STEM OPT Extension
Applying for STEM OPT
What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is used by students to gain work experience in their field of study after completing a degree program. STEM OPT is an extension.
What is STEM Optional Practical Training (STEM OPT)?
STEM OPT is OPT for students studying in majors related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). It is an extension of the first 12 months of OPT that is only available for STEM students.
How long can I do OPT and STEM OPT?
Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) regulations allow up to 12 months of OPT at each degree level for a student in F-1 status. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) students are eligible for an extension of 24 months of OPT (a total of 36 months).
When can I apply for STEM OPT and How?
You must first apply for OPT and be approved before you can apply for STEM OPT. An application for STEM OPT can be filed up to 90 days prior to the completion of a student's first 12 months of OPT but no later than the end date listed on the initial OPT card (the Employment Authorization Document). After the OPT/EAD card end date, students are no longer eligible to apply for the STEM OPT extension.
How long does the STEM OPT application process take?
It may take the government agency (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS) a long time to process a STEM OPT application. Your International Student Counselor may be able to provide a current estimate of processing times. However, processing times are unpredictable so it is always best to apply early! The ISSS office is not responsible for the length of time required to process your STEM OPT application. Do not wait until near the end of your current OPT/EAD card expiration date! Again, you are not eligible to apply for STEM OPT after the end of your initial 12 months of OPT.
Step 1: Learn about STEM OPT (watch the STEM Optional Practical Training video by clicking on the button below in black and white)
Watch the Presentation!
Step 2: Apply for STEM OPT
Once you have watched this STEM OPT Presentation linked above and are ready to begin applying for the STEM OPT extension. You will need to submit the following documents to your counselor:
- The STEM OPT Acknowledgment form (signed by you)
- The Form I-983 Training Plan. (Please read the Instructions for Completing the Form) for STEM OPT Students (filled out by you and your E-Verify employer). The employer must be a registered E-Verify employer and must have an E-Verify number for you to work for them on STEM OPT. In addition, the employment opportunity must be full-time (at least 21 hours per week).
- A new I-765 form. (The USCIS I-765 instructions state that this form can not be signed electronically but must be signed in ink and by hand). You can also file the I-765 form online (recommended). You will first need to create a USCIS online account and will need to work closely with your international student counselor. Instructions for how to complete this online form are posted on YouTube (Link for how to complete the online form I-765 for STEM OPT)
Watch the STEM OPT I-765 Online Application Instructions Video!
- A new I-20 with the OPT STEM extension. Once we receive those documents we will send you dates along with instructions and a checklist of documents you need to send to USCIS. Please also review the STEM OPT helpful links and info handout.
Step 3: Wait for your STEM OPT EAD Card
NOTE: USCIS will send your EAD card to the address given on your I-765 form. It is critically important then that you keep USCIS informed of any address changes. You must do so on the USCIS website.
For a list of your reporting requirements while on STEM OPT please review the STEM OPT reporting information sheet on the Study in the States website
Information for Employers
- Employers play a key role in maintaining and strengthening the integrity of the STEM
OPT extension program. Although compliance with the program's various reporting requirements
predominately apply to students and their universities, there are instances where
STEM OPT employers must assist in tracking the STEM OPT students and their practical
training progress. Employers must be registered in E-Verify in order to employ international students on STEM OPT. In addition, the employment
opportunity must be full-time (at least 21 hours per week).
See employers' requirements for more information on employer reporting requirements.
- DHS requires that the STEM OPT student and employer work together to complete the
form I-983. Properly completing this form will successfully document the relationship between
the STEM OPT opportunity, the academic degree received and the learning objectives
of the F-1 student.
See employers' I-983 form for more information on filling out the form I-983.
- Site visits ensure that STEM OPT students receive structured and guided work-based
learning experiences and reduce the potential for abuses of the STEM OPT extension.
During the site visit, DHS's intent is to confirm that information reported on the
student's form I-983 concerning the training opportunity is accurate, while not placing
an unnecessary burden on employers.
See employer site visits for more information on site visits.
*Form I-983 Training Plan Section 3: Information for TTU employers
Employer ID Number (EIN): 75-6002622
Number of Full-Time Employees in U.S.: 4,993
NAICS code: 611310
Start Date of Employment: Enter date the employee will begin STEM OPT training with the department.
If you have a question, that is not listed here. See our OPT Frequently Asked Questions. If that does not answer your question, email your international student counselor.