When To Apply For Stem Opt Extension?

When To Apply For Stem Opt Extension

Are you a STEM graduate looking to extend your stay in the United States? Do you know when to apply for a STEM OPT extension? It’s important to understand the guidelines and requirements to avoid any delays or complications with your application.

In this article, we’ll discuss the guidelines and requirements for the extension, as well as the timelines that you need to follow to ensure a smooth and successful application process.

When To Apply For Stem Opt Extension?

To follow USCIS rules, it is ideal to get a STEM OPT extension 90 days before your OPT EAD card expires. You can do this by getting a new I-20 from the International Student Services office. This should also be done 90 days before your OPT EAD card expires. 

The STEM OPT Extension permits eligible students to stay in the US for up to 36 months after their initial 12-month period of post-completion OPT has ended. 

This guarantees that there is enough time for the I-20 application process and for USCIS to receive and handle the STEM OPT extension request before the student’s current OPT EAD card expires.

Before submitting their STEM OPT extension application to USCIS, students should make sure they have obtained a current I-20 with a new end date for their STEM degree program. 

To apply for a STEM OPT extension, students must wait until they receive a new I-20 with an updated STEM degree program end date from their International Student Services office. 

Additionally, the completed application must be received by USCIS before the expiration of the 12-month OPT EAD card to be considered for the extension.

What Is The OPT STEM Extension?

What Is The OPT STEM Extension?
Photo by Antoine Dautry on Unsplash

The OPT STEM Extension program permits qualified international students in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics fields to prolong their Optional Practical Training period by 24 months. The extension is exclusively accessible to students who have finished a degree and are currently serving their initial 12-month OPT duration.

The purpose of the extension is to provide international students with more time to gain practical work experience in their field of study. 

Additionally, it can increase students’ chances of obtaining an H-1B visa or other work visas in the future. 

To be eligible for the OPT STEM Extension, students must meet certain requirements and submit the necessary application documents to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Can You Change Employers Once You Apply For An Extension?

It’s possible to switch employers after applying for an extension, but tread carefully – the process can be a maze. Once you’ve submitted your work visa extension application, you’ll have to file a fresh one with the USCIS to make the switch.

You will also need to provide evidence of your new job offer and meet all the requirements for the new position. 

It is important to note that changing employers during the extension process can delay the approval of your application. 

Hence, it is best to consult with an immigration attorney before making any changes.

How To Change Employer While Your Extension Is Pending?

In general, it is possible to change employers while your 24-month STEM OPT extension application is pending with USCIS. In order to do so, you must report the change to ISS through the MyISSS portal using the ‘Report New Employment’ request. 

In the “comments” section, you should explain that your STEM OPT extension application is still pending with USCIS. 

It is important to note that regulations require employment changes to be reported within 10 days. 

Your ISS adviser will provide a copy of an updated I-20 directly to USCIS. 

By following these steps, you can change employers while your extension is pending and ensure that your immigration status remains in compliance.

How To Apply For Stem Opt Extension?

To apply for a STEM OPT extension, you must first obtain a Form I-20 from your designated school official (DSO). You must then complete Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and submit it to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with the required documentation and fees. 

You must apply for the extension within 90 days of the expiration of your current OPT. 

It is important to carefully follow all instructions and provide accurate information to avoid delays or denial of your application.

  • Get Organized

Prepare your documents ahead of time to ensure the application process goes smoothly. You’ll need a copy of your current Form I-20, a copy of your OPT employment authorization document (EAD), a copy of your STEM degree, and a completed Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students

You’ll also need evidence of your job or job offer from an employer enrolled in the E-Verify program.

  • Contact Designated School Official (DSO)

Before beginning the application process, meet with your DSO to discuss the extension request and have them update your student record accordingly. 

Your DSO must approve the training plan on Form I-983 before submitting the application.

  • Complete Form I-765 

Complete Form I-765 
Photo by Leon Dewiwje on Unsplash

Gather the necessary information and fill out the form accurately. Be sure to include your SEVIS ID number, Social Security Number (if available), and signature as required.

