STEM Extension

Some students who earn degrees in designated science, technology, engineering or math programs may be eligible for a 24 month OPT extension.

  • The 24-month extension is available upon completion of 12 months of OPT.
  • The STEM extension is granted in one 24-month period; it cannot be “split” into 2 periods. The employment start date for a STEM extension is the day immediately after the day on which your initial OPT expires.

For details on this, review the information available at the US government website’s STEM OPT Hub.


STEM Extension Requirements

  1. Completed a degree in qualifying STEM program.
    • The STEM-designated degree program list includes all STEM fields qualifying an F-1 student for a STEM OPT extension.
    • The CIP Code assigned to your degree is the number that follows your Major on page 1 of your I-20.
  2. Currently engaging in post-completion OPT (students on pre-completion OPT are not eligible).
  3. Will be employed by an E-Verify employer.
  4. The student and the E-verify employer complete a Form I-983Training Plan.
    • F-1 students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Form I-983 because F-1 students may not provide employer attestations on their own behalf. However, STEM OPT applicants can participate in a start-up or small business so long as all regulatory requirements are met. The employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.
  5. Maintain valid F-1 status.
  6. STEM OPT students must do an annual self-evaluation and must report to the Center for International Services about the progress of the training experience. Students and their employers must sign the self-evaluation prior to submitting it to the Center for International Services, who will include it in the student's record.
  7. Have not accrued more than 90 days of unemployment.
  8. Submit a timely STEM extension application.
    • USCIS must receive your STEM Extension application no more than 90 days before your OPT expires and no later than the date your OPT expires.

  • The employer must participate in USCIS's E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.
  • The employer must report to the Center for International Services when an F-1 student on a STEM OPT extension terminates or otherwise leaves their employment before the end of the authorized period of STEM OPT. The employer must report this change to the center no later than five business days after the student leaves employment. For more information about employer requirements, please visit the Study in the States Employer Reporting Requirements page.
  • Both the student and employer are obligated to report to the Center for International Services any material changes to or material deviations from, the student's formal training plan, Form I-983.
  • These requirements mandate that the company remains in good standing with E-Verify and has the resources to comply with the proposed training plan.

STEM OPT Application Process

You may file your application online OR on paper by mail.

Step 1:

Obtain a passport style photo of yourself -2 inches by 2 inches, white or light background, no glasses.

  • If filing on line, one digital photo.
  • If filing on paper, by mail, two photos are required; you should write your name and I-94 number on the back of the photos (in case they are separated from your application).

Step 2:

Complete page 1 of the I-983 Training Plan and work with your employer to complete pages 2-4.  Page 5 will be completed later.

Step 3:

Prepare digital (if filing on line) or paper if filing on paper, by mail) copies of the following:

  • Your Syracuse University diploma or a transcript indicating that your degree was awarded.
  • Your passport biodata page (with photo and expiration date).
  • Your most recent U.S. visa.
  • Your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record.
  • Your Employment Authorization Document(s) (EAD(s)) from current OPT and any employment authorization you may have had in the past (e.g., OPT for previous degree).
  • Any previous I-20 with CPT authorization.
  • The completed I-983 Training Plan.

Step 4:

Complete the STEM Extension Data Sheet  (read, check, and sign) and print it out. This form is fillable; Please type responses directly into it and then print it out.

  • Filling in item 18 (Requested Employment Start Date): The start date of your STEM extension will be the day after your OPT ends.
  • Filling in item 19 (Requested Employment End Date): The end date must be 24 months from your STEM extension start date.

Step 5:

  • Go to: myaccount.uscis.gov to create a USCIS Online Account and log in or access your account if you already have one.

Step 6:

  • After logging in, click on: “File a form online” to begin your application process.
  • Select “Application for Employment Authorization (I-765)” from the drop-down list.
  • Complete the online I-765 Form and upload documents.

Answer the form questions in order – do not skip ahead. The form has conditional logic that will display the next set of questions according to your answers. Go in order so that you only see the questions you need to complete.

  • Eligibility Category
    • STEM Extension(c)(3)(c)
  • What is your Reason for Applying: You should select “Initial permission to accept employment.” Unless you have filed form I-765 before (even if it was denied), you should answer yes. You will give details about the previous application later in the form.
  • Do you want the Social Security Administration to Issue you a Social Security Card?
    • Do NOT apply again if you already have an SSN.
    • If you have lost your card, you apply for a replacement card through a local SSA office.
  • Review Your Form:
  • The system will review it but it will NOT check your answers for accuracy – you must make sure that the data you provided in your application is correct. An “error” simply means you may have missed something on the application or formatted something incorrectly.
  • If an error is highlighted in "red", it must be corrected before you can submit your application.
  • A “yellow” error calls your attention to something that may need correction. Review it to make sure your information is correct.
  • Upload your documents to the application
    • Passport page with photo and expiration date
    • Visa
    • Print out of Form I-94 
    • Your Syracuse University diploma or transcript showing your degree was awarded
    • Passport style photo
    • All previously issued EADs
    • I-20s authorizing CPT, if any
  • SAVE A DRAFT of your Form I-765 - DO NOT SUBMIT IT TO USCIS

Step 7:

Please scan and email the following required documents to international@syr.edu  for processing.

