Optional Practical Training (STEM Extension)


Commonly known as the STEM extension, the 24-Month OPT Extension is for F-1 students who are currently authorized for OPT based on completion of a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D. degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) field. STEM OPT extensions may be granted once per degree level (i.e. bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate). However, a student may only receive the OPT extension up to twice during the course of his or her studies in the U.S.


To apply for the 24 Month Extensions, students must meet these requirements:

  • Be on approved 12 month OPT.
  • Accrued fewer than 90 days of unemployment during current period of 12 month OPT.
  • Completed and graduated with a Bachelor, Master, or Doctorate degree in a STEM field as identified by the STEM Designated Degree Programs list published by Department of Homeland Security.
    • There is no flexibility to grant an OPT extension for a major that does not meet these guidelines.
    • Degree may be from current institution or previously earned at a different accredited U.S. institution within past ten years.
    • Graduate students with thesis/dissertation requirements may potentially file for the extension without degree conferral. However, all coursework must be complete.
  • Been approved no more than once previously for a 24 Month OPT Extension (two-time option only).
  • Be employed in or have a job offer for a position related to the earned STEM degree. The employer must enrolled in the E-Verify program and have an FEIN (Federal Employer Identification Number).
  • Agree to provide the student with mentorship and learning objectives and document the training plan through completion of form I-983. The employer must complete form I-983 on behalf of the student at time of application, anytime there is a material change in employment, and yearly review at the 12 month and 24 month time period
    • Please note that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the discretion to conduct site visits with your employer to confirm implementation of the training plan goals and review compliance with regulations.
    • Ensure that duties, hours, and compensation are commensurate with terms and conditions applicable to the employer’s similarly situated U.S. workers in the area of employment.
    • Notify ISSS in the event of the termination of student’s employment or departure from the job within five business days.

Other Restrictions

Please note that self-employment and volunteer work do not qualify for the STEM extension. Please review USCIS's statement regarding The Employer's Obligation to verify that your employment opportunity meets the requirements of STEM OPT.

When should you apply for the OPT extension?

USCIS will accept 24 Month OPT Extension applications up to 90 days (three months) prior to the expiration of your initial 12 months of OPT. Your application must be received and receipted by USCIS before your 12 month period of OPT expires. ISSS recommends applying as early as possible.

Provided that your application for the 24-Month OPT Extension is received in a timely manner, you may continue employment for up to 180 days after the expiration of your initial period of OPT while your application is being processed by USCIS.

24-Month Extension Application Process

Login to your InterLink account using your unique ID and password. Go to “F-1 Practical Training” and complete the e-form request “Optional Practical Training (OPT) 24-Month Extension Request.”

Required Documentation for your 24-Month OPT Extension Application

  • Form I-765. USCIS provides general guidance regarding Form I-765. For more specific guidance on completion of the form, please review ISSS instructions. You must complete the most recent version of the I-765 form on the USCIS website. Do not use your previous I-765 form to apply for the extension.
  • Form I-983. This form is your and your employer's training plan. Please note this form should be primarily completed by your employer. See instructions [PDF] from the government for more guidance.
  • Non-Refundable Application Fee of $410. Personal checks or money orders are accepted and should be made payable to the “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” Note: If you choose personal check, be prepared to ensure your account has sufficient funds for several weeks. If the check has an old address on it, cross it out and write your current address. Credit card payments are also accepted and should be submitted by completing form G-1450
  • Copy of your passport including the name and photo page as well as expiration date.
  • Copy of entry stamp in passport and electronic I-94 number information.
  • Copy of your Employment Authorization Documents. Please make a copy of the front and back of your OPT card.
  • Two color passport-style photos.
    • Photos must be taken within the last 30 days within the U.S. Please do not submit old photos or photos taken outside the U.S. or else your application may be rejected by USCIS
    • On the back of the photos, print your name and I-94 number in pencil or pen; press lightly so you don’t dent or smear the picture.
  • Copy of diploma that shows your degree level and program of study and transcript (official or unofficial) showing degree conferral
  • Job offer/confirmation letter from employer
  • Copy of the new I-20 from ISSS with recommendation for OPT extension (to be processed after receiving your application for an extension).
  • Optional: Form G-1145 If you complete this form, USCIS will send you a text message and/or e-mail when your application is received.

Submission of Application

If you have questions about the application process or materials, you may schedule an in-person or phone appointment with an ISSS advisor.

Please go to InterLink and submit the Optional Practical Training (OPT) 24 Month Extension Request. Provided that all information submitted in the e-form is accurate, an ISSS advisor will issue I-20 recommending an extension of your OPT within two weeks of submission. After I-20 issuance, you will receive an email with instructions on how to submit a shipping request.

After document receipt, you should mail your application to the appropriate USCIS Service Center. Please be sure to keep a copy of everything you submit. The application must be filed with the USCIS Service Center that has geographic jurisdiction over the address you list on the Form I-765.

Approximately 2-4 weeks after USCIS receives your application, they will mail a receipt notice to the address you used on your I-765. There is a tracking number on the notice that you can use to track the progress of your OPT application online. Your card should arrive to the address listed on your I-765 approximately 3 months after USCIS receives your application.

If you used ISSS’s address on the I-765 form, your documents will be sent to ISSS and you will be notified by e-mail when they are available for pick-up and mailing arrangements will be made.

Unemployment on STEM Extension

You must work more than 20 hours per week in a paid position directly related to your STEM major field of study.

You may not accrue more than 150 days of unemployment during the entire period of OPT (initial 12 month period plus 24 Month Extension).

