All four of the below criteria must be met in order for a student to be eligible for the 24-month Optional Practical Training extension:
- Students who are on Post-Completion OPT; and
- Who have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD (certificate programs are not eligible) in a field included on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s list of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields within the last 10 years (see below for more details about how to find out if your degree is STEM eligible); and
- Who are employed for at least 20 hours per week in a paid job directly related to his/her field of study; and
- Who are working for an employer that is enrolled in the U.S. Government’s E-Verify program.
List of degrees in STEM Fields
In order to verify if your degree is STEM eligible, look at the code listed under “Primary Major” on Page 1 of your I-20 and then look for that code in the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code column of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security STEM Designated Degree Programs list. If your major code is on the list, then it is considered to be STEM eligible.
E-Verify is a database system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration. It allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly-hired employees. E-Verify is currently voluntary in most states. For more information click here.
24-Month extension available twice
The 24-month extension of OPT is available to each student at TWO non-consecutive periods of time. Please note that this rule is different from the application rules for the “standard” 12-month OPT, under which students could be approved for multiple OPT periods for each higher degree earned in the U.S. (i.e. bachelor’s, then master’s, then doctoral). Each STEM extension must meet the above-listed STEM eligibility requirements.
24-month STEM OPT extension based on previous degree
Students have the ability to apply for a STEM Optional Practical Training extension based on a previously earned STEM degree from an accredited U.S. institution within 10 years of completing the degree. The student could previously applied for OPT, but could not have applied for a STEM extension based on this previous degree.
For example, a student receives a bachelor’s degree in Engineering, but did not receive STEM OPT based on that degree. The student then got a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) and obtains authorization for 12 months of OPT based on the MBA. The student may be eligible (if meeting all other STEM OPT eligibility requirements) to apply for 24-month STEM OPT at the end of the 12-month OPT authorized following his MBA.
Any students that may be eligible for STEM based on a previous degree should make an appointment with an OGS advisor.
Students and employers are required to complete the new Form I-983 in order to begin the STEM OPT extension process.
When to Apply
Students must apply for the 24-month STEM OPT extension prior to the expiration of the first 12 months of “regular” OPT. The application must be received by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) prior to the expiration date of the OPT EAD in order to be properly (timely) filed. USCIS will not accept I-765 applications for STEM extensions any earlier than 90 days before the current EAD expiration date. Accordingly, OGS will process a STEM recommendation I-20 no more than three months and three weeks in advance of your current OPT end date. *You cannot apply for STEM extension after your Post-OPT EAD has expired.
How to apply
STEP 1 – Prepare Form I-983 Training Plan with employer. – See guidelines in tab below
STEP 2 – Submit STEM Extension I-20 Request to OGS
You must upload the following documents on the eform:
- I-983 completed by you and your employer
- Copy of OPT EAD
- Northeastern Transcript
STEP 3 – Apply for STEM OPT extension with USCIS:
- Original I-765 – please refer to the tab at the end of this section
- Original G-1145
- Copy of new I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation on page 2
- Copy of all previous I-20s
- Copy of passport identity page — include all correction and extension pages
- Copy of most current F-1 student visa stamp or change of status approval notice
- Copy of I-94
- Copy of previous EADs (front and back)
- $410 check, money order or bank check made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- If USCIS receives your application with the wrong fee payment, your application will be rejected and returned to you. (If this occurs, do not resubmit your application; contact an OGS advisor as you may need a new OPT recommendation)
- Two passport photos with white background (lightly print name and SEVIS ID on back of each photo; passport photo MUST be less than 30 days old and glasses should not be worn in photo)
- Copy of your official Northeastern transcript
- Provide a letter from your STEM OPT employer that includes job duties and specifies if employment is part-time or full-time.
IMPORTANT: All documents must be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of the 12 month period of Post-Completion OPT!
Suggestions for Completing Form I-983
- In Section 1 of the Training Plan:
- SEVIS School Code can be found in the school information section on P. 1 of your I-20, under school code and approval date.
- CIP Code is in the Program of Study section on P. 1 of your I-20, under MAJOR 1.
- For DSO Name and Contact Information in Boston, please use the following:
405 Ell Hall, 360 Huntington Ave
Boston, MA 02115
For DSO Name and Contact Information in Seattle, please use the following:
Northeastern University – Seattle
401 Terry Avenue N., Suite 103
Seattle, WA 98109
- Employment Authorization Number: USCIS# on your EAD card.
- Evaluation of Student Progress sections do not need to be completed for the initial STEM OPT I-20 request. Evaluations are required at the 12-month and 24-month points of the student’s STEM OPT.
- The Training Plan does not need to cover your regular 12-month OPT period, only the STEM OPT period.
- If you have more than one job while on STEM OPT, you must submit Form I-983 for every one of these jobs. Please note that each job you have while on STEM OPT must be at least 20 hours per week.
