F-1 STEM OPT Extension

If you are currently in your initial period of post-completion OPT and graduated from a degree program on a government-designated list of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)  fields, you may be eligible to apply for an additional 24 months of OPT authorization if your situation meets certain criteria.

Extending
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Eligibility

Read this chart to see if you are eligible for a OPT STEM Extension.

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Before You Apply

Learn more about the reporting requirements in our STEM OPT Reporting section below.

The earliest you can apply is 90 days before the end date of your initial period of Post-Completion OPT. The latest USCIS can receive your OPT STEM Extension application is the date your EAD expires. Please allow 10 business days for us to process your OPT STEM Extension I-20.

The earliest you can apply is 90 days before the end date of your initial period of Post-Completion OPT. The latest USCIS can receive your OPT STEM Extension application is the date your EAD expires.
  1. You are ineligible for a STEM OPT extension if you exceed 90 days of employment during post-completion OPT.
     
  2. You are limited to a total of 150 days without employment during the period encompassing both post-completion OPT and the STEM OPT extension.

Example

For example, if you had 90 days of unemployment during post-completion OPT, that leaves you with a maximum of 60 days allowed without employment during the 24 months of the STEM OPT extension.  

You are limited to a total of 150 days during which you may be unemployed during the entire period of post-completion OPT and the STEM extension.

If, however, you had accrued 30 days without work during post-completion OPT, you would have up to 120 days during the STEM OPT extension period.

You are limited to a total of 150 days during which you may be unemployed during the entire period of post-completion OPT and the STEM extension.
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How to Apply

STEM OPT Extension Timeline
Step 1.

Pay the STEM OPT Administration Fee

Pay the $280 STEM OPT Administration Fee. You remain in F-1 status under Columbia’s sponsorship with an active SEVIS record during your authorized period of 24 months of a STEM OPT extension.

Step 2.

Gather your documents and information

These are the documents you will upload when you login to Compass to submit your application for the STEM OPT Extension I-20.

Step 3.

Log in to Compass with your UNI and password to submit your application

Please click the appropriate link below:

Not sure of your campus? Check our campus school list.
Need help using Compass? Learn more on our Compass User Guide.

Step 4.

We will contact you

Allow up to 10 business days for us to review and process your application. We will notify you by email when your new I-20 with STEM OPT extension recommendation is ready to be picked up or shipped.

Step 5.

Review, sign and date your new I-20

Review your new I-20 for accuracy.  Remember that the travel signature on page 2 is valid for six months. Keep all previously issued I-20s as you may need them in the future.

Step 6.

Mail your STEM OPT Extension application to USCIS via FedEx or UPS

After you receive the STEM OPT I-20 from us (Step 5), compile these documents to send to USCIS (Step 6).

Want a printable version? Download our USCIS Application Checklist.

Send all the required documents!

Use the checklist to make sure you send everything you need as instructed.

Send it on time

USCIS must receive your application within 60 days after the date the STEM OPT I-20 was issued. If USCIS receives it later than that, they will deny your STEM OPT extension application, without returning or refunding your $410 fee.

Be sure your address on the I-765 will be valid for four months after mailing

Government mail is not forwarded to another address. If you change your address during the processing time, you can use the USCIS Change of Address site but we cannot guarantee its efficacy.

Sign all forms with dark blue or black ink

Make sure all your forms are signed! Your application will be rejected if you don’t sign your I-20, I-765 form, credit card authorization form or check.

Make a copy of your entire application for your records

You may need a paper or scanned copy in the future.

UEMS Discount Shipping Option

UEMS (also known as eShip Global) offers discounted rates to ship your OPT application to USCIS by FedEx, UPS, or USPS. Follow eShipGlobal instructions to create your shipping label.

To avoid mailing problems, send your application by FedEx or UPS to the correct USCIS Lockbox facilities.

Most Common Address

If you list your mailing address on the I-765 as being in: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, or West Virginia, send your application to the Dallas lockbox:

USCIS, Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

Less Common Address

If you list your mailing address on the I-765 as being in: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Guam, or the Northern Mariana Islands, send your application to the Phoenix lockbox:

USCIS, Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S, Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Step 7.

Receive USCIS Receipt Notice

You will receive an I-797A Receipt Notice from USCIS in approximately three to four weeks from the date you mail your application.  Check receipt for accuracy.  If you notice an error, contact the ISSO immediately.

If you receive any other notice, such as a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS, contact the ISSO immediately.

Step 8.

Continue employment while your application is pending

If you filed an application on time for a STEM extension, you will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending, until a final decision is made or for 180 days, whichever comes first. Your employer may refer to page 21 of the I-9 Manual.

Step 9

Receive your STEM OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

The OPT STEM Extension start date on your EAD card will be the date after your OPT EAD expires. Contact us if you receive any other notice, such as a Request for Evidence (RFE), from USCIS.

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After You Receive the STEM EAD Card

You may need them in the future to document your employment history and compliance with U.S. immigration regulations, or for future immigration or visa applications.

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STEM OPT Reporting Requirements

You and your employer have specific STEM OPT reporting obligations throughout your STEM OPT training period. For details, see our webpage on how to comply with STEM OPT Reporting Requirements

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Changing Employers

It is possible to change employers during the STEM OPT extension if the following conditions are met:

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Traveling on OPT

Traveling on OPT STEM Extension? Visit our Travel page for more information.