STEM OPT Extension

Submitting Your OPT and STEM OPT Application

On April 12, 2021, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that requests for Optional Practical Training (OPT) and the STEM OPT Extension could be applied for via the I-765 online through the USCIS website.  The instructions below contain information on how to apply for the STEM OPT Extension with USCIS for both the online and mail submission methods and students may choose either.

STEM OPT Overview

Students in F-1 status who are currently on OPT can extend their work authorization an additional 24-months total if they meet certain criteria. Students who extend are required to maintain their status under the new regulations.  Official Department of Homeland Security guidance on the new STEM rules can be used as a resource if needed.

Please review this additional information for UC Davis E-verify and other important information if you:

  • hired an international student who has recently graduated and is performing work using the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) Extension benefit, or
  • are an international student who has recently graduated and is performing work using the STEM OPT Extension benefit

Eligibility 

Students currently authorized for Optional Practical Training (OPT) who also:

  • Completed a program of study in a STEM eligible field
  • Are currently working, or have a job offer to work, in a position directly related to the degree obtained
  • Have an employer who participates in the USCIS E-Verify system
  • Have used 90 days or less of their unemployment eligibility
  • Submit a complete I-983 training plan to SISS at least two weeks before the customized USCIS filing deadline as determined by the STEM OPT Extension Calculator
  • Submit a complete request to USCIS prior to the expiration of your current OPT period

Every major has a numerical code, known as a CIP code.  You can find the CIP code for your major on page 1 of your I-20 (for example: 11.0701 Computer Science).  You can check if your major field’s CIP code appears on the STEM designated degree list.


How to Apply 

You must apply in the 90-day window before your current EAD expires. As long as your application is received by USCIS before the EAD expiration date, you will be allowed to remain in the US and continue employment for up to 180 days while a decision is made on your application. You cannot apply more than 90 days before your OPT is scheduled to expire.

The optimal time to begin your STEM OPT extension request in iGlobal is approximately 4-6 weeks before your current OPT end date. We caution against waiting less than 4 weeks before your current OPT end date to start your STEM OPT request in iGlobal as this decreases the amount of time to respond to a USCIS Request for Evidence or rejection notification.

Determine your customized timeline by downloading the STEM OPT Extension Calculator.

Step 1: Attend the STEM OPT Workshop

Step 2: Submit an iGlobal request to SISS for a STEM OPT Extension recommendation I-20

  • Request an STEM OPT Extension recommendation I-20 through iGlobal
Example of how to file a STEM OPT Extension request in iGlobal
  • Complete all required e-forms in iGlobal, which includes uploading: 
  • While you wait for SISS to issue your STEM OPT recommendation I-20, you may begin preparing the STEM OPT Extension Application documents listed in Step 3. Do not proceed to Step 4 until you receive your STEM OPT Extension recommendation I-20 from SISS.  

Step 3: Prepare your STEM OPT Extension Application Documents 

  • Check the current filing fee before submitting. Check or money order payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security if you are mailing your request to USCIS.  Credit or debit card or bank account information if you will complete the online request (do not pay the online filing fee and submit your online USCIS OPT until your iGlobal request has been approved and you have your OPT recommendation I-20 from your SISS advisor).
  • Optional (highly recommended): Form G-1145  to receive an e-mail and/or a text message that your application has been accepted and the receipt number you will use to track your case (this form is only for the mail in application to USCIS and not for the Online USICS STEM OPT Extension submission)
  • Original I-765 application form (if mailing your request to USCIS)
    • The physical signature MUST fit inside the box and be signed with black ink. Electronic signatures are not acceptable.
  • Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record 
    • Option 1: A printout of your electronicForm I-94
    • Option 2: Photocopy of both front and back of a paper I-94 record stapled in the passport (rare) 
  • A copy of your first year of OPT EAD (front and back)
  • Photocopy of passport biographical information, showing passport expiration date
  • A copy of your visa stamp page in your passport
    • Although this is not an official requirement yet, student applications have been rejected because a copy of the visa stamp has not been included
  • Photocopy of the new I-20 with the STEM OPT Extension recommendation (all pages). Be sure to sign and date the Student Attestation section  
  • A copy of your STEM-eligible diploma or official copies of your transcripts showing you completed the degree you are applying for the STEM OPT extension with. You can request diplomas and/or official transcripts from the Office of the University Registrar (OUR). 
  • Two photos

    • Must have been taken within the past 30 days on a white background, 2” x 2”
    • See photo guidelines 
    • If mailing your OPT request to USCIS, print your full name, SEVIS ID, and date of birth lightly in pencil or felt pen on the back of the photos
  • Do not include the I-983 training plan in your USCIS submission
  • If you are submitting your STEM OPT Extension request via mail to USCIS your OPT packet documents should be in the order as shown above

 

Optional: Schedule an appointment with a Tier 1 Advisor for a STEM OPT Extension Packet Review to have your documents reviewed before mailing your application or completing the online submission to USCIS.

