The 24-month STEM OPT Extension is a type of employment authorization adjudicated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is available to eligible F-1 students for the purpose of gaining practical experience directly related to their program of study. A STEM Extension application requires a student to be on an approved period of Post-Completion OPT, to have an E-verify employer that provides a student with formal training and learning, a STEM OPT recommendation on the Form I-20, then a timely application to USCIS for final adjudication. If successful, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) granting the student 24-months of work authorization.

Eligibility

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:

  1. Students who are on Post-Completion OPT; and
  2. 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
  3. Who are employed for more than 20 hours per week in a paid job directly related to his/her field of study; and
  4. Who are working for an employer that is enrolled in the U.S. Government’s E-Verify program.

STEM Eligible Degrees

To verify STEM eligibility, look at the code listed under “Primary Major” on Page 1 of your I-20 and compare that code in the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) 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.

Please note: the DHS STEM Designated Degree Programs list was recently updated on July 12, 2023. Please be sure you are accessing the most recent STEM list linked above, which can also be found on the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement website on this page in the “Resources” section under the “DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List and CIP Code Nomination Process” tab. Students whose CIP code has been added to the list as of July 2023 will receive direct notification from OGS.

Eligibility Video »

STEM Extension Application Timeline

Students may apply to USCIS for the STEM OPT Extension work authorization no earlier than 90-days prior to the Post-OPT 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 expiration date.

Completed applications must be received by USCIS before the expiration date on the Post-OPT EAD to be properly (timely) filed. USCIS will not accept applications for the STEM Extension that are received beyond the expiration date of the Post-OPT EAD.

Watch the Application Timeline Video

Application Process Video »

COMPLETING THE FORM I-983

All students must submit a completed Form I-983 to OGS in order to receive the STEM OPT Extension recommendation on their Form I-20. Students should reference the official USCIS Instructions of the Form I-983 and the resources available on the Study in the States website as they complete the I-983.

Additionally, OGS has prepared a supplemental guide to filling out the Form I-983 to assist students as they complete their application for the STEM OPT Extension. Because the STEM OPT Extension application is a personal petition to USCIS, OGS is unable to advise on how to complete each section of the form. However, this guide offers clarification on some of the I-983 instructions provided by USCIS.

Please Note: All fields on the Form I-983 must be completed in full when you submit your STEM Extension request to OGS. This resource does not provide guidance on how to complete every field of every section of the I-983; rather, it has been created to help guide students through the most frequently questioned sections.

Form I-983 Supplemental Guide

(For more information, click each step below)

  • SEVIS School Code of School Recommending STEM OPT: SEVIS School Code can be found in the school information section on page one of your I-20, under school code and approval date.  
  • DSO Name and Contact Information: Enter the full name and contact information, including official address, phone, and email of OGS below (please DO NOT use the DSO information on your I-20): 
    • Boston campus: Rachael Elliott
      360 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115
      [email protected] / 617.373.2310
    • Seattle campusDesiree Waits
      401 Terry Avenue N., Suite 103, Seattle, WA 98109
      [email protected] / 617.373.2310
    • Silicon Valley campus: Giscard Dimanche
      4 North 2nd Street, San Jose, CA 95113
      [email protected] / 617.373.2310
    • San Francisco campus: Giscard Dimanche
      600 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94108
      [email protected] / 617.373.2310
    • Oakland campus: Giscard Dimanche
      5000 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland CA 94613
      [email protected] / 617.373.2310
    • NU/The Roux Institute: Desiree Waits
      100 Fore St, Portland, ME 04101 
      [email protected] / 617.373.2310
    • Arlington campusDesiree Waits
      1300 17th St North, Arlington, VA 22209
      [email protected] / 617.373.2310
  • STEM OPT Requested Period: “From” date should be the day after your current 12-month OPT ends and “To” date should be 2 years minus one day. For example, 06/06/2022 – 06/05/2024
  • Qualifying Major and Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) Code: Enter both your major and the degree’s (CIP) code found on page 1 of your I-20
  • Level/Type of Qualifying Degree: Enter the academic level upon which you are basing STEM OPT. (Ex, Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D.)
  • Date Awarded: Enter the date on your transcript or diploma
  • Based on Prior Degree?:  Check “No” if your STEM OPT is based on your most recently obtained degree. Check “Yes” if your STEM OPT is based on a previously obtained STEM degree
  • Employment Authorization Number: This is the 9-digit number found on your OPT EAD

