STEM OPT Extension

Updated 7/29/2021

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 the 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.


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STEM OPT Extension Instructions

Click Here for STEM OPT Extension Instructions (PDF)

The STEM OPT Extension Instructions cover eligibility and employment requirements, submission deadlines, reporting requirements, and other frequently asked questions (FAQs).

Last revised on 7/16/2021. To view current version, clear browser history/cache before clicking the link. 

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Request STEM OPT Extension I-20 in MyOIS

Click Here to Log In or Create a Profile 

When to submit:

USCIS accepts STEM OPT Extension applications as early as 90 days prior to the OPT EAD expiration date. Students must submit Form I-765 and other supporting documents to USCIS online via myUSCIS within 60 days of the date OIS recommended the STEM OPT Extension in SEVIS. USCIS must receive the STEM OPT Extension application before the post-completion OPT EAD expiration date.

Processing time:

Seven (7) business days. Incomplete or incorrect requests will be returned to students for correction. 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.

How processed I-20s will be sent to students: 

Processed STEM OPT Extension I-20s will be signed and distributed electronically by OIS Designated School Officials (DSOs). Students will be notified by email to download and print their signed STEM OPT Extension I-20 from the MyOIS System. After printing, students must sign the printed I-20 in ink; USCIS does not allow students to sign the I-20 electronically.

SEVP, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Department of State (DoS) has confirmed they accept I-20s electronically signed by DSOs. Only DSOs may electronically sign I-20s; students may not electronically sign any documents submitted to USCIS.

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Sample I-983 for USC Graduates

Click Here for Sample I-983 for USC Graduates

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, 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.

Last revised on 6/29/2021. To view current version, clear browser history/cache before clicking the link. 

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Filing Form I-765 with USCIS

Click Here for the Guide to Filing Online Form I-765 for STEM OPT Extension

After receiving the STEM OPT Extension I-20 from OIS, students must submit the Form I-765 and supporting application documents to USCIS online via a myUSCIS account.  Refer to the Guide to Filing Online Form I-765 for required documents and submission instructions.

Last revised on 4/28/2021. To view current version, clear browser history/cache before clicking the link. 

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STEM OPT Extension Employment Reporting Requirements

Click Here or Below for Instructions (Video)

Validate Information Every Six Months in MyOIS

Immigration regulations require students on STEM OPT Extension to validate their personal and employment information with their Designated School Official (DSO) every six months. Validation reports must be submitted to OIS DSOs in MyOIS. OIS will then record the submission in SEVIS.

When are the reports due?

Refer to the “STEM Student Due Date Announcement” pop-up message in the SEVP Portal and use the STEM OPT Extension Reporting Tool for USC Graduates to ensure reports are submitted accurately and on time.

Does OIS accept early or late submissions?

Reports can be submitted to OIS up to 30 days before the reporting due date. Late submissions will be accepted, but OIS will be unable to record the submission in SEVIS. Missing reporting deadlines may negatively affect the student’s F-1 status.

What is the OIS processing time for validation reports?

Processing time is 7 business days after submission. Incomplete and/or incorrect requests will require resubmission.

How do students submit their report to OIS?

Up to 30 days before the report due date: (1) Log in to the SEVP Portal. Review the data under the Profile and Employment pages and make any needed changes. (2) Log in to MyOIS, select the appropriate request type, and submit the required information to OIS.

6 months after STEM EAD Start Date

MyOIS Request Type: STEM 6- or 18-Month Validation

  • Select “6-Month Data Validation”
  • Enter STEM OPT EAD start and end dates, major, and employer information

12 months after STEM EAD Start Date

MyOIS Request Type:  STEM 12-Month or Final Self-Evaluation

  • Select “12-Month Self-Evaluation”
  • Enter STEM OPT EAD start and end dates, major, and employer information
  • Upload copy of Form I-983 (all 5 pages) with signed self-evaluation in top section of Page 5 – refer to the Sample I-983 and use the Reporting Tool

18 months after STEM EAD Start Date

MyOIS Request Type: STEM 6- or 18-Month Validation

  • Select “18-Month Data Validation”
  • Enter STEM OPT EAD start and end dates, major, and employer information

STEM EAD End Date

MyOIS Request Type: STEM 12-Month or Final Self-Evaluation

  • Select “Final Self-Evaluation”
  • Enter STEM OPT EAD start and end dates, major, and employer information
  • Upload copy of Form I-983 (all 5 pages) with signed final self-evaluation in bottom section of Page 5 – refer to the Sample I-983 and use the Reporting Tool

Report Changes to Employment

Immigration regulations also require changes to STEM OPT employment to be reported to OIS, before or within 10 days of the change. Reports will be processed within 7 business days; incomplete and/or incorrect requests will require resubmission. Changes that require reporting include:

Changing employers

Email PDFs to OPTSTEM@usc.edu. In the email subject line write: Change of Employer: Last Name, First Name — SEVIS ID #

Loss of employment

MyOIS Request Type: STEM 12-Month or Final Self-Evaluation

  • Select “Final Self-Evaluation”
  • Enter STEM OPT EAD start and end dates, major, and employer information
  • Upload copy of Form I-983 (all 5 pages) with signed final self-evaluation in bottom section of Page 5 – refer to the Sample I-983 and use the Reporting Tool

Material changes, as defined by DHS, made to the Form I-983 Training Plan

Email PDF to OPTSTEM@usc.edu. In the email subject line write: Form I-983 Material Change: Last Name, First Name — SEVIS ID #

Early end of STEM OPT Extension due to change of visa status (e.g., to H1B), SEVIS transfer out, or F-1 status forfeiture

MyOIS Request Type: STEM 12-Month or Final Self-Evaluation

  • Select “Final Self-Evaluation”
  • Enter STEM OPT EAD start and end dates, major, and employer information
  • Upload copy of Form I-983 (all 5 pages) with signed final self-evaluation in bottom section of Page 5 – refer to the Sample I-983 and use the Reporting Tool

Having SEVP Portal Issues?

