STEM OPT Extension

A 24-month extension of post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is available for F-1 students with a degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field. 

  • Must be currently on approved post-completion OPT.
  • Must have received a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field that appears on the DHS STEM-Designated Degree Program List
  • Must be employed by an E-Verify employer.
  • The employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience. Your employer cannot be a staffing/temporary agency or consulting firm unless they will be the entity that provides your practical training experience.
  • Must be a paid position for at least 20 hours per week.

USCIS must receive the STEM OPT extension application before the expiration of the student's current post-completion OPT, but no sooner than 90 days before that date.

To apply for the 24-month STEM OPT extension, please email ISSS at isssemployment@american.edu to discuss your eligibility and timeline for applying.

You will need the following materials in order to apply:

  • Form I-983 (PDF)
  • Proof of STEM Degree (official transcript and copy of diploma)
  • Copy of I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation from ISSS
  • Copy of your unexpired passport (valid for at least 6 months in the future at the time of filing) 
  • Copy of most recent I-94
  • Copy of previous I-20s with authorized CPT(s) or OPT(s)  
  • Copy of previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card(s)
  • One passport-size photograph
  1. Review the STEM OPT Extension handout.
  2. Know when to apply.
    • USCIS must receive the STEM OPT extension application before the expiration of the student's current post-completion OPT, but no sooner than 90 days before that date.
  3. Email ISSS at isssemployment@american.edu to discuss your eligibility and timeline for applying.
  4. Email the required application materials to isssemployment@american.edu. Students must be physically in the U.S. to apply for STEM OPT. 
    1. Form I-983 (PDF)
      1. Use the I-983 Guide to complete this form. 
      2. Signatures on this form must be handwritten.
    2. Proof of STEM Degree (copy of diploma only)
      1. The official transcript may be needed for the online filing.
    3. Copy of your unexpired passport
    4. Copy of your F-1 visa
    5. Copy of most recent I-94
    6. Copy of previous I-20s with authorized CPT(s) or OPT(s)
    7. Copy of previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card(s)
  5. Within 3-5 business days after you submit the required application materials to isssemployment@american.edu, ISSS will review and issue a new I-20 with STEM OPT recommended dates. 
    • You will download your new STEM OPT I-20 from iEagle and receive a handout with tips on how to file your STEM OPT online to your AU email address.
    • While ISSS is reviewing your STEM OPT application materials, please prepare 1 color passport photo taken within the last 30 days. The online filing fee is $410 paid to USCIS by credit or debit card at the time of your online filling.   
  6. Create a myUSCIS account and file your STEM OPT application online with USCIS.
    • USCIS must receive your STEM OPT application within 60 days of your new STEM OPT I-20 issue date or before the end of your Post-completion OPT authorization period, whichever comes first. If not received within those timelines, your STEM OPT application will be denied, and appeal is not possible.  
  7. STEM OPT applications typically take 2-3 months to process. You may check case processing times with USCIS here.
    • For more information on STEM OPT, please review the FAQs at the bottom of this page. 

STEM OPT Application Disclaimer:  The STEM OPT webpage and other ISSS-produced handouts are not comprehensive and are based on frequently made mistakes. They contain helpful tips and can be used as a tool to assist you with your online application. 

Ultimately, it is your responsibility to follow all instructions in the online application to ensure your online form is accurate and complete before submitting your STEM OPT request to USCIS.  

F-1 students on STEM Extension OPT have legal reporting requirements to maintain status. Failure to report in a timely manner may lead to the termination of your F-1 status.

In addition to maintaining the SEVP portal, STEM Extension OPT students must also report to ISSS the following:

  1. Employment Authorization Document (EAD): As soon as you receive your STEM Extension EAD card, please review it for accuracy and upload a copy of the front and back to iEagle > Click on Optional Practical Training (OPT) > Employment Authorization Document Card (EAD) Upload.
  2. 6-Month Validation Report: Please confirm your address and employment information every six months. Log into iEagle > Click on Optional Practical Training (OPT) > STEM OPT 6 Month Employment Reporting. Complete the e-form and submit.
  3. Evaluation of Student Progress: A self-evaluation is due 12 months after your STEM OPT starts and a final self-evaluation is due 24 months after your STEM OPT starts. Please email a complete Form I-983 that includes a self-evaluation on page 5 to isssemployment@american.edu
  4. Update Training Plan (Form I-983): Any updates to the current Training Plan (Form I-983) must be reported as soon as it occurs. Please email a new Form I-983 to isssemployment@american.edu.
  5. Change Employer: Ending any STEM OPT employment and starting employment with a new employer must be reported as soon as it occurs. Please email a new Form I-983 for the new employer and a complete Form I-983 that includes a final self-evaluation on page 5 for the previous employer to isssemployment@american.edu.
  6. Update Personal Address: Any updates to your personal address that happen before your validation or evaluation is due must be reported as soon as it occurs. Log into iEagle> Click on Current Student > Complete the Address and Contact Information Update.
  7. End STEM OPT Early: Please inform ISSS if you decide to leave the United States permanently before your STEM OPT end date. Please submit a complete Form I-983 that includes a final self-evaluation on page 5 for the employment you have ended. Log into iEagle > Click on Optional Practical Training (OPT) > Ending OPT Early.
  8. Change Immigration Status: Please inform ISSS via email at isssemployment@american.edu if you change your immigration status before your STEM OPT end date. Please submit a complete Form I-983 that includes a final self-evaluation on page 5 for the employment you have ended and/or proof of your new immigration status. 

STEM OPT Reporting and DHS Site Visits: DHS may, at its discretion, conduct a site visit of the employer to ensure that program requirements are being met, including that the employer possesses and maintains the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences consistent with the Form I-983 Training Plan. Students should make sure their employer information and home addresses are up to date by updating their information via the SEVP portal and by reporting to ISSS.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, your job on STEM OPT must be paid.

Yes, if you have not already received a STEM OPT extension based on that degree. 

The STEM degree must be from a U.S. institution, received within the last 10 years, and be at the bachelor's level or higher. 

Yes, if you have filed the STEM extension application you can continue working while the application is pending. You are automatically authorized for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of your post-completion OPT authorization.