Customer Service line at 1.800.375.5283 to rectify any mistakes.
After the documentation leaves the respective Lockbox, it is forwarded to the USCIS Service Center where it is generally adjudicated within a period of 90 days. In about fifteen days of USCIS’ receipt of your application for the 24-month OPT extension, you should be receiving a Form I-797, a receipt notice from USCIS.
What happens after I submit my documents to USCIS?
- You should receive a receipt notice from USCIS. You can look up your case status online using the case number.
- Once your STEM OPT is approved, expect to first receive an approval notice and then an EAD card
- While your 24-month OPT STEM extension application is pending, you may continue working for up to 180 days (6 months)*
*The period of the 24-month STEM OPT extension starts the day after the expiration of your original period of approved Post-Completion OPT. While your 24-month OPT STEM extension application is pending, you may continue working for up to 180 days (6 months). The Code of Federal Regulations, 8CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(C) and 8CFR 247a.12(c)(6)(iv), automatically extend your work authorization while the application is pending. However, you must have already submitted all the appropriate documentation to USCIS and paid the filing fee prior to the expiration date of your Post-Completion OPT.
Important reminders and most common application mistakes
- Do not submit STEM OPT application to USCIS prior to obtaining I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation
- USCIS must receive the STEM OPT application within 60 days of the STEM OPT recommendation by the OGS; if the application is not received by USCIS within 60 days after the issuance of STEM OPT I-20, the application will be denied.
- Do not mail in your application so that USCIS receives it more than 90 days before your OPT EAD end date. Your application must be received by USCIS before your OPT EAD expires. Applications received outside of these times will be denied.
- If your entire application is returned to you (in plastic), consult with an OGS Advisor before resubmitting the application; your application may not be considered “received” and you may need a new I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation.
- Make sure that the address on I-765 is valid for receiving mail at all times while your STEM OPT is pending
- If you move, you must update you Residential address within 10 days
- If you change employers while on STEM, you must update your Employer name and address within 10 days
- Note: If you change employers, you and your new employer will need to complete a new I-983 and submit it to the OGS. You also must submit the “Final Evaluation on Student Progress” section of the I-983 for your previous STEM employer.
- You and your employer(s) must report any I-983 Updates to the OGS; updates are required for the following:
- Any change in of Employer Identification Number
- Any reduction in your compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked
- Any significant decrease in your work hours per week
- Loss of employment (within 5 business days of termination of employment)
- The following updates are mandatory to report for all students while on STEM:
- 6 Month validation – You are required to confirm to the OGS every 6 months the validity of the following information (regardless if there is a change or not) Legal name, Residential address, Employer name and address, Status of current employment
- Evaluation on Student Progress(I-983) – You must submit “Evaluation on Student Progress” only after you have completed 12 months of the STEM employment with the same employer (Note: if you leave the employer prior to completing the 12 month during your STEM period, you do not need to complete this section.)
- Final Evaluation on Student Progress (I-983) – You must complete “Final Evaluation on Student Progress” for the following:
- At the end of the 24 month STEM period
- If you leave an employer at any time during the 24 month STEM period
Note: If you have more than one employer while on STEM, you will need to complete this for each employer.
Changing Employers during STEM OPT
When a student leaves his/her 24-month STEM OPT employer, the student is required to provide his/her Final Evaluation on Student Progress (I-983). When a student starts working with a new employer, he/she must submit a new Form I-983 for the new employer.
If your application is pending with USCIS
A student who has a pending STEM OPT application can change employers, but the new employer must also be an E-Verify Employer. The student must report the change of employer to USCIS by doing the following:
- Submit the STEM Extension I-20 Request to OGS
- Send the following documents to USCIS (to the address on the STEM OPT application receipt notice, NOT to the lockbox address where the original application was mailed):
- New Form I-765 (with new employer information)
- Cover letter explaining why you are submitting new I-765 (change of employer) and referencing your pending case #
- Copy of USCIS receipt notice
- Copy of new STEM OPT I-20 (with updated employer information)
If your STEM OPT Application has already been approved
If a student changes his/her employer after the STEM OPT extension is approved, there is no need to notify USCIS about the change. The student needs to submit the update via Employer Update Form. You and your previous employer will need to complete the “Final Evaluation on Student Progress” on Form I-983. You and your current employer will need to complete a new Form I-983.
Unemployment time during 24 month STEM OPT
Additional information that must be reported to OGS
- A decision to discontinue STEM OPT and depart the U.S.—Submit the Request to Complete OPT & SEVIS Record along with a copy of a flight itinerary indicating you have/will depart the U.S.
- Change of status to a status other than F-1
- A decision to begin a new program of study at Northeastern or transfer to another school in the US