All fields must be completed in full. Please pay particular attention to the following section:

  • Student Certification: Review the certification and affirm the statement with your signature

Instructions for employers to complete this section can be found on the USCIS I-983 Instructions PDF

All fields must be completed in full. Please pay particular attention to the following sections:

  • Number of Full-Time Employees in U.S.: Provide the number of full‐time employees in the United States (must be more than one)
  • Start Date of Employment: Please use the first day of your STEM OPT, not your first day of employment

All fields must be completed in full. Please pay particular attention to the following section:

  • Printed Name and Title of Employer Official with Signatory Authority: Employer’s name and title must be included

Instructions for both employer and student to complete this section can be found on the USCIS I-983 Instructions PDF. 

All fields must be completed in full. Please pay particular attention to the following sections:

  • Employer Name: Enter the company’s name, as it appears in “Section 3: Employer Information.”
  • Site Name: May be the same as employer name in Section 3. However, if you are working for a branch or subsidiary, or anywhere other than the headquarters, provide the name of this work site
  • Site Address: Enter the exact address of the work site where you will be physically working. If you are working remotely due to COVID-19, please provide the worksite address where you would be working once the COVID-19 accommodations are lifted by the government (not your home address)

All fields must be completed in full. Please pay particular attention to the following section:

  • Printed Name and Title of Employer Official with Signatory Authority: Employer’s name and title must be included
    • The individual who signs this Certification need not be, but can be, the same individual who signed the Employer Certification in Section 4

This page must be blank when you are submitting STEM I-20 request to OGS. 

Application Process

(For more information, click each step below)

During the STEM OPT period, there are significant reporting requirements that require extended support from the Office of Global Services.

To provide continued support and service for an extended period of 24-months after graduation, including extensive tracking and reporting to SEVP, alumni who request STEM OPT Extension recommendation from OGS will be advised to pay a STEM OPT administrative fee.

The payment option will be embedded in the STEM I-20 request e-form. Students will upload the payment receipt in the STEM I-20 request form as evidence of payment.

Click here to submit the STEM OPT Extension Application e-form

You must upload the following documents on the e-form:

  • I-983 completed by you and your employer
  • Copy of OPT EAD card
  • Northeastern University Transcript
  • Proof of the STEM fee payment (screenshot of confirmation page)

IMPORTANT: All documents must be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date on your Post-Completion OPT EAD!

NEW! How F-1 Students Seeking OPT Can Avoid Form I-765 Delays

Applying Online (Recommended): You may create an account with USCIS and file the Form I-765 online. Follow the instructions to File a form online, then Select the form you want to file online (I-765, Application for Employment Authorization). You do not need to upload a PDF version of the Form I-765. Follow the online instructions to prepare to submit the following documents:

  • Copy of Form I-20 with STEM OPT Extension recommendation on page two. You must sign the I-20 in ink at the bottom of page 1
    • Do not submit the Form I-765 without the I-20 with OPT recommendation. This will result in the denial of your application
  • Copies of all previous I-20s that indicate that you were authorized for employment
  • 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 most recent electronic I-94 printout or copy of I-94 card (front and back)
  • Copy of previous Employment Authorization Document (front and back)
  • Two passport photos with white background (lightly write your name and SEVIS ID number with a pencil on the back of each photo; photos MUST be less than 30 days old and glasses should not be worn in photo)
  • Evidence of your STEM degree. This can be either your diploma or official transcript. We highly recommend submitting both to help show a clear relationship between your STEM major and CIP code to avoid receiving a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS
    • If you are applying for the STEM Extension based on a prior degree (rare), you should prepare a copy of the STEM-eligible diploma and transcript and a copy of the institutional accreditation from the school that conferred your STEM-eligible degree. You may also upload the I-20 from the previous institution
  • $470 OPT application fee (Payment may be made via a credit card, debit card, or bank transfer. If a credit card is used, it must be issued by a U.S. bank)

