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OPT STEM Extension

If you have graduated with a STEM degree (science, technology, engineering, and math) you may be eligible to apply for STEM OPT, which extends your OPT for an additional 24 months.  You apply for STEM OPT in the 90-day period before your OPT ends.

The Department of Homeland Security has created a STEM OPT Hub with helpful information for you and your employer.


Applying for STEM OPT

Maintaining Status on STEM OPT

It is important to provide timely updates on your STEM OPT participation in order to stay in F-1 status. This includes verification of your status every 6 months and 12 & 24-month I-983 training evaluation plans.

Submit your STEM OPT Updates

Submit the OPT Updates Form

Every 6 months

When you change employers or have a material change in your employment

If you decide to finish OPT early

Submit an evaluation with the Updates Form

At 12 months and 24 months of STEM OPT

When you leave an employer (final evaluation)

All evaluations are submitted via the STEM OPT Updates Form. Evaluation forms can be found on page 5 of the I-983 training plan.

Update the SEVP Portal

When you change your contact details (within 10 days of any change)

Unemployment on STEM OPT

Maximum of 150 days of unemployment during the entire period of OPT (90 days on post-completion OPT and 60 days on STEM Extension).

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has indicated that students who do not report their OPT participation may lose their F-1 status. Please complete the STEM OPT Updates Form when required so that we can update your SEVIS record appropriately.

Information if your employer is not complying with the I-983 training plan

Frequently Asked Questions

Applying for STEM OPT

When do I apply for STEM OPT?

You can apply for OPT in the 90-day period before your current OPT period ends. It is very important that USCIS receives your STEM OPT Extension application at least the business day before your current OPT period ends.

Please submit your STEM OPT I-20 request to Boise State’s ISS office (including your I-983 form) at least 4 weeks before your current OPT period ends to allow for enough time for you to file a timely STEM OPT application.  Please note that I-983 training plan edits may be required before an I-20 can be created.

STEM OPT I-20 Request

Are there any types of work that don’t qualify for the STEM Extension?

Part-time employment

Unpaid/Volunteer Employment

Self-employment (or where you are the sole proprietor of the business)

Employment through temp agencies (you must have a bona fide employer: employee relationship; the employer that signs your I-983 training plan must be your employer and the entity providing the practical training experience)

Start-up businesses (if they don’t adhere to the I-983 training plan regulations)

You must be employed by the company that develops and supervises the I-983 training plan, and that must be the employer to which you are providing services.  Employment through consulting firms may not always meet the eligibility requirements for a STEM OPT extension.

What happens if my STEM OPT is not approved before my OPT period ends?

It’s very important that your STEM OPT application is received by USCIS no later than the business day before your current OPT period ends. If it is received in time, then your OPT work authorization is extended for up to 180 days while your STEM OPT application is pending.  This allows you to remain in the US and continue working for your STEM OPT employer.

There are advantages in applying as early as possible, as some states will not renew driver’s licenses without an approved STEM OPT application.

STEM OPT is pending. How do I change employer?

If your STEM OPT is not yet approved then you must submit two I-983 training plans to Boise State University’s ISS office:

1) New I-983 form for your new employer

2) Final Evaluation (page 5) of the I-983 training plan you completed with your prior employer (if your STEM OPT period has already begun).  This should be submitted within 10 days of leaving your employer

Submit your updated I-983 forms

You will also need to complete a new I-765 form and submit it to USCIS, along with a copy of your STEM OPT receipt notice and your updated I-20.

Depending on the timing, if possible, you may wish to change employers after your STEM OPT is approved, when the process is more straightforward.

How long does it take STEM OPT to be approved?

STEM OPT applications take a similar amount of time to be adjudicated by USCIS as post-completion OPT applications. This is typically 2-3 months. In early 2024, adjudication is about 45 days, but this could change at any time.

There are options to obtain a decision within 30 calendar days through filing Form I-907 with your application and paying an additional non-refundable filing fee of $1,685. We recommend you consider whether this speed is needed, as although your application must be filed before your post-completion OPT end date, it does not have to be approved by that date for you to continue working or remaining in the U.S.. If you file your application on time, you are eligible to keep working while the application is pending for up to 180 days after your post-completion OPT ends.

Can I travel outside the US while my STEM OPT is pending?

Yes, but the timing can be challenging. If your STEM OPT is approved while you are outside the US then you will be expected to present your new EAD card upon entry to the US.

Prior to STEM OPT approval, you will need your I-20, STEM OPT Application receipt notice, and evidence of employment, in addition to a valid F1 visa and passport.

Entry to the US is at the discretion of the CBP official at your point of entry.

General STEM OPT Information

How many unemployment days do I have on STEM OPT?

You are allowed an additional 60 days of unemployment during the 24-month STEM OPT extension period.

STEM OPT is approved. How do I change employer?

You must report your change of employer within 10 days of leaving the position.  You report this through the STEM OPT Participation report. You must include a final evaluation of your prior STEM OPT employment (final page of the I-983 form) as well as a new I-983 form for the new employment. The new employment must meet all STEM OPT requirements.

How do I update my contact details?

You update your contact details (address, phone number) via the SEVP Portal.

Update your contact information