STEM OPT

Welcome to the ISSS website's comprehensive guide on STEM OPT for F-1 students. 

F-1 visa holders with degrees in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) who are currently participating in OPT are eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of their training period under the STEM OPT extension program. 

Here's what you can expect in each Section of the guide:

  • Section 1: This section provides information on finding your earliest STEM OPT filing date and determining whether you are eligible to apply for an OPT STEM extension.
  • Section 2: This section is a thorough guide on how to apply for STEM OPT, including all necessary documents and how to track the status of your STEM OPT application.
  • Section 3: This section will outline STEM OPT Reporting Requirements including necessary reporting of information related to employment, immigration, and travel.

*Please check out the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) webpage for more STEM OPT resources.

Section 1: Determine your eligibility and earliest filing date

International students must obtain STEM OPT authorization in order to work past the expiration date of their EAD card. Review the information below to determine if you are eligible and when would be the best time to apply.

As STEM OPT (Optional Practical Training) is not a requirement for international students, please note that it is your responsibility to inform yourself on how and when to apply for STEM OPT.

How do I know if I am eligible to apply for STEM OPT?

Students are eligible to apply for a 24-month STEM extension of their OPT period if they meet ALL of the following requirements:

  • The student pursued a STEM-qualifying Bachelor's or Master's degree program. To determine if your degree is STEM-qualified, please crosscheck the CIP code reported on your Form I-20 with the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List. See the photo below to find your program's CIP code listed on your I-20.

  • The student is currently in a valid period of standard post-completion OPT.

  • The student has an offer of paid employment for at least 20 hours per week from an employer enrolled in E-Verify.

Please note that students who do not meet all three of these requirements are not eligible to apply for STEM OPT.

I know that I am eligible for STEM OPT. When can I start filing my application?

STEM-eligible students can apply for STEM OPT as early as 90 days before the end of their current OPT period. 

The end of your current OPT period is the same as the expiration date listed on your current EAD card. Review the expiration date on your EAD card, and subtract 90 days from your EAD card expiration date to determine the earliest start date that you can file for STEM OPT. 

Feel free to utilize this Date Calculator to confirm the date that is precisely 90 days prior to your current OPT end date.

90 days before the expiration of your EAD card will be the earliest date on which you can file your STEM OPT application. 

Your STEM OPT extension application should be completed as early as possible to avoid delays and possible interruptions to your employment.

Please note that STEM OPT applicants have only 60 days to send the STEM OPT application to USCIS from the date that they are issued new I-20s with STEM OPT recommendation. Therefore, the best time to reach out to the ISSS Office to discuss your STEM extension is around 100 days before your OPT end date with the Form I-983 Training Plan (See Section 2- Step 1).

Can I change employers for STEM OPT or throughout STEM OPT participation period?

STEM OPT employers can be different from the employer you worked for during your OPT as long as they meet the STEM OPT requirement. Please go to section 2-1 to learn more about employer requirements.

Also, STEM OPT participants can change employers during their STEM OPT Extension Period. However, the STEM OPT Participant and their new employer must complete an updated I-983 Training Plan. The STEM OPT application must notify the ISSS Office AND update their SEVP portal of any changes in their employment within 10 days of any changes.

Section 2: How to apply for STEM OPT

SUNY Oswego students should coordinate with the ISSS Office to review materials and acquire a new STEM OPT-recommended Form I-20 before applying online. Allow 5-7 days for the ISSS Office to review the required documents.

Follow the steps in this section to understand key concepts related to the STEM OPT extension and how to submit your STEM OPT extension request on time to USCIS.

1. Complete the Form I-983 Training Plan with your employer

Once you confirm your eligibility to apply for STEM OPT, work with your employer to complete Form I-983 Training Plan. The completed plan should then be submitted to the ISSS Office via email at isss@oswego.edu for review. Please allow the ISSS Office 2-4 business days for processing.

Some important information for completing the Form I-983 Training Plan:

  • SEVIS School Code: It can be found on your Form I-20 is BUF214F00310000.
  • STEM OPT Requested Period:
    • From: the next day of your OPT end date (This is the very next day after your EAD card expires)
    • To: 24 months from the STEM OPT From date (click here for date calculator)
  • Based on Previous Degree: If you are applying for STEM OPT based on a degree that is different from the one that you applied for OPT, check the box. If not, you can check "No"

IMPORTANT: Page 5 of the Form I-983 is dedicated to your annual self-evaluation. The student must submit the assessments for the stated periods:

You DO NOT complete these sections while you are applying for STEM OPT. To learn more about the STEM OPT reporting requirements, please scroll down to Section 4. 