Before contacting OIS, review the Study in the States: SEVP Portal Help website for answers to common questions or issues, including how to unlock the SEVP Portal account or reset password.

For requests to change the SEVP Portal account email address or any other SEVP Portal issue not addressed on the Study in the States website, submit an SEVP Portal Account Issue Report to OIS. Allow up to four (4) business days for processing. Students will receive an email from OIS@usc.edu when their request is complete or if additional information is needed.

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USCIS Extends Flexibilities to Certain Applicants Filing Form I-765 for OPT

Excerpt of USCIS announcement published on February 26, 2021. Full announcement available on the USCIS website.

14-month OPT Period Flexibilities

F-1 students may participate in up to 12 months of post-completion OPT, which must be completed within 14 months from the end of their program. Due to the delays at the lockbox, some applicants may only be eligible for a shortened period of OPT within that 14-month period. To allow F-1 students to complete the full period of requested OPT (up to 12 months), USCIS will allow the 14-month period to commence from the date of approval of the Form I-765 for applications for post-completion OPT.

Effective February 26, 2021, USCIS will approve applications for post-completion OPT with validity dates reflecting the same amount of time originally recommended by the designated school official (DSO) from their school on the Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.

F-1 students requesting post-completion OPT who receive an approval of Form I-765 for less than the full amount of OPT time requested (not to exceed 12 months) due to the requirement that the OPT be completed within 14 months of the program end date may request a correction of the EAD due to USCIS error. USCIS will issue a corrected EAD with a new end date, as requested, to cover the full amount of OPT time recommended in the original application.

Refiling Following Rejection

Applicants for OPT must file the Form I-765 during certain timeframes. However, we recognize that due to the lockbox delays, some applicants who timely filed Form I-765 for OPT and whose applications were later rejected are unable to timely refile within the required application timeframes.

USCIS will accept a refiled Form I-765 for OPT and STEM OPT as filed on the original filing date if:

  • The original, timely filed application was received on or after Oct. 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021, inclusive; and
  • USCIS subsequently rejected it.

Refiled applications must be received by May 31, 2021, for USCIS to treat the application as though filed on the original received date.

Applicants refiling a Form I-765 for OPT or STEM OPT do not need to obtain a new Form I-20 with an updated OPT recommendation from the DSO, as long as they originally submitted an application for post-completion OPT within 30 days of the DSO’s recommendation or an application for STEM OPT within 60 days of the DSO’s recommendation as required by the regulations.

Applicants refiling an application should include a copy of the rejection notice to facilitate review of the case.

Missing or Deficient Signatures

Applications with missing or deficient signatures are generally rejected at the lockbox. This policy remains unchanged. However, if the lockbox accepts a Form I-765 application for OPT or STEM OPT with a missing or deficient signature, USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence rather than deny the application, to give the applicant the opportunity to respond and provide the necessary signature or correct the deficiency. We encourage applicants filing Form I-765 to review the form instructions on our website to ensure their application is complete before filing it.

USCIS Receipt Notice Delays

USCIS has confirmed they are experiencing significant delays in issuing Receipt Notices. At this time, receipt notices are being issued approximately 4-6 weeks after the applications are delivered (i.e., received at the lockbox).

Per USCIS, the receipt issuance delays will not affect the receipt date. Therefore, we need to rely on your tracking information to assume your application is received and pending. If your shipment tracking information shows that your application was delivered to the USCIS lockbox within 60 days of your STEM OPT Extension I-20 issuance date, no further action is required at this time.

OIS will not issue a new I-20 at this time because we do not want to duplicate or cancel any applications that have been received (i.e., delivered) to USCIS as this can cause a number of additional issues with your STEM OPT Extension application, including denial.

Your Receipt Notice will reflect two dates – the date it was delivered (i.e., received at the lockbox) and the date USCIS issued (i.e., printed) the Receipt Notice. When you receive your Receipt Notice, note the received date to confirm your application was received no more than 60 days after your STEM OPT Extension I-20 issuance date.

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OIS Advising and Contact Information

Do you have any questions after reviewing the above information? OIS can provide assistance via email or an advising session.

Email: Contact OPTSTEM@usc.edu – include student name, SEVIS ID, and a description of question or concern.

OIS Live: OIS Advisors are available for one-on-one consultation Mondays through Fridays via Zoom. Refer to the OIS Live schedule for advising hours and Zoom meeting link. No appointment necessary.

OIS Group Advising and Webinars: OIS offers group advising sessions covering topics such as STEM OPT Extension via Zoom.  Refer to the OIS eCalendar  for upcoming sessions.

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