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 able to apply for an additional 24 months of OPT authorization if your situation meets certain criteria.

Extending
Orange Page Divider
Orange Alert Icon


Application Alert


Beginning 9AM Friday, March 10 through 11 AM Monday, March 13, you will not to be able to submit or upload any ISSO applications (including this one) as we conduct our Compass database migration. Do not worry, you will be able to submit applications again starting 12:00 PM Monday, March 13. We are sorry for any inconvenience.

Orange Page Divider

F-1 STEM OPT Overview

You must meet certain requirements

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

You and your employer have specific reporting obligations

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

You must apply on time

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.

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.

You have a limited amount of unemployment days

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.

You may not be unemployed for more than 90 days during post-completion OPT.

For example:

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.
Orange Page Divider

How to Apply

If you meet eligibility requirements from above, you're ready to start!

STEM OPT Extension Timeline
Step 1.

Pay the OPT Trainee Administrative Fee

Pay the $280 STEM OPT Administrative 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.

Submit your forms to the ISSO

Submit the forms below as a single PDF file to ISSO-opt@columbia.edu for processing:

Step 3.

Pick-up your STEM OPT Extension I-20

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 OPT recommendation is ready. You may pick it up or request FedEx delivery on the STEM OPT Extension request form. 

Step 4.

Mail your OPT application to USCIS via FedEx or UPS

Mailing

Be sure to send it on time

USCIS must receive your application before your current OPT expires and within 60 days of the date the STEM OPT extension I-20 is issued to you. If it received later, your application will be denied by USCIS, and your $410 fee will be not returned or refunded to you.

Sign all forms with blue ink

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

Make a copy of your entire application for your records

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

Most Common Address

If you list a mailing address on the I-765 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 live 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

OPT Application Checklist

This is what you will send to USCIS:

Step 5.

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 6.

Receive your OPT STEM Extension approval and EAD Card

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.

Orange Page Divider

STEM OPT Reporting

You and your employer have specific STEM OPT reporting obligations. The table below gives an overview.

Orange Page Divider

How to Report STEM OPT

Steps to Report STEM OPT
Step1.

Submit this report (every 6 months)

During the period of the OPT STEM Extension you have to submit this report to us every six months even if the information hasn't changed.  Also use it to report any change of information or an interruption in employment.

Step 2.

Email us your annual self-evaluation (after first year)

Email your annual self-evaluation on page 5 of the I-983 to us after the completion of your first year (completed by you and the employer).

Step 3.

Email us the final evaluation (upon completion)

Email the final evaluation on page 5 of the I-983 to us upon completing your OPT STEM employment (completed by you and the employer).

Orange Page Divider

Changing Employers

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

  • The new employer must be enrolled in E-Verify before you begin to work.
  • You and the new employer must complete a new form I-983 Training Program for STEM OPT Students and submit it to the ISSO within 10 days of beginning the practical training.

Reporting Obligations

  • If you begin the new practical training less than 10 days after leaving the first employer, timely submission