F-1 STEM OPT Extension
Read this chart to see if you are eligible for a OPT STEM Extension.
- Must currently be on post-completion OPT administered by Columbia, working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to your major field of study. Keep in mind that STEM OPT employment must be paid; volunteering does not count toward the minimum of 20 hours/week employment.
- Must have reported OPT employment using the online report form
- Have not had more than 90 days of unemployment during post-completion OPT
- Successfully completed a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or doctoral degree in a field on the government's STEM CIP Code List. To check if your degree program is eligible, look at page 1 of your I-20. The code is listed next to your Program Major.
- Must have a job or job offer for at least 20 hours/week paid employment from an employer registered with the E-Verify employment verification system
- Not be self-employed
Before You Apply
In addition to being enrolled in E-Verify, your STEM OPT employer:
- has to abide by certain terms and conditions for participation
- must provide appropriate training
- must maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with you
- has reporting obligations to the ISSO. Learn more at our STEM OPT Reporting section below.
STEM OPT may take place at a site other than the employer’s principal place of business as long as all of the training obligations are met.
Learn more about employer responsibilities from USCIS.
- The earliest you can submit an application to the ISSO for your OPT STEM Extension I-20 is 90 days before the end date of your initial period of Post-Completion OPT. Please allow up to 10 business days for us to process it.
- The latest USCIS can receipt your OPT STEM Extension application is the date your EAD expires. They do not necessarily receipt the application the day it is received in their mailroom, so don't wait until the last minute.
- You are ineligible for a STEM OPT extension if you exceed 90 days without employment during post-completion OPT.
- You are limited to a total of 150 days without employment during the period encompassing both post-completion OPT and the STEM OPT extension.
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.
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.
How to Apply
Pay the STEM OPT Administration Fee
Pay the $400 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.
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.
Use our sample form to complete the Form I-983 Training Plan. The form must be completed and signed in ink by you and your employer. Do not upload an editable PDF to the ISSO. You must upload a scanned version of the hard copy document.
- Use our sample form as a guide to complete your I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. When you’re finished, print and sign with dark blue or black ink. Do not upload an editable PDF to the ISSO. You must upload a scanned version of the hard copy document.
- Copy of your most recent I-94 Arrival Record (not your travel history), which is evidence of F-1 status. Make sure the record indicates you were admitted until "D/S."
- Copy of front and back of current Post-Completion OPT EAD.
- Prior STEM Degree Certification Form (only if the degree was earned at another school).
- Your UEMS (University Express Mail Services) order number, if you choose to have your STEM OPT extension I-20 shipped.
Log in to Compass with your UNI and password to submit your application
Please click the appropriate link below:
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.
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.
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).
** Be very careful that your application is complete before you mail it! USCIS can deny your application if it's missing any required documentation without sending you an RFE (Request for Evidence) Read more.
Want a printable version? Download our USCIS Application Checklist.
- Original Form G-1145 to allow USCIS to notify you when they accept your application (not a copy)
- Original Form I-765, signed in dark blue or black ink only (not a copy). Must include all pages of I-765, even if pages are blank.
- $410 USCIS fee. Pay with personal check from a U.S. checking account, cashier's check from a bank, or money order, payable to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security." Write "USCIS I-765" in the memo line. We do not recommend using the Credit Card form G-1450 due to reported issues.
- A signed and dated copy of your STEM OPT Extension I-20 and copies of all previously-issued I-20s (no originals). If you do not have all your I-20s and are unable to obtain copies from the school that issued them, attach a brief explanation of your F-1 status history.See a sample letter here.
- Copy of Passport Identification page (valid 6 months into the future)
- Copy of F-1 entry visa (Canadians are exempt). If you changed your status to F-1 in the U.S. and don't have a visa, include your Change of Status approval notice.
- Copy of your most recent I-94 arrival record (click “Get Most Recent I-94”)
- Two U.S. passport style photos using standards from the Department of State website and be aware that  photos cannot be more than 30 days old when you send the application and  you should write your name on the back of each photo in pencil.  You can take your photos at UPS Stores (603 West 115th Street & 42 Tiemann Place), among other places.
Photocopy of both sides of your current OPT EAD card and any previously issued EAD card(s)
Digital/electronic or paper diploma (a copy of either is acceptable) which shows your degree and the date it was awarded. You must include your transcript with it as evidence of having completed a STEM degree on the government list.
- E-transcript or paper transcript (a copy of either is acceptable) of your degree program of study in a designated STEM field.
Send all the required documents!
Use the checklist to make sure you send everything you need as instructed.
Send it on time!
USCIS must receipt your application within 60 days after the date the STEM OPT I-20 was issued. The day USCIS receives your application is not necessarily the day that USCIS will issue a receipt for it. If your application receipt date is later than the 60-day limit, 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.
Use the USCIS address that corresponds to the state on your U.S. mailing address listed on the I-765 OPT application. To avoid mailing problems, send your application by FedEx or UPS to the correct USCIS Lockbox facilities.
Dallas Lockbox States
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:
Attn: NFB AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
Phoenix Lockbox States
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:
Attn: NFB AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S, Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034
Receive USCIS Receipt Notice
You will receive an I-797C 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.
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 section 6.4.2 of the I-9 Handbook for Employers under F-1 STEM OPT Extension.
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.
Changing or Adding Employers
It is possible to change employers during the STEM OPT extension, or add a second concurrent employer. The same STEM OPT Extension requirements apply for each employment situation
- The new (or additional) employer must be enrolled in E-Verify before you begin to work.
- Your employment must be paid for at least 20 hours/week.
- You and the new employer must complete a new form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students and upload it in Compass within 10 days of beginning the new STEM OPT employment. Follow the instructions on the STEM OPT Reporting page.