- It is best to type up the information on Form I-983, if possible. If not possible, you may handwrite it, but make sure that it is easy to read.
For any other assistance completing Form I-983, please refer to U.S. Department of Homeland Security web site: studyinthestates.dhs.gov/form-i-983-overview.
Suggestions for Completing Form I-765 for STEM Extension
The numbers below correspond to the numbered items on Form I-765. This form may be downloaded from uscis.gov. Please refer to USCIS I-765 Instructions. Below are some general guidelines for completing Form I-765 for STEM OPT Extension. Please read the instructions for each item and write the information on the form, printing clearly and legibly or you may type the form online and print it.
Part 1. Reason for Applying
Field 1: I am applying for… – Unless you are applying for a replace of a lost EAD card, you should indicate that you are applying for “Initial permission to accept employment.”
Part 2. Information About You
Field 1: Your Name – Print clearly or type your family name in capital letters, followed by the first or given and middle name(s) if any. Write your name as it appears in your passport.
Fields 2-4: Other Names Used – Fill this out only if you have used other names on official documents or if you have a maiden name (name used prior to marriage, usually applies to women who have married).
Fields 5-6: Mailing Address – The address you enter here should be the address to which correspondence can be sent for the next 3-4 months during the OPT application period. If you are providing an address where you do no reside, please provide the name of the person who resides at that address in Field 5.a. “In Care of ______”.
Address errors (i.e. undeliverable address, moving before OPT is approved, etc.) are a common cause for delay of or failure to receive the OPT EAD.
Field 7: Physical Address – If different from mailing address, the address where you reside in the U.S.
Field 8: Alien Registration Number – If you have an A-Number, enter it here.
Field 9: USCIS Online Account Number – If you have created an online account with USCIS, enter your account number here.
Field 10: Gender – Check the appropriate box.
Field 11: Marital Status – Check the appropriate box.
Field 12: Previously filed I-765? – Check yes since you have previously applied for OPT
Field 13: Has the Social Security Administration (SSA) ever officially issued a Social Security card to you? – Check the appropriate box.
- If yes, skip to Item 13b.
- If no, skip to Item 14.
Field 14: Do you want the SSA to issue you a Social Security card? – Check the appropriate box. If you check no, skip to Item 18.a. You will not receive a Social Security card.
Field 15: Consent for Disclosure – Only answer Item 15 if you checked yes in Item 14. Complete Fields 16-17.
Field 18: Your Country or Countries of Citizenship or Nationality – List all countries where you are currently a citizen or national. The country of citizenship should match what appears on the applicant’s I-20.
Field 19: Place of Birth – Provide city, state, and country of applicant’s birth.
Field 20: Date of Birth – Enter the numerical date of birth as month/day/year (4 digits). For example, June 29, 1988 should be entered as 06/29/1988.
Field 21: Information About Your Last Arrival in the U.S. – Enter the 11-digit I-94 number that is found on the electronic I-94. It is called “Admission (I-94) Record Number.”
Field 22: Date of Your Last Arrival Into the U.S. – Enter the numerical date of latest entry as month/day/year (4 digits).
Field 23: Place of your Last Arrival Into the U.S. – Enter the place of last entry. The place of entry is often written in three letter abbreviations, such as BOS for Boston and SFR for San Francisco.
Field 24: Immigration Status at Your Last Arrival – If F-1 appears on your I-94, enter student. If you entered in another status and changed your non-immigrant status in the U.S. and have not travelled outside of the U.S. since receiving your change of status, please indicate the status you held upon initial entry into the U.S.
Field 25: Current Immigration Status – Enter student.
Field 26: Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Number – Enter the 10-digit SEVIS ID starting with N that is found on the top left of your I-20.
Field 27: Eligibility Category – Enter the appropriate code for the work authorization you are requesting.
- STEM OPT is (c) (3) (C)
Field 28: (c) (3) (c) STEM OPT Eligibility Category – Provide your degree, employer’s name as listed in E-Verify, and employer’s E-Verify identification number.
Part 3. Applicant’s Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, Certification, and Signature
Fields 1-2: Applicant’s Statement – Check Item 1.a. unless an interpreter translated the form for you or another person prepared the form on your behalf. You should not check Item 1.b. nor Item 2 if you are filing on your own without the help of an interpreter or another person.
Fields 3-5: Applicant’s Contact Information – Provide requested contact information.
Field 6: Select this box if you are a Salvadoran or Guatemalan national eligible for benefits under the AVC settlement agreement – Check box if applicable.
Field 7: Applicant’s Signature – Acknowledge Applicant’s Declaration and Certification by providing your signature (in pen) and date.
Parts 4-5 – These sections should only be completed if you have an interpreter translate the form for you or another person complete the form on your behalf. You should not complete this section if you are filing on your own without the help of an interpreter or another person.
Part 6. Additional Information – Use this extra space to provide any additional information required on the application.
