Graduates currently on post-completion OPT may be eligible for a 24-month extension of their work authorization if they have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in an eligible STEM field, as designated by USCIS. The STEM OPT Extension allows graduates the opportunity to gain an additional 24 months of work experience, resulting in up to 36 months of total work eligibility in the United States following graduation from USC.
All STEM OPT Extension applications are adjudicated (i.e. processed and approved) by USCIS. Successful filing of a STEM OPT Extension application will result in issuance of an EAD valid for an additional 24 months following post-completion OPT, during which graduates are able to legally work in the United States in positions directly related to their STEM majors.
Students who are interested in applying for the STEM OPT Extension are required to read the STEM OPT Extension Instructions below.
Review important updates to the Form I-765
Announcement regarding USCIS EAD processing delays
Questions after reviewing the STEM OPT Extension Instructions, Sample I-983, Application Checklist, and Sample I-765? Email OPTSTEM@usc.edu – include student name, SEVIS ID, and a description of question or concern
Advising via Zoom – see OIS Live schedule for one-on-one advising and OIS Calendar for upcoming STEM OPT Extension sessions
The STEM OPT Extension Instructions include the following information:
- STEM OPT Extension application process – Slide 2
- Reporting requirements while on STEM OPT – Slide 15
- Employment data validation reports* – Slide 18
- Self-evaluations* – Slide 19
- Changing employers while on STEM OPT – Slide 22
- Travel while on STEM OPT – Slide 29
- Other pertinent topics related to STEM OPT
*If you are currently on STEM OPT Extension and have received an email from SEVP notifying you of an upcoming due date for your data validation report and/or self-evaluation, please refer to the STEM OPT Extension Instructions linked above. These instructions have step-by-step guidance on how to submit these updates to OIS.
USCIS accepts STEM OPT Extension applications as early as 90 days prior to the OPT EAD expiration date. Students must mail the Form I-765 and other supporting documents to USCIS within 60 days of the date OIS recommended the STEM OPT Extension in SEVIS. USCIS must receive the STEM OPT Extension application packet before the post-completion OPT EAD expiration date.
OIS processing time for STEM OPT I-20 requests : Seven business days*
* Students must add OPTSTEM@usc.edu to their email contacts list to ensure they receive all email correspondence regarding their request. Incomplete or incorrect requests will be returned to students for review and correction, and will require resubmission to OIS for processing. The seven business day processing time will restart upon resubmission and students will not be required to pay the STEM OPT Extension Administration Fee again.
In order for OIS to recommend graduates for the STEM OPT Extension and issue an I-20, all students must submit a Form I-983 Training Plan. When completing the I-983 Training Plan, please refer to this sample for guidance. Additional information can be found in the STEM OPT Extension Instructions or on the Study in the States website.
As a reminder, USCIS requires original, scanned, or copied wet signatures for the Form I-983. Electronic (such as Adobe or DocuSign), typed, or other such signatures are not authorized.
Once students receive their STEM OPT Extension I-20 from OIS, they can assemble the STEM OPT Extension application packet and mail it to USCIS for processing. Refer to the STEM OPT Extension Application Checklist for a list of required documents for the STEM OPT Extension application.
For guidance on completing the Form I-765 indicated on the checklist, please refer to the Sample STEM OPT Extension I-765.
Important: USCIS will only accept STEM OPT Extension applications filed with the 8/25/20 edition of the Form I-765 for applications postmarked from August 25, 2020 until October 1, 2020. Starting on October 2, 2020, USCIS will only accept STEM OPT Extension applications filed with the 10/02/20 edition of the Form I-765. USCIS may reject or deny applications filed with the incorrect form.
Please refer to USC’s Sample OPT I-765 when completing the OPT application. Be sure to download the most recent versions of the I-765 and instructions from USCIS. Failure to use the most recent version could result in OPT denial.
*Updated sample will be published on 10/02/2020
Before contacting OIS, please review the Study in the States: SEVP Portal Help website for answers to common questions or issues, including how to unlock your SEVP Portal account or reset your password.
If you need the initial SEVP Portal account creation email to be resent, need to change your SEVP Portal email address, or have any other SEVP Portal issue not addressed on Study in the States: SEVP Portal Help website, email OIS@usc.edu:
- In the email subject line, write: SEVP Portal Issue: Last Name, First Name – SEVIS ID #
- Include your preferred SEVP Portal account email address and attach a PDF copy of your EAD, along with any relevant screenshots or error messages
Due to delays with EAD processing, USCIS has issued temporary guidance allowing students to use the Form I-797 STEM OPT Extension EAD Approval Notice, in the absence of an STEM OPT Extension EAD, as proof of work authorization. This guidance only applies to students issued a Form I-797 STEM OPT Extension EAD Approval Notice between December 1, 2019 and August 20, 2020. See the official USCIS announcement here.