Extension Option for STEM Field Majors
STEP ONE: Confirm Eligibility
F-1 students whose OPT is based on a Bachelor's, Master's, or Ph.D. degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) field, as defined by DHS, may be eligible for a one-time, 17-month extension of OPT. Click here for a current list of STEM-eligible IU majors. Updates will be made available as they develop.
In order to be eligible for this extension, students applying for this benefit must:
- Already be on post completion OPT based on a STEM-eligible degree.
- Be employed by, or have a job offer from, an employer who is registered with the E-Verify employment verification system. E-Verify is an internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration. For more information on E-Verify, visit this page.
- Have fewer than 90 days of unemployment while on OPT.
- Hold an appropriate degree in one of the DHS-approved STEM fields.
- Not have previously been approved for a 17-month extension of OPT.
- Submit the OPT application to USCIS prior to the expiration of the current post-completion OPT (USCIS must receive the application before the expiration date on the current EAD).
Applying For OPT STEM Extension Requests
F-1 students who are currently authorized for OPT based on completion of a Bachelor's, Master's or Ph.D. degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) field, as defined by DHS, may be eligible for a one-time only 17-month extension of OPT.
Students may apply for a STEM extension up to 120 days prior to the end date listed on their EAD Card. Due to processing and mailing times, it is wise to submit this extension request at least forty-five (45) days prior to the current OPT end date.
Students who file a timely application for an extension will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending with USCIS, until it is approved or denied, or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
STEP TWO: Send Materials to OISS
Compile materials required for the OPT STEM extension application:
- Print a document containing the following information
- Your job title
- Sponsoring company’s name & address
- Company’s E-Verify number
- Name of supervisor
- Supervisor’s email address
- Your current residential address (plus mailing address, if different)
- Completed and signed Form I-765 (see Hints below)
- Two, color, passport-style photographs with name and I-94 number written on back (see Guidelines on USCIS page)
- Copy of the front and back of your current I-94 card
- Copy of your passport identity page and any extension pages
- Copy of the front and back of all EAD cards, including your current EAD card
- Copies of all previous I-20s
- Copy of current driver's license, if applicable (front only)
- Copy of a check or money order for $380.00, payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security"
- Copy of official transcript
- Copy of the diploma that shows your degree level and program of study
Mail all items to
1700 Mishawaka Ave.
PO Box 7111
South Bend, IN 46634-7111
You will submit the application on your own to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox; however, OISS must issue you a cover letter and an I-20 recommending the OPT extension.
Please be sure to keep a copy of everything that you submit. The application should be filed with the USCIS Service Center that has geographic jurisdiction over the address you list on the I-765. For more information, see the I-765 instructions.
Hints for filling out Form I-765
- Item #3
You may use our address: 1700 Mishawaka Ave. Box 7111, South Bend, IN 46634-7111
You may also use your own address.
- Item #9
Use your US Social Security Number.
- Item #10
This is the 11-digit number on your most recent I-94 card.
- Item #11
Includes your current OPT information.
- Item #14
USCIS wants to know what your status was the last time you entered the US. For most students applying for OPT, it is "F-1 Student."
- Item #15
This must be "F-1 Student."
- Item #16
- Item #17
Degree = your degree level and major; Employer's name as listed in E-Verify; Employer's E-Verify Identification Number
- Any items that are left blank, should be filled with "N/A" to show that they are "Not Applicable" to you
STEP THREE: Receive packet from OISS
The OISS will notify you by email that we have received your packet. If it arrives early of the 120 days, we will set it aside until we are inside the 120 days. After we review your documents, we will prepare:
- Cover letter for the final application packet you will send to USCIS
- New I-20 with DSO authorization for the OPT STEM extension
Please note: If you send incomplete or inaccurate documents, the OISS will contact you for corrections and request that you resend corrected copies. Incomplete or inaccurate documents will delay the processing of your application. It may take up to two weeks before we are able to process your packet.
We will send you a second email to notify you that we have returned by mail your packet and the original documents we created:
- We will return your packet through FedEx and provide a tracking number for you.
- When the new I-20 arrives, sign the first page and make a copy for your final application packet. KEEP THE ORIGINAL I-20! This is your new official I-20. Do not send original I-20s (new or old) to the USCIS. You will not get them back. The only original documents you will surrender to the USCIS are Form I-765, your check, and your photos.
STEP FOUR: Mail the complete application to USCIS
Compile the final documents for your OPT extension application and mail the entire packet via certified/registered mail to the correct USCIS Service Center. Prepare a request form if you would like to be receipted electronically.
- Your application must be sent to the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over the state of your mailing address on Form I-765 (see item 3). Check USCIS Web site for correct Service Center: http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/I-765instr.pdf
- After the Service Center has received your documents and has begun to process them, you will receive an I-797 Receipt Notice. With the receipt number, you can go to the USCIS Web site at www.uscis.gov and look at “Case Status & Processing Dates” to check the status of your case online. If the Service Center needs additional information or documents, they will contact you via mail.
- USCIS will not forward mail to a different address. If you do move, you must contact the USCIS Service Center and inform them immediately (the phone number is on your receipt and USCIS Web site). Also, you must contact the OISS to update SEVIS within 10 days.
Unemployment Issues while on STEM-based OPT
Days of unemployment should be tracked by the student. However, students with an approved STEM OPT extension will receive another 30 days of unemployment time for a total of 120 days for the entire period of post-completion OPT.
Traveling while Employed on STEM-based OPT
Please see the information regarding documentation that F-1 students on STEM extension OPT should carry when traveling outside of the US.