OPT STEM Extension

About F1 OPT STEM Extension

  • The STEM extension of F1 OPT provides an additional 24 months of F1 OPT for students who have a U.S. degree in an approved STEM field.
  • If you get another qualifying STEM degree at a higher degree level, you will be able to apply for the STEM extension a second time after the regular 12 months of OPT for the new higher degree level.
  • You are also allowed to apply for the STEM extension based on a PREVIOUSLY earned STEM degree if you earned the STEM degree in the U.S., you are working in a job related to that STEM field, and you have not already applied for STEM OPT based on that previous degree. (Even though in this case it would be for a previous degree, your current OPT school recommends the STEM OPT on your current I-20 SEVIS record.

Eligibility Criteria for STEM OPT

In order to apply for the STEM extension:

  • You must be an F1 student currently on the first 12 months of OPT, or you are on the "CAP Gap Extension" of OPT
  • You must be within 3 months of the end date of your first 12 months of OPT, or your "Cap Gap extension" of OPT
  • You have received a Bachelor's, Master's or PhD degree in the U.S. in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) field
  • Your current employer must be enrolled in "E-Verify",
  • You have to have a job in the STEM field in which you graduated,
  • You must be in a paid position
  • You must be working for the employer at whose company you are physically working (cannot be hired by a staffing agency and placed at another employer).

STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) fields

The major field names listed on your F1 I-20 are NOT the department or major field names we have at Cornell. The names of the fields we are required by law to use on your I-20 are based on the "CIP" (Classification of Instructional Programs) codes identified by the US Federal Government. These codes are specific to how our degrees are accredited and we cannot change them.

Fields that qualify for the STEM OPT extension

Procedures to Apply

  • Documents to send with the application

    1. Form I-765 (which you will download from uscis.gov) (follow instructions on pages 2-3)
    2. If you want to receive electronic notices from USCIS, attach form G-1145 available from www.uscis.gov.
    3. A copy of page 1 and page 2 of the new I-20 that the ISSO advisor gives you with the recommendation for STEM OPT on page 2.
    4. A print out of your US Admission Record from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov OR copy of your I-94 card
    5. A copy of photo page (identification page) of your passport with passport expiration date.
    6. A copy of the F1 visa page of your passport (even if expired) (Canadians won’t have this).
    7. A copy of ALL previous I-20s that have been issued to you for your current degree program (if you do not have these, check with the ISSO advisor to get copies.)
    8. A copy of your previous OPT card or other work card (EAD) if you have had one
    9. Two NEW passport type photographs from within the last 30 days (See attached sample). You may not use photos that you previously used for a visa interview or a passport.  Print your name and US Admission Record number (from the I-94 record) lightly in pencil on the back of each photo. Put the photos in an envelope and attach it to front of I-765. DO NOT CUT THE PHOTOS!
    10. Fee of $410 (check the USCIS web page for I-765 forms to check the correct fee). Checks may be made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. You may send a money order or a personal check drawn on a US bank, NO CASH. Attach the check to the front of the I-765.
    11. If you are applying for the STEM extension, you must also include a copy of your transcripts or diploma as long as it states the degree field.

  • Where to file your STEM extension

    If you live in: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Guam, or the Northern Mariana Islands.

    Then mail your application to the "Phoenix lockbox" here:
    USCIS Phoenix Lockbox
    For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:

    PO Box 21281
    Phoenix, AZ 85036

    For Express mail and courier deliveries:

    Attn: AOS
    1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
    Suite 100
    Phoenix, AZ 85034

    if you live 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

    Then mail your application to the "Dallas lockbox" here:

    For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries:

    PO Box 660867
    Dallas, TX 75266

    For Express mail and courier deliveries:

    Attn: AOS
    2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business
    Suite 400
    Lewisville, TX 75067

OPT authorization is automatically extended for 180 days while STEM is pending

  • If you apply for the STEM OPT extension as detailed above, as soon as your STEM OPT application is RECEIVED by the immigration service, your current OPT work authorization is automatically extended for 180 days while the application is processed.

Reporting Requirements while on STEM OPT

While on the 24 month STEM OPT, you will have to complete reports every six (6) months and if anything changes in your job or your residential address, email and phone number, as well as submitting evaluation forms. Read the details on reporting requirements here under "24 month (STEM) OPT Reporting Requirements."

Changing Jobs while on STEM OPT extension

If you change jobs while on the STEM extension, you will need to update the Cornell ISSO in two ways.

  1. Complete and submit the OPT employment report form online here.
  2. Email an updated I-983 training plan to Cornell's Office of Global Learning within 10 days of starting your new employment.

If you want an updated I-20 after reporting the changes to us, request a new copy of your I-20 one week after submitting your updated employment information.

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