  • Submit Your Application

Mail your application packet with all required documents to the USCIS address listed on the form. 

It is important to send it by a method that includes tracking and delivery confirmation (such as certified mail).

  • Wait for Processing

The average processing time for STEM OPT applications is approximately 3 months, however, there are cases where an application can take longer. 

Keep in touch with your DSO throughout the process for updates on your status and any additional requirements needed from USCIS.

  • Receive Your New EAD

Once your application is approved, USCIS will mail you a new EAD card. Make sure to keep this card in a safe place as it is required for employment and travel purposes.

What Is The Eligibility Criteria For Stem Opt Extension?

To be eligible for STEM OPT extension, one must have completed a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral degree in a STEM field from an accredited institution. Additionally, the employer must be enrolled in E-Verify and must provide a formal training plan for the STEM OPT student. 

The student must also apply for the extension prior to the expiration of their current OPT and must not have exceeded 90 days of unemployment during their OPT period. 

Finally, the student must maintain valid F-1 status throughout the STEM OPT extension period.

To qualify, students must:

  • Individuals who possess an appropriate degree in one of the DHS-approved STEM fields and currently hold a post-completion OPT are eligible.
  • The requirement is to either have an employer registered with the E-Verify employment verification system or have a job offer from such an employer.
  • To be eligible for OPT, one must have less than 90 days of unemployment during their current period.
  • To qualify, the applicant must obtain employment from a federal government-approved company for a minimum of 20 hours per week with full pay.
Explanation Should you apply for STEM OPT extension?
If you are currently on F-1 visa status and have earned a STEM degree from a US institution Yes
If your current OPT authorization is expiring within 120 days and you have a job or job offer related to your STEM degree Yes
If you have maintained lawful F-1 status and are working for an employer who is enrolled in E-Verify Yes
If you have previously been granted a STEM OPT extension and are eligible for a second 24-month extension Yes
If you have completed a STEM degree and your current OPT authorization has not yet expired Yes

Can We Apply STEM OPT Extension Online?

The STEM OPT extension can be applied for online through the SEVP Portal. However, meeting the eligibility criteria is crucial, such as having completed a STEM degree from an accredited institution and having a job offer from an E-Verify enrolled employer.

The online application process involves submitting Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, along with supporting documents and paying the required fee. 

The process can take several weeks or even months, so it is important to apply well in advance of the current OPT expiration date.

Can You Apply For Stem OPT Outside The US?

Yes, you can apply for STEM OPT outside the US. However, if you are approved for OPT/STEM while outside the US, you will need to arrange for your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card to be sent to you in order to re-enter the United States. 

Furthermore, if your F-1 visa has expired, you will need to reapply for an F-1 visa with your EAD card and proof of employment. 

It is important to note that the application process for STEM OPT is the same whether you are inside or outside the US. 

However, the logistics of receiving and using the EAD card can be more complicated if you are outside the country. 

It is always best to consult with an immigration lawyer or your designated school official before applying for STEM OPT outside the US.

What Happens If You Make A Mistake When Filing For STEM OPT With USCIS?

When filing for STEM OPT with USCIS, mistakes can lead to delays or denial of your application. Examples of common errors include incomplete, inaccurate forms, missing required documents, or failing to meet deadlines. To prevent errors, it is crucial to review all instructions and requirements thoroughly before submitting your application.

If you do make a mistake, you may be able to correct it by submitting a request for evidence or filing an appeal. However, correction can add additional time and cost to the process. 

It is important to seek guidance from an experienced immigration attorney if you are unsure about any aspect of the STEM OPT application process.

Can STEM OPT Extension Be Denied?

It is possible for a STEM OPT extension to be denied. In the event of a denial, there is a 60-day grace period to make arrangements to leave the U.S. or apply for an adjustment of status to another nonimmigrant visa. 

Meeting all eligibility requirements and submitting a thorough and precise application can improve the likelihood of approval.

Factors that may lead to denial include failure to maintain status, not having a qualifying STEM degree, and not having a job offer from an eligible employer. 

What Happens If Stem Extension Is Denied?