OPT Reporting Requirement and Additional Six Month Check-In, and Annual Evaluations

While on OPT you are legally required to report certain information to ISSS including employment. Changes to any of the following must be reported within 10 days of the event. Events to report:

  • Any change in your residential address
  • Any change in your employment or unemployment status
  • Any material changes to your employment
  • Any change to another immigration status
  • Any plans to depart the U.S. permanently and end your OPT before your OPT end date

To Report

  1. Login to your InterLink account and click the blue login button for "Client Services." You will need your unique and password.
  2. Select "F-1 Practical Training"
  3. Complete the "Optional Practical Training (OPT) 24-Month Report" e-form.

In addition to the regular reporting requirement, all individuals approved for a 24-Month OPT Extension are required per government regulations to check-in with ISSS every six months, regardless of any employment or personal address changes. To comply with this requirement, please submit an “OPT 24-Month Report” e-form.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Portal offers limited reporting capabilities for those engaging in a 24-Month OPT Extension. As a result, ISSS requests that you continue to submit updates or changes through InterLink.

Your employer and you are also required to complete an annual evaluation (form I-983) during your extension period. The first evaluation (listed on the top of page 5) should take place 12 months into your extension period. The final evaluation and exit interview (listed at the bottom of page 5) should occur at the end of your extension period. If you change employers during the extension period, you will need to fill out the final evaluation portion of the I-983 with the previous employer as well as submit an updated I-983 with the new employer. You are required to submit this documentation to ISSS. To do so, please login to InterLink and submit an “OPT 24 Month Report” e-form.

Travel while on 24-Month OPT Extension

It is possible to travel outside the U.S. during your approved 24-month OPT extension period. It is recommended you travel with the following documents:

  • Passport (valid for at least six months from the date of your re-entry)
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp (unless using automatic visa revalidation)
  • OPT Extension I-20 with valid travel signature (given within the last six months)
  • Your unexpired OPT card
  • Proof of employment

If your application is still pending at the time of travel, government guidelines indicate that traveling outside the U.S. should still be possible. However, if you are traveling after the expiration of your 12 month employment authorization document and before receipt of your new employment authorization document, this could possibly cause confusion at the port of entry so ISSS urges caution. ISSS has learned that most individuals re-entering the U.S. on OPT are being taken to a space known as “secondary” so that the officer may further scrutinize documents. This practice is occurring due to issues with the officer’s system recognizing the OPT. Do not be alarmed. The officer just needs extra time to verify documentation but if you have all of the listed materials, your re-entry should still go smoothly.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is my status while on the 24-Month OPT Extension?

You remain in F-1 status.

Do I have to use all 24 months?

The 24 months are automatic; ISSS has no way to shorten or lengthen the amount.

What is E-Verify? How do I know if my employer is E-Verified?

E-Verify is USCIS’s web-based system that electronically verifies the employment eligibility of employees. Employers who participate in the program have their own unique E-Verify number.

Not all employers participate in E-Verify, and if your employer does not participate, you will not be eligible for the extension. Please consult with your employer’s Human Resources department for more information.

Can I change employers while my 24-Month OPT Extension is pending?

Yes, provided the new employer participates in E-Verify. You will need to notify ISSS of any changes in your employment. You will need to submit form I-983 from the previous employer with a completed final evaluation on page 5. You will also need to submit the updated form I-983 for the new employer.

I see I may apply for the STEM extension twice. Can I go ahead and apply for my second extension after my first extension?

No. You would need to complete another STEM degree at a higher level (i.e. Master’s to Ph.D.) to qualify for OPT again and the STEM extension.

Can I have multiple employers at the same time while on the STEM Extension?

Maybe, depending on the situation. However, each employer would need to meet the guidelines for the extension and submission of appropriate forms including the training plan. It is possible though that this might raise questions from the government which may scrutinize the application more closely to ensure that training objectives are being met at both employers.

I was previously approved for the STEM extension after my Master’s degree.  I’m completing my second Master’s degree now. Can I have the STEM extension again?

Please note that you may be granted a STEM OPT extension only once per degree level and the second STEM OPT request will need to be a higher degree level than the first.

How do I renew my U.S. Driver’s License?

Your driver’s license may be expiring upon the end of your original 12 month OPT work authorization period. If your driver’s license is expiring and you do not yet have your new OPT (EAD) card, please keep in mind that the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles may allow you to renew your license with evidence that you are currently on 12 Month Optional Practical Training, have requested to extend your OPT (STEM Extension), and are currently employed or have a job offer. Generally, you could take a combination of the I-20 that was issued for your STEM Extension, your current OPT card, the I-797C receipt notice showing that you have applied for the STEM Extension, as well as your job offer letter (in addition to all other documents the BMV requires to obtain your driver's license) to assist with the renewal process. It takes approximately 4-6 weeks after USCIS receives your OPT application for the I-797C receipt notice to arrive in the mail.

Can I expedite my application?

No, it is not possible to expedite Optional Practical Training applications. ISSS encourages you to allow sufficient time and apply as early as you are able!

What if my Employment Authorization Document (EAD or OPT card) is lost or stolen?

In this situation, you will need to apply for a replacement card. To do so, you will need to send the following documents to USCIS:

  1. Letter detailing how the card was lost or stolen.
  2. If stolen, a copy of the police report.
  3. A new OPT application (see OPT application process above). Some differences:
    • Select the "Replacement of lost, stolen, or damaged employment authorization document" option
    • Copies of all OPT-related I-20s
    • Copy of your original EAD