A new I-20 with the OPT recommendation will be sent to you as an attachment to an email. You must sign and date the new I-20 on the bottom of page one before making a digital file to upload to your application.

Please anticipate that processing of your application by the Center for International Services will take a minimum of two business days from the date it is received and may take longer. We are unable to respond to inquiries concerning pending applications unless they have been pending for more than three days. Please only send your application to the international@syr.edu account, not to individual advisors. Duplicate submissions increase the processing time for everyone.

Step 8:

  • Create a digital file of the new I-20 recommending OPT-be sure you have signed and dated it on the bottom of page one.

Step 9:

  • Log back into your USCIS account and Saved I-765 application and upload the I-20 recommending  the STEM Extension of OPT to your application (be sure you have signed and dated it on the bottom of page one).
  • You must submit the application within 60 days of the date the I-20 recommending  the STEM Extension of OPT was issued; it must be submitted before the end date of your OPT.

Step 10:

  • Pay the I-765 $410 filing fee by debit or credit card.

Step 11:

  • Submit your application.

Step 12:

  • USCIS will automatically generate a receipt number for your application upon submission. They will also send an application receipt to you in the mail within 2-3 weeks of receiving your application. It will note the date your application was received and the date the receipt was mailed. In the top right-hand corner, the receipt will also include a receipt number which can be utilized to check the status of your case.

Step 13:

  • If your application has been approved by USCIS, you should receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card) in the mail within approximately 90-120 days.

Step 14:

  • Submit a photocopy of your EAD card to the Center for International Services by email to: international@syr.edu.

Step 5:

  • Complete Form G-1145 and print it out- this form is optional but we recommend that you complete and print the form to receive an email and/or text message notification that USCIS has received your application.

Step 6:

  • Complete Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and print it out- this form is used to apply for many different types of employment authorization including OPT; some of the questions will not apply to applicants for OPT. Please do your best to complete the application and we will review it with you when you come for PT Processing.
    • Part 2-Item 5 (Your U.S. Mailing Address):
      • This is the address to which your EAD card (OPT approval) will be sent.
      • If you are using another person’s address to have your EAD card sent to, you need to write that person’s name in 5.a., the box marked In care of (c/o), Street Number and Name City, State, Zip Code.
    • When providing an address, please be aware:
      • If you have moved and did not provide USCIS with your valid address on your application, your EAD card will be returned to USCIS. USCIS mail is NOT forwarded.
      • If your address changes while your application is being processed, please contact the Center for International Services immediately as this may delay your receipt of the EAD card.
      • USCIS will not mail EAD cards overseas.
    • Be sure to answer Part 2-Item 6, yes or no.
      • If you answer no to Part 2-Item 6, you must complete Item 7 with the address at which you live.
    • Part 2- Item 12 (Have you previously filed Form I-765?)
      • You must answer "yes" because you applied for OPT.  Explain any previous applications on Form I-765 in Part 6. (e.g. OPT, Severe Economic Hardship).
    • Part 2- Item 27 (Eligibility Category)
      • For 24-Month STEM OPT Extension: (c)(3)(C)
  • Part 2-Item 28.a. Degree:  enter your program of study and your level of education (Bachelor, Master, Doctoral); Example: Master’s Information Science.
    • Part 3- Items 7.a. and 7.b.-Applicant’s Signature
      • Sign the Form I-765 in ink
    • Part 4 (Interpreter) and Part 5 (Preparer)-you must include these pages with your application
      • You should write “Not Applicable” or “N/A” in the boxes in these items unless you used an Interpreter or someone else completed the form for you.
    • Part 6-you must include this page with your application
      • Complete your name in Items 1.a.-1.c.
      • Complete Items 3.a. through 3.d., 4.a.-4.d., 5.a.-5d., etc. Because you answered “Yes” to Item 12-previously filed Form I-765 with USCIS indicate Page 2, Part 2, Item 12 and explain:  I previously filed and was approved for OPT  from _____ (date) to ______ (date) based on my ____  (level) degree in ____ (field)
      • If you were previously approved for CPT leave the boxes blank but explain:  I was approved for part-time or full-time CPT from _____ (date) to ______ (date) based on my ____  (level) degree in ____ (field)
      • If you attended school in the U.S. on another SEVIS Number indicate:  I previously attended school in the U.S. under SEVIS Number N00__________

Step 7:

Please scan and email the following required documents to international@syr.edu  for processing.

