Applying for STEM Extension

The Department of Homeland Security offers additional immigration benefits to graduates of STEM Fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). In addition to the 12 months of Standard OPT, graduates who have successfully completed a STEM degree may apply for an additional 17 months of OPT for a total of 29 months of practical training without need for H-1B sponsorship.

STEM Extension Application Packet

NOTE: Your Application for the OPT STEM Extension must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date when your I-20 was updated recommending you for the STEM extension. Do not request your OPT STEM Extension until all your documents have been gathered.

Timeframe for Extension Application

USCIS must receive your completed application for the STEM Extension before your current EAD expires. You may apply for the extension as early as 4 months before your EAD expires. The latest you should submit your application is 21 days prior to your Standard OPT end date.

Mailing your Application for STEM Extension

Consult the Checklist for OPT STEM Extension to find the appropriate USCIS Lockbox for your application. Find the lockbox based on your current state of residence, not where your degree was awarded.

E-Verify Employer

One condition of the STEM Extension is that graduates must be working  for a company which is enrolled in E-Verify. To prevent requests for evidence and a delayed extension processing time, be sure to receive the correct E-Verify identification number from your employer before submitting your application for the STEM Extension.

Pending STEM Extension Application

Since the application for the STEM Extension involves more data to verify, USCIS allows graduates who have submitted an extension request before their Standard OPT expires to continue working beyond the EAD expiration for up to 6 months while the extension is pending.

Additional Reporting Requirements

Once your STEM Extension has been approved, you must continue to report any change of situation (address, employer, etc.) to your international student advisor. You may do this by submitting the OPT Update online form within 10 days of the change.

In addition to the regular reporting requirements, graduates on the STEM Extension must also report to their International Student Advisor every 6 months to confirm their current address and employment. The timeframe for your reporting is 15 days before or 15 days after your reporting deadline. Graduates may meet this reporting requirement by selecting “STEM Reporting” on the online form OPT Update. Failure to report every six months may result in termination of your F-1 status and employment authorization. 

STEM Extension vs. H-1B Filing

Some graduates may be unsure whether to apply for H-1B or the STEM Extension. Before making your decision, consider the following facts.

  • Graduates are eligible for the STEM Extension only once per lifetime
  • The cost of the STEM Extension is $380
  • There is a limit to the number of H-1B visas awarded each year. If more applications are received than spots allowed, applicants for H-1B will be randomly selected in a lottery. Only applicants chosen in the lottery will be considered for H-1B approval.

You may decide to file for both the STEM Extension and H-1B processing. If you are not selected in the lottery, you have work authorization for another year and a half and may apply for H-1B processing in the following year.