Frequently Asked Questions

Will I get a new EAD?

USCIS will issue a new EAD with a validity period that starts on the day after the expiration date of the 12-month OPT EAD.

Can I work while my 24-month application is pending with USCIS?

Yes, a student who files a timely STEM OPT extension application can continue working while the STEM OPT application is pending, for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of the student’s standard post-completion OPT. All work done during this 180-day time period is considered STEM OPT extension time that counts towards the 24-month total.

Can I change employers while my 24-month application is pending with USCIS?

OIS highly discourages changing employers while a STEM OPT application is pending with USCIS as this change can disrupt the application process that can cause delays with the decision. However, if the change of employers is inevitable OIS advises students to follow these steps:

  1. Update new employment information using the OIS OPT Reporting Form.
  2. Email the following documents to OIS at OPTSTEM@usc.edu. In the subject line, include “Change of Employers for 24 Month STEM OPT: First Name and Last Name” (i.e. Change of Employers for 24 Month STEM OPT: Tommy Trojan). Incomplete applications will be rejected.
  3. Set-up e-ShipGlobal account and pay for express shipping.
  4. Upon receipt of the new I-20, mail the following documents to USCIS immediately—refer to USCIS office address on the I-797 Receipt Notice. Indicate the I-797 receipt number (starting with WAC, YSC, etc.) in all correspondence by writing this number on the top of each document:
    • Updated Form I-765 application (particularly section 17 of the application)
      • Select box “renewal of my permission to accept employment”
    • Copy of new I-20 (pages 1-2)
    • Cover letter stating that the correspondence is to provide updated employer information for a Form I-765 that has already been filed and is pending review with receipt number [insert receipt number].

I received a Request for Evidence (RFE) in the mail. What do I do?

Call OIS at (213) 740-2666 to schedule an appointment with an immigration advisor.

How many days of unemployment can I have on the 24-month STEM OPT?

The final rule retains the 90-day maximum period of unemployment during the initial period of post-completion OPT, but allows an additional 60 days (for an aggregate of 150 days) for students who obtain a 24-month STEM OPT extension.

Can I travel during the 24-month STEM OPT?

Students on STEM OPT extensions (including those whose application for a STEM OPT extension is pending) may travel abroad and if needed renew their F1 visa and seek reentry to the U.S. in F-1 status during the STEM OPT extension period if they possess the following documents:

  • Passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of the re-entry to the U.S.)
  • Valid F-1 Visa that permits multiple entries
  • Form I-20 with valid travel signature and STEM OPT Recommendation (Travel signatures are valid for 6 months while on STEM OPT.)
  • Valid or Expired OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • Employment Verification Letter
  • I-797 Receipt Notice for STEM OPT Application (if application is still pending with USCIS)