A new I-20 with the OPT recommendation will be sent to you as an attachment to an email.  You must sign and date the new I-20 on the bottom of page one before making a digital file to upload to your application.

Please anticipate that processing of your application by the Center for International Services will take a minimum of two business days from the date it is received and may take longer. We are unable to respond to inquiries concerning pending applications unless they have been pending for more than three days. Please only send your application to the international@syr.edu account, not to individual advisors. Duplicate submissions increase the processing time for everyone.

Step 8:

Mail your completed OPT application packet to the USCIS Service Center. You must mail the application within 60 days of the date the I-20 recommending  the STEM Extension of OPT was issued; it must be received by the end date of your OPT.

  • Check or money order for $410.00 made payable to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security."
  • Two 2 x 2 inches passport style photographs taken within the past 30 days with your name and I-94 number written gently on the back of your photos.
  • Completed Form G-1145.
  • Completed and signed in ink Form I-765 (original).
  • Photocopy of your documents:
    • New I-20 with STEM Extension recommendation on page 2
    • Visa
    • Passport
    • Most recent I-94
    • EAD for OPT and any previously issued EADs

Note: You do NOT need to submit the I-983 Training Plan to USCIS as part of your STEM extension application. You should save a copy. We are required to have a copy in your file at the Center for International Services.

If using the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) use Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express for tracking:

USCIS PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680

If using Fedex, UPS, or DHL:

USCIS Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn-3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

Step 9:

USCIS will send an application receipt to you in the mail within 2-3 weeks of receiving your application. It will note the date your application was received and the date the receipt was mailed. In the top right-hand corner, the receipt will also include a receipt number which can be utilized to check the status of your case.

Step 10:

If your application has been approved by USCIS, you should receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card) in the mail within approximately 90-120 days. Please be aware that you may not begin working prior to reaching the start date on your EAD and you must stop working on the end date.

Step 11:

Submit a photocopy of your EAD card to the Center for International Services. Scanned files, email to: international@syr.edu.

OPT application processing times vary. It is estimated that a typical application will take 2-3 months to process.

If you have your application receipt number, you are able to check the status of your OPT application online. To do so, you may click on the link provided on USCIS.gov.

If after checking the normal processing times for I-765 OPT applications you find that your case is beyond the normal processing times you can submit an inquiry to USCIS about your Form I-765 through their case inquiry form.

You should not submit a case inquiry if in the past 60 days, you:

  • Received a notice from USCIS about your case,
  • Responded to a request for evidence from USCIS, OR
  • Received an online update to your case status from USCIS

You may submit a request to USCIS to expedite your case only if you can document one or more of the following criteria:

  • Severe financial loss to company or person;
  • Emergency situation; For example, the applicant is gravely ill.
  • Humanitarian reasons; For example, outbreak of war in the home country.
  • Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States; For example, an organization broadcasting in regional areas to promote democratic interests.
  • Department of Defense or national interest situation; the request must come from an official U.S. government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to the government.
  • USCIS error; or
  • Compelling interest of USCIS.

To make a request to expedite your application, you should call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. When calling, you will need to tell the customer representative that your case is outside the normal processing time and explain why you believe your case meets one of the required criteria.

USCIS reviews all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and requests are granted at the discretion of the office leadership. The burden is on the applicant or petitioner to demonstrate that one or more of the expedite criteria have been met. Approval of such requests is discretionary and USCIS reserves the right to request documentation supporting the request to expedite an application or petition.


Maintenance of F-1 Status While on STEM Extension

  • Cannot accrue more than 150 days of unemployment over the 36 month OPT period (OPT + STEM OPT).
  • Can change employers but ALL employment during STEM Extension must be with an E-Verify employer and must be in your field of study.
  • STEM extension reporting requirements – During the STEM extension period, you must report the following via the STEM Extension OPT Student Information Update Form within 10 days of any change to:
    • your legal name
    • your residential or mailing address
    • your email address
    • your E-Verify employer’s name or address
    • Status of current employment/practical training experience
    • your I-983 Training Plan
    • You must also confirm this information on this website every 6 months, even if there are no changes.

Students who file a timely application for the STEM extension can continue working for their E-Verify employer (while the application is pending) until either (1) receipt of the STEM EAD card or (2) 180 days, whichever comes first.
Submit a copy of new EAD card to international@syr.edu; please title email “STEM EAD card copy”.