Mailing your application to USCIS
Once you have your documents and I-20 for the 24-month extension, and you have copied all documentation and assembled the packet, you should send it to one of the following addresses depending on where you live (the address you put on Form I-765). It is recommended that you mail your OPT packet via certified/guaranteed mail and obtain a receipt with tracking number
If your mailing address on I-765 is 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
You will be sending your application to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox.
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
For courier service deliveries (non-USPS):
2501 S. State Hwy. 121
Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
If your mailing address on I-765 is in: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, or Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
You will be sending your application to the USCIS Phoenix Lockbox.
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
For courier service deliveries (non-USPS):
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
We strongly recommend that you make copies of your complete application for your records before mailing your application to USCIS.
eShipGlobal Mailing Option
eShipGlobal offers a shipping service for international students sending their OPT/STEM application to USCIS. eShipGlobal allows students to send OPT applcations to USCIS offices. Students can choose their carrier (UPS, FedEx, or USPS), what type of delivery (next day, 2-day, etc.) and ship at discounted rates.This service is not a Northeastern service. All inquiries should be directed to eShipGlobal directly.
Northeastern does not ship OPT applications to USCIS for students.
For More Information on how to use this service please see the instructions linked below:
- The OGS requires 10 business days to process a request for STEM OPT recommendation.
- Note that USCIS advertises normal processing time for STEM OPT requests as around 100 days.
After the documentation leaves the respective Lockbox, it is forwarded to the USCIS Service Center. About fifteen days after USCIS receives your application for the 24-month OPT extension, you should receive a Form I-797, a receipt notice from USCIS. USCIS will generally adjudicate your request within a period of around 100 days
What happens after I submit my documents to USCIS?
- You should receive a receipt notice from USCIS. You can look up your case status online using the case number.
- Once your STEM OPT is approved, expect to first receive an approval notice and then an EAD card
- While your 24-month OPT STEM extension application is pending, you may continue working for up to 180 days (6 months)*
*The period of the 24-month STEM OPT extension starts the day after the expiration of your original period of approved Post-Completion OPT. While your 24-month OPT STEM extension application is pending, you may continue working for up to 180 days (6 months). The Code of Federal Regulations, 8CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(C) and 8CFR 247a.12(c)(6)(iv), automatically extend your work authorization while the application is pending. However, you must have already submitted all the appropriate documentation to USCIS and paid the filing fee prior to the expiration date of your Post-Completion OPT.
Important reminders and most common application mistakes
- Do not submit STEM OPT application to USCIS prior to obtaining I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation
- USCIS must receive the STEM OPT application within 60 days of the STEM OPT recommendation by the OGS; if the application is not received by USCIS within 60 days after the issuance of STEM OPT I-20, the application will be denied.
- Do not mail in your application so that USCIS receives it more than 90 days before your OPT EAD end date. Your application must be received by USCIS before your OPT EAD expires. Applications received outside of these times will be denied.
- If your entire application is returned to you, consult with an OGS Advisor before resubmitting the application; your application may not be considered “received” and you may need a new I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation.
- Make sure that the address on I-765 is valid for receiving mail at all times while your STEM OPT is pending
Employment during STEM OPT
Restrictions on types of employment permitted during 24-month STEM (OPT include:
- Any job the student has on STEM OPT must be related to his/her program of study
- Students on STEM OPT are only allowed to work for e-verified employers
- Volunteering/unpaid employment is not permitted during the STEM OPT extension
- Self-employment is not permitted during the STEM OPT extension
- Students on STEM OPT may not work for any employer for less than 20 hours per week. Working for more than one employer is only permitted if each job is at least 20 hours per week and each employer is E-verified.
- Employment must constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship. The employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience. If you have questions about whether your employment arrangement meets STEM eligibility requirements, please consult with your employer and legal counsel. (Please refer to Study in the States for information regarding STEM eligibility requirements)
Travel outside U.S. during STEM OPT
If you travel outside the U.S. or its territories during the approved STEM OPT extension period, to re-enter the country, you must present the following documents at the border:
- A passport which should be valid for at least six months from the date you return to the U.S. and your unexpired F-1 visa stamp
- I-20 with a valid travel signature. (While you are participating in OPT, travel signatures are valid for only 6 months)
- Your Employment Authorization Document card for STEM OPT extension*
- Proof of employment
*If your STEM OPT application is pending and you plan to travel abroad, please make sure your Post-OPT Employment Authorization Document is still valid. If your Post-OPT Employment Authorization Document is already expired, traveling abroad is NOT recommended.
If you travel during your OPT or STEM period and your F-1 visa has expired, you will need to obtain a new F-1 visa. While on OPT/STEM, you are still considered to be an F-1 student. Expect to show similar documents as the first time you applied for your visa (check with your local US embassy for requirements). Additionally, you should have your valid STEM EAD card, I-20 with STEM recommendation on page 2 and travel signature within 6 months, passport valid within 6 months, and proof of employment.