  • Initial assessment: 12 months after your STEM OPT start date, complete the EVALUATION ON STUDENT PROGRESS part of Form I-983.

  • Final assessment: This section recaps the training and knowledge acquired during the completed 24-month training period. You should complete this final assessment in the FINAL EVALUATION ON STUDENT PROGRESS part of Form I-983.

2. ISSS Office issues you a new Form I-20 with a STEM OPT extension recommendation

Once the ISSS Office reviews your Form I-983 Training Plan, and approves of the information provided, the ISSS Office will update your SEVIS record with a recommendation for a 24-month STEM OPT extension.

Upon the updating of your SEVIS record, the ISSS Office will issue you a new Form I-20 that will reflect the STEM OPT extension recommendation. From the date that we issue you the new STEM OPT recommended Form I-20, you have 60 days to complete the online I-765 application. 

As a STEM OPT applicant, it is your responsibility to print out the Form I-20 sent to you by the ISSS Office and add your wet (with pen) signature in the Student Attestation section.

IMPORTANT: Please note that your STEM OPT Recommended Form I-20 does not indicate that your STEM extension has been approved. Your STEM OPT Recommended Form I-20 indicates that the ISSS Office submitted a request for approval for your STEM OPT extension. As a STEM OPT applicant, you must submit your STEM extension application to USCIS which has the final decision in permitting STEM OPT.

3. Prepare all necessary documents to submit your STEM OPT application for USCIS

Within 60 days of receiving your STEM OPT Recommended Form I-20, and before the expiration date listed on your EAD card (the expiration of your post-completion OPT), YOU must file for the STEM extension with USCIS. 

Here are all of the documents that you will need to gather to complete your STEM OPT application for USCIS:

  • Copy of EAD card (back and front)

  • CPT or OPT authorized I-20s (ISSS does not keep any previous I-20s for students, so you need to!)

  • Copy of passport and visa

  • Copy of I-94 (You can retrieve it here in"get most recent i-94" )

  • Official transcript or a copy of diploma showing your program of study in a STEM field

  • 2X2 passport style photograph

    • In case the online application shows an error, try taking photos with your phone. The system will notify you if they can accept the photo or not.

IMPORTANT: When scanning your latest and former Form I-20s, please ensure that these documents are signed and that you are sending in both the first and second pages

4. Submit your Form I-765 STEM OPT extension request to USCIS

Students can start the online STEM OPT application using the USCIS e-filing system, but MUST NOT submit the application until the student receives the STEM OPT recommended I-20 from the ISSS Office.

The ISSS Office highly recommends that you utilize this additional resource to ensure that you accurately follow the instructions for submitting your I-765.

Again, filing cases without the new STEM OPT Form I-20 will result in DENIAL

Therefore, students can start completing the online application before the Form I-983 submission but, again, they must not submit their applications unless they have received a STEM OPT Recommended Form I-20 from the ISSS Office. 

IMPORTANT: Please note, that students must be in the U.S. in F-1 status to submit the application to USCIS. 

5. How to check your STEM OPT case status 1- Download the app

Download the Cast Trakcer for USCIS app

After you submit your form, you can track its status through your USCIS account. Sign in to your account often to check your case status and read any important messages from USCIS. Applicants can also download the "Case Tracker for USCIS" app to track the case status:

6. How to check your STEM OPT case status 2- Check myProgress

myProgress provides applicants with access, in their online account, to personalized estimates of their wait time for major milestones in their case, including their final case decision. While estimates are based on historical patterns of cases with similar specifics, they are not a guarantee of speed, cannot take into consideration all possible unique application processing delays, and may over- or underestimate the true processing time.

To view estimated case timelines, applicants must first create a USCIS online account or log into their account and select their pending application. If they e-filed or linked one of the applicable forms to their online account using an online access code, they will see a myProgress tab for their application. The myProgress tab displays the estimated wait time until their case has a decision, along with a checkmark beside three milestones as they are completed:

  • Confirmation that the application was received;

  • Biometric services appointment (if required) has been completed; and

  • The decision on the pending case.

