Eligibility for STEM OPT Extension
- You must have earned a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in a major that appears on the STEM Designated Program List. Check your I-20 to view if your major's CIP code is eligible. The STEM degree may be either a CSUF degree with which you applied for your current post-completion OPT, or a previous STEM degree conferred within the last 10 years from a U.S. institution of higher education that is accredited and SEVP-certified.
- Your current approved OPT must be current and not expired.
- You must be currently working for or have a job offer from an employer enrolled in in the E-Verify program and has an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN). There must be a “bona fide employer-employee relationship”; you cannot be self-employed.
- Your job must be a paid position for a minimum of 20 hours per week.
When to ApplyYou may apply for your STEM OPT extension with USCIS as early as 90 days before your current OPT end date. We recommend you submit your request to the ISS office 90 days before your OPT expires or as soon as possible to allow ample time for processing.
How to Apply
Step 1: Submit Your STEM OPT Packet to ISS
- Gather and prepare documents listed below and submit to ISS.
- Form I-983 completed by student and employer. Refer to Guidelines for Completing Form I-983 while completing the form.
- ISS 24-Month STEM OPT Extension Request Form.
- Evidence that your company is an E-verified company. For example, a copy of E-verify enrollment confirmation page.
- Copy of your post-completion OPT EAD.
- Copy of your post-completion OPT I-20.
- Copy of CSUF Diploma or copy of CSUF transcript with degree-conferred date.
- Copy of passport page(s) showing your name, photograph, date of birth and passport expiration date
- Copy of your I-94 electronic record.
- Submit STEM OPT Extension Request Packet to International Student Services Office and allow time for processing.
- You will receive an email from ISS once your STEM OPT Extension Packet is ready for pick up or has been mailed as requested.
Step 2: Mail Your STEM OPT Packet to USCIS
- After you receive your STEM OPT I-20 from ISS, use the STEM OPT Extension Application Checklist to assemble all the necessary documents to submit to USCIS. Do not forget to add the Form I-765 and sign in black ink. Refer to the Guidelines for Completing Form I-765 while completing the form. Additionally, prepare two (2) U.S. passport style photos and a check or money order for $410 payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The I-765, passport photos and payment are not required by ISS but must be included in the STEM OPT Extension Packet that you will mail to USCIS.
- Make copies of the entire application for your records before mailing.
- Using the U.S. mailing address you indicated on item #3 of your I-765, determine which lockbox you should send your application to by going to the USCIS’ I-765 addresses website. Click “Foreign Students” and look under “F-1 Optional Practical Training.
- Use a trackable mail option to ensure successful delivery of your application to USCIS.
USCIS must receive your complete OPT STEM application no later than 60 days after the STEM OPT I-20 has been issued by ISS AND before the end date of your current post-completion OPT as noted by your EAD. Please remember to factor in a few extra days for mailing.
While Your STEM Packet is Being Processed by USCIS
You can continue working in the U.S. for up to 180 days while the STEM OPT Extension application is pending with USCIS, even if your Post-Completion OPT EAD has expired. This benefit only allows you to work with the employer on your STEM request I-20.
ISS advises students not to travel until the STEM Extension application is approved and you have received a new EAD card.
Employment changes while your STEM OPT packet is being processed are not recommended. This is due to the fact that the paperwork that you submitted to USCIS for the STEM OPT benefit are for a specific employer. When you change employers, the documentation that USCIS holds is no longer accurate (STEM request I-20 that ISS issues and the I-765 with E-Verify employer name and number). For that reason, we strongly discourage changing employers until you receive the STEM OPT EAD card.
Maintaining Status While on STEM OPT Extension
- Students on post-completion OPT are allowed up to 90 days of unemployment. Students who receive a 24-month OPT extension are given an additional 60 days of unemployment for a total of 150 days over their entire post-completion OPT period.
- Travel outside of the United States while unemployed will count as unemployment against the 90/150-day limits.
- If a student travels while employed either during a period of leave authorized by an employer or as part of their employment, the time spent outside the United States will not count as unemployment.
STEM OPT Reporting Requirements
As a STEM OPT student, you must complete the following reporting requirements to successfully maintain status while on STEM OPT Extension. All of the listed reporting requirements require submission of the STEM OPT Employment Update Form. You must report:
- Any changes to personal information such as legal name, residential or mailing address, phone number and email address
- Any changes to your current employer information
- Any changes to your existing form I-983 training plan
- Changes in your employer
- End of employment