What Happens If Stem Extension Is Denied?
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

A denied application for a STEM OPT extension can result in significant impact on one’s ability to remain and work in the United States. If denied within 180 days, a 60-day grace period will be given for preparations to leave the country.

In a 60-day grace period, you can apply for graduate programs, or apply for a different nonimmigrant visa status.

During this time, you will not be authorized to work or travel outside the U.S. 

Additionally, if you are unable to secure alternative immigration status or leave the country within the 60-day grace period, you may be subject to deportation. 


What Are The Requirements For STEM OPT Photo?

The photo must measure 2 inches by 2 inches and the head should be positioned directly facing the camera. The photo should capture from slightly above the top of the hair to the middle of the chest. The background should be plain white or off-white. 

These requirements are important because they ensure that the photo meets the standards set by the U.S. government for immigration purposes

What Happens If Stem Opt Is Delayed?

In general, if your STEM OPT is delayed and you do not receive your EAD by the end of your Post-Completion OPT. You may still continue to work for up to 180 days after the end of your Post-Completion OPT. 

However, it is important to note that you should receive your new EAD before the 180-day period is up. Delayed STEM OPT can cause stress and uncertainty

How Long Is The STEM OPT Processing Time?

The STEM OPT processing time can vary depending on various factors, but on average, it takes USCIS approximately 90-120 days to approve the application. However, it is important to note that processing times can vary greatly and may take longer in some cases

How Many Times Can You Get A STEM Extension?

In general, students are permitted to take part in the STEM OPT extension program twice. However, they cannot apply for the extension during the 60-day grace period after their initial period of post-completion OPT, which typically lasts for 12 months

This means that students need to plan their time carefully to make the most of the program’s benefits within the limited timeframe available. 

What To Do When STEM OPT 6-month Validation Is Missed?

If you miss the validation window, you should speak with your designated school official (DSO) immediately to determine the best course of action. If you miss your STEM OPT 6-month validation, there is no way to complete it in SEVIS. 

The validation report due dates are based on the start date of your STEM EAD. Hence, it is important to keep track of those dates and ensure you complete the validation on time

What Is The Purpose Of The UTD OPT Reporting Form?

The purpose of the UTD OPT reporting form is to provide information to the university about the employment status of international students who are participating in Optional Practical Training (OPT). This form is required by the U.S. government as part of the OPT program.

The OPT program allows international students to work in the U.S. for up to 12 months after completing their degree. 

The UTD OPT reporting form helps the university to track the progress of students who are participating in the program. 

Additionally, it ensures that the students are complying with the regulations set forth by the government.

What Is The Relationship Between Institutional Accreditation And STEM OPT?

The relationship between institutional accreditation and STEM OPT is that institutions must be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency in order for their international students to be eligible for the STEM OPT extension. Accreditation ensures that the institution meets certain standards of quality and is authorized to offer academic programs. 

Can International Students At Columbia University Apply For An OPT Extension?

Yes, international students at Columbia University can apply for an OPT (Optional Practical Training) extension. OPT is a program that allows international students to work in the US for up to 12 months after graduation in a field related to their major

Students can apply for a 24-month extension if they have a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) degree. 

What Are The Consequences For An International Student On STEM OPT If Their Validation Report Is Past Due?

In general, if an international student on STEM OPT fails to submit their validation report on time, they risk losing their legal status in the United States. This can result in termination of their employment and deportation from the country. 

In addition, they may be barred from returning to the United States in the future. 


In conclusion, applying for a STEM OPT extension is an important step for international students who wish to continue working in the United States after their initial OPT period. 

It is crucial to plan ahead and determine the appropriate time to apply for the extension, keeping in mind the required documents and processing times. 

Students should also ensure that they meet all the eligibility criteria for the STEM OPT extension, such as working for a qualified employer and having a qualifying STEM degree. 

Swati Jaiswal

Swati Jaiswal is a dedicated traveler and an even dedicated individual who specializes in travel, digital marketing, & health and fitness niches. Passport stamps and coffee stains are her badges of honor.

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