Step 4: Submit your STEM OPT Extension Request to USCIS

  • After receiving your STEM OPT Extension recommendation I-20, submit your application to USCIS as soon as possible. USCIS must receive your application before your current first year of OPT EAD end date and within 60 days of the date SISS recommended your STEM OPT Extension (refer to the “Date Issued” on page 1 of your I-20).
    • If submitting your STEM OPT Extension request via mail, mail the OPT packet to USCIS:
      • Use an express mail courier (Federal Express, UPS, DHL, etc.) and keep your tracking number to confirm delivery.  Mail to the USCIS address below:
        USCIS
        Attn: I-765 C03 
        (Box 805373)

        131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
        Chicago, IL 60603-5517
    • If completing the online STEM OPT Extension submission to USCIS follow part 4 in these detailed instructions (only after your iGlobal STEM OPT Extension request has been approved and you have received your STEM OPT Extension recommendation I-20)

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I stay in status under the new regulations?
  • OPT applicants are allowed a total of 90 days unemployment during their initial 12-month OPT allocation or a total of 150 days during their 24-month STEM OPT allocation, including any unused unemployment accumulated during the initial OPT authorized period. It is, therefore vital that you keep SISS updated with your employer information to avoid being erroneously viewed as unemployed. Consider tracking your unemployment days using the unemployment calculator.
  • Can I continue to work while my 24-month OPT STEM Extension is pending with USCIS?
  • If the I-765 is properly and timely filed, the student's standard post-completion OPT EAD is considered automatically extended pursuant to 8 CFR 274a.12(b)(6)(iv), for up to 180 days while the STEM OPT extension EAD application is pending. 
  • What if I do not have a Social Security Number?
  • Students who are being paid for work in the United States will need to apply for a Social Security Number and plan to file taxes.
  • Can I travel during STEM OPT?
  • When returning, please present the following items to the Border Patrol Officer:

    1. Passport (not expiring in the next 6 months)

    2. Unexpired F-1 visa

    3. I-20 signed for travel in the past 6 months and showing your current employment information

    4. Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card

    5. Job offer letter or letter from your employer on letterhead stating that you will be expected to return to work on mm/dd/yyyy following your travel.  Make sure to include contact information for your employer/supervisor.  If the travel is authorized by your employer, you do not count unemployment dates during your period of travel.

    If you plan to renew your F-1 visa during travel, also prepare:

    1. Proof of employment with funds sufficient to cover living expenses (such as job offer, letter from employer, pay stubs received, and/or bank statement)

    2. A copy of your I-983 (may be requested)

    3. Any other documentation asked for by the embassy/consulate.

  • If my employer has obtained an H-1B for me, effective this coming October, do I still need the extension?
  • The H-1B cap-gap extension states that the duration of your F-1 status and work authorization will be automatically extended for a student on OPT who is the beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition requesting an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. This applies to all students on OPT, not just STEM students. The extension of duration of status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf. This will allow the continuation of employment between the expiry of OPT and the start of the H-1B without filing for the 24-month extension for all students on OPT.

    Students are strongly encouraged to stay in close communication with their petitioning employer during the Cap-Gap extension period for status updates on the H-1B petition processing.

    Students can request a Cap-Gap I-20 with evidence of an H-1B petition selected for processing by USCIS through iGlobal (log on through Limited Services).How do I change my address with USCIS? 

  • How do I change my address with USCIS?
  • 1. Go to: https://egov.uscis.gov/coa/displayCOAForm.do and click “Continue” at the bottom of the page
    2. If USCIS has already received your OPT application materials please click “yes” to the question “Is this change of address for an application or petition currently in  progress” and complete the following steps:
        a. Under “Case Information” select “I765”
        b. Under “Form Sub Type” select “I765 – Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student [(c)(3)]”
        c. Add your Receipt Number from your I-797. (It usually starts with a YSC)
        d. Add the Zip code of the home address you used on the I-765 application that you sent to USCIS
        e. Complete sections 3-1​​2
    If USCIS has not received your request please click “no” and complete sections 3-12
    3. Applicant or Petitioner Information: 
        a. The “A-Number” section is only if you already have an Employment Authorization Card (EAD). If you do not, leave it blank.
    4. Citizenship
    5. Old Address
    6. New Address
    7. Mailing Address:
        a. This section is optional. If you would like USCIS to send your mail to another address that is not your home address and you can add a C/O name of someone at the address who will be responsible for your mail. This is not recommended unless you have no other choice.
    8. Enter an email address if you would like a confirmation sent to you (This section is optional but recommended)
    9. Filed by (if being filed by you: please choose “Applicant or Petitioner”)
    10. Complete security check
    11. Click the box that says, “By accepting this electronic signature, the applicant or petitioner, parent or guardian, or legal representative certifies under penalty of perjury that all information provided is true and correct.”
    12. Click the submit button and your change of address will be submitted to USCIS, and you will be brought to confirmation page

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