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 at least 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.

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 »

Application Process

1 Prepare Form I-983 Training Plan with employer

Students and employers are required to complete a Form I-983 training plan in order to begin the STEM OPT Extension process.

Click here to access the Form I-983

Click here to access the instructions for the Form I-983 

Click here to access OGS’s Form I-983 Supplemental Guide

2 Pay the STEM OPT Administrative Fee

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.

3 Submit the STEM Extension I-20 Request to OGS

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)

4 Prepare your STEM OPT Extension Application for USCIS

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

Applying Online: 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 (may be optional)
  • 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) – if applicable
  • 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)
  • Copy of your Northeastern transcript (optional)
  • $410 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)
  • $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 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)
  • Copy of your official Northeastern transcript (optional)

Mailing your application to USCIS (if not applying online)

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.

Effective 01/08/2021, you will 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):


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.
  • 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 »

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