Applicants will still need to visit the public Check Case Processing Times webpage to determine if they are eligible to file an Outside of Normal Processing Times service request.

7. What if my OPT ends in the near future and I haven't heard back from USCIS?

STEM OPT applicants who successfully filed the STEM OPT application on time can continue to work for an additional 180 days while the application is pending. 

STEM OPT applicants whose STEM OPT application is still in pending after 180 days must stop working and reach out to USCIS. 

Section 3: STEM OPT Reporting Requirements

Once you are approved to participate in STEM OPT, you are required to provide reports. Please note that these reports are mandatory in order to maintain your STEM OPT participation status. 

Please take the time to view the required information that YOU will be responsible to submit. 

IMPORTANT: When changing employers, students should edit the end date for the existing employer and add a new employer to the record. Do NOT edit the previous employer, if you would like to change employers.

1. 6-month SEVIS validation

Every six months STEM OPT participants must work with the ISSS Office to confirm that their immigration record (SEVIS) accurately reflects their current circumstances.

With this, every six months after you begin working your STEM OPT extension, YOU must send an email to isss@oswego.edu and confirm the following information:

  • Legal name

  • Residential or mailing address

  • Employer name and address

  • Status of current employment.

2. Perform an annual self-evaluation

STEM OPT participants must ensure that the ISSS Office receives each annual self-evaluation assessment no later than 10 days following the conclusion of each training period. 

IMPORTANT: ALL STEM OPT participants are responsible for completing the following assessments for the respective time periods:

  1. INITIAL Assessment: 12 months after your STEM OPT start date, you must complete the section entitled ‘EVALUATION ON STUDENT PROGRESS’ found on your Form I-983 Training Plan

  2. FINAL Assessment: This assessment is intended to recap the training and knowledge acquired during the full 24-months of your STEM OPT extension. You must complete the section entitled ‘FINAL EVALUATION ON STUDENT PROGRESS’ found on your Form I-983 Training Plan

Failure to submit these evaluations is a violation of the terms of the Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students,” and may jeopardize the student’s nonimmigrant status.

Students and their employers must sign the student's self-evaluation before the student submits it to the ISSS Office. The ISSS Office will include all self-evaluations in the student's record. 

3. Report international travel plans

The ISSS Office highly encourages all STEM OPT participants to report international travel plans to the ISSS Office. 

This is important as the Travel Endorsement section of your STEM OPT Form I-20 is only valid for 6 months which is a much shorter valid time frame than when you were a student.

Therefore, if the estimated arrival date back to the U.S. is later than 6 months from the last signed date on the travel endorsement section, you MUST complete the Form I-20 Update Request form to obtain a new travel signature from the ISSS Office.

4. Other reporting requirements

Students must report the following changes within 10 days to their DSO in the ISSS Office via isss@oswego.edu:

  • There are material changes to an existing Form I-983, including: any change of the employer’s EIN, any reduction in student's compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked, any significant decrease in hours per week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity, changes to the employer’s commitments or the student’s learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983;

  • Student changes employers;

  • The practical training experience is terminated;

  • The STEM OPT employer is not complying with the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, the Form I-983 instructions, and the completed Form I-983 on file with their DSO;

  • Changes to student contact information such as change of name, phone number, email address, physical address, etc.

For more information on STEM OPT reporting requirements, click here.

5. My STEM OPT duration period is about to end. What are the available options?

When a STEM OPT Participant’s authorized work period is nearing completion. They are provided with the following options:

  1. Upon completion of their STEM OPT work authorization period, the STEM OPT Participant may pursue a higher educational degree in the United States
  • Those who wish to pursue a higher educational degree at a new university must work with the SUNY Oswego ISSS Office to ensure that their SEVIS records are transferred accordingly
  • Leave the United States within 60 days of the expiration date on the EAD Card
    • There is a 60-day grace period following the end of the STEM OPT period. 
  • STEM OPT Participants nearing completion of their STEM OPT program have the option to change their immigration status
    • Should an employer decide to, they may sponsor a STEM OPT participant for a work visa
    • Please note that the SUNY Oswego ISSS Office does offer legal advice on this topic and would recommend reaching out to an immigration attorney