Skip to Content

International Student and Scholar Support

24 Month STEM Extension

If the CIP code on your I-20 is STEM eligible, you can apply for a 24-month OPT extension. You can request your STEM OPT Extension I-20 from ISSS as early as 90 days before your current 12-month OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card expiration date. USCIS must receive your STEM OPT extension application before your current 12-month OPT EAD card expiration date. You cannot apply for the extension after your OPT EAD expires. 

How to Apply

We are pleased that you have decided to extend your stay in the US and apply for post-completion OPT. While you are on OPT, you remain in F-1 student immigration status and ISS staff will continue provide you with immigration and advising support. The $100 SEVIS maintenance fee will offset the expenses of mandatory SEVIS compliance and record management after your graduation. The SEVIS maintenance fee is not required for applications for pre-completion OPT (OPT that occurs during the program of study). This fee is separate from the $410 application fee paid directly to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Follow this link to pay the $100 24-month STEM OPT Extension SEVIS Maintenance Fee.

  • (required) STEM OPT I-20 Request Form, signed by you (electronic signature or scanned signatures
    acceptable), located in the ISS Forms Library.
  • (required) I-983: Please review this guide for completing form I-983.
  • (optional) I-765: ISS will check the I-765 for completion, but you are responsible for confirming the accuracy of all information and for ensuring that you are submitting the most current version of the I-765 from the USCIS website.

This can take up to 5 business days. 

•Your STEM OPT extension Statement of Responsibility should not be mailed to USCIS. This is an internal ISS form.
• Form I-983 should not be mailed to USCIS. This form is uploaded to your SEVIS record by an ISS advisor.
• Your STEM OPT extension application must reach USCIS within 60 days after your ISS advisor makes the STEM OPT
extension recommendation in SEVIS.
• The earliest your STEM Extension OPT application can reach USCIS is 90 days before the end of your post-completion OPT. The latest your application can reach USCIS is the last day of your post-completion OPT. USCIS maintains that your application should be filed in a "timely manner," so early application is recommended.

• The following checklist is a recommendation. But you should always check the official I-765 instructions on the USCIS website prior to mailing your application.

  • G-1145
  •  I-765
    *Your signature must be a “wet signature” in black ink. A digital or scanned signature is not acceptable on the I-765.
    *Make sure to use extremely clear handwriting or type your information other than the signature.
    *Always make sure you’re using the most recent form available on the official USCIS website.
  • Copy of new STEM OPT extension I-20 (an ISS Advisor will create the new I-20 and email to you after reviewing the forms mentioned above)
    *You should print 2 copies of the I-20 sent to you via email. Sign and date both. Keep one copy for yourself. Mail the other copy to USCIS.
  • Copy of Passport Photo Page
  • Copy of F-1 visa
  • Copy of your current Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • Copy of your post-completion OPT I-20
  • I-94 (can be obtained here by selecting “Get Most Recent I-94.”)
  • Check or money order made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Please check the filing fee here.
  • 2 New Passport Photos
    *Taken within the last 30 days
    *With name and I-94 number written on the back.
    *For examples of acceptable passport photos, see the DOS website.
    *You can get appropriate passport photos taken at a drugstore such as CVS or at a mailing store such as Fed-Ex. If you wish to take the photos yourself, review the Department of State’s tool for taking digital photos.
  • Official academic transcript You can order this through Self Service Carolina ( If you have forgotten your login, please visit the Registrar’s office website here. The transcript does not have to be sealed. You may order the eTranscript for this purpose (this document will say “printed from certified PDF”- this is acceptable.) Unofficial transcripts are not acceptable.
  • Copy of diploma - If you have misplaced your diploma, you will need to order a replacement diploma or an eDiploma. To do so, please visit the Registrar’s office website here.

*Note that USCIS now has an online filing process for OPT and STEM OPT applications. ISS does not have personal experience with the online application process, as it is brand new. For more information, see here.*

  • Filing your application online: If you wish to file your OPT application online, see this section of our website.
  • Filing your application by mail:
    • Mail your application to the address listed on USCIS’ Direct Filing Addresses section.
      • You should navigate to the section for “Foreign Students,” then navigate to the first row for Optional Practical Training.
      • Choosing regular mailing vs. courier mailing does not have an impact on your application. P.O. Boxes cannot be used by courier mail services, which is why there’s a separate address for courier services.
      • ISS recommends that you always mail your application with a tracking number.
    • ISS recommends that you keep a digital scan of all your application materials in your personal files.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Your major's CIP code must be listed on the STEM List released by ICE. Make sure to read the first two paragraphs in full, as it can be confusing to determine whether or not your program is STEM eligible.
    • Your CIP code is a 6 digit code listed on your I-20 next to the name of your major and is in XX.XXXX format.
  • Your employer must be registered in the E-Verify program.
  • Your employment must be paid.
  • You must have a bonafide employer-employee relationship with the company providing the training, and this company must complete the Form I-983. If you are getting paid through a staffing agency, the staffing agency cannot complete your Form I-983. As Study in the States explains, "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."
  • You must work at least 20 hours per week.

Unemployment Information

Students on their 24-month STEM Extension OPT have 60 days of allowable unemployment in addition to the 90 days of allowable unemployment on post-completion OPT for a total of 150 days of allowable unemployment.


Frequently Asked Questions

The earliest you can apply is 90 days before your regular OPT expires. You cannot apply after your OPT expires, so be sure to apply in a timely manner. 

Yes, as long as you have submitted the application before the end of your OPT time. 

Yes. However, you will need to update ISSS and complete a new I-983 training plan with your new employer. 

Different Universitires use different titles for a major, but they all have the same CIP code. Therefore, the CIP code ultimately determines your eligibility. Look for your CIP code on your I-20. It is located on the first page under the title "Major 1" or "Major 2." It is a 6 digit number that looks something like this: 50.1001. If your CIP code is found on the ICE STEM list, you are eligible. 

Apply for a different visa status or prepare to leave the country. The ISSS office does not have the knowledge or authority to adivse on other visa types. 

Yes, but both jobs must meet all of the STEM OPT job requirements (ex: full-time and paid) and you must submit an I-983 training plan for each. 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.