Applying by Mail: Submit the documents listed below to USCIS

  • Original paper Form I-765 – please refer to OGS’s supplemental I-765 guide for assistance
  • Original G-1145
  • Copy of Form I-20 with STEM OPT Extension recommendation on page two. You must sign the I-20 in ink at the bottom of page one
    • Do not submit the application to USCIS without the I-20 with OPT recommendation. This will result in the denial of your application
  • 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 most recent electronic I-94 printout or copy of I-94 card (front and back)
  • Copy of previous EADs (front and back)
  • $520 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 STEM 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)
  • Evidence of your STEM degree. This can be either your diploma or official transcript. We highly recommend submitting both to help show a clear relationship between your STEM major and CIP code to avoid receiving a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS
    • If you are applying for the STEM Extension based on a prior degree (rare), you should prepare a copy of the STEM-eligible diploma and transcript and a copy of the institutional accreditation from the school that conferred your STEM-eligible degree

Mailing your application to USCIS (if not applying online)

USCIS recommends filing online. However, if you choose to file your application with USCIS via a mail service, please review these instructions.

We strongly recommend that you make copies of your complete application for your records before mailing your application to USCIS.

Once you have your documents and I-20 for the 24-month STEM extension, and you have copied all documentation and assembled the packet, you must send it to the USCIS address below. However, its always best practice to confirm the most up-to-date USCIS Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765 directly on the USCIS website. It is recommended that you mail your STEM packet via certified/guaranteed mail and obtain a receipt with tracking number.

Mail your application to the USCIS Chicago lockbox:

For U.S. Postal Service deliveries:

Attn: I-765 C03

P.O. Box 805373

Chicago, IL 60680-5374

For courier service deliveries (non-U.S. Postal Service: FedEx, UPS, and DHL):

USCIS

Attn: I-765 C03 (Box 805373)

131 South Dearborn – 3rd Floor

Chicago, IL 60603-5517

eShipGlobal Mailing Option:

eShipGlobal offers a shipping service for international students sending their OPT/STEM application to USCIS. Students can choose their carrier (UPS, FedEx, or USPS) and 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.

USCIS Processing Times:

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.

What happens after I submit my application to USCIS?

  • You should receive a receipt notice (Form I-797) from USCIS. You can look up your case status online using the case number.
    • If you file online you will receive this receipt notice electronically within a day or two. If you file by mail you should receive this notice within 2-weeks.
  • You can also check USCIS current OPT and STEM OPT estimated processing times on the USCIS website. (Select Form: “I-765” Form Category: “Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student [(c)(3)]” Service Center: “Potomac Service Center”.)
  • While your 24-month OPT STEM extension application is pending, you may continue working for up to 180 days (6 months)*
  • Once USCIS adjudicates your application and your STEM OPT is approved, expect to first receive an approval notice and then an EAD.

*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

Application Process Video »

What if I Receive a Request for Evidence (RFE)?

If USCIS determines that something in your application requires further clarification they will send you a Request for Evidence (RFE). If you receive an RFE, you are required to respond by the deadline listed on the notification. You will also need to submit a copy of the RFE to OGS via the STEM OPT Issue Reporting e-form.

Once you have submitted the e-form, a Designated School Official (DSO) will review your RFE and inform you of next steps. If it is determined that no evidence is needed from OGS or from your former academic department, you will receive an email with suggestions about who can provide the requested evidence. If it is determined you need documentation from OGS or your academic department, you will receive an email stating what additional documentation will be provided.

RFE Review Process

All RFEs are unique, therefore, all supporting letters and documents are drafted based on the specific request of the RFE. OGS may have multiple RFE being reviewed simultaneously, therefore, processing times for RFEs vary based on:

  • The complexity of the RFE and number of required supporting documents
  • The number of departments that are asked to provide supporting documentation
  • The production of the PDSO Letter (the Principal Designated School Official)
  • The due date of the RFE

Employment During the STEM Extension

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 part time for any employer (20 or less hours/week). Working for more than one employer is only permitted if each job is more than 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. You can read more about what constitutes an employer-employee relationship via the STEM OPT guidelines provided by USCIS.
  • 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 During the STEM Extension

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 port of entry:

  • 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 you are not currently employed, you should not travel outside of the U.S. as you may be denied entry by Customs and Border Protection

*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. Please see Renewing your F-1 visa for further instructions on how to renew your visa.

Study During the STEM Extension

While recreational or avocational study is permissible during the STEM OPT extension, students cannot pursue a degree-seeking program while simultaneously working on the STEM Extension. You should speak with a DSO in OGS to make sure your study qualifies. U.S. Federal Regulations state that employment authorization is automatically terminated when a student begins study at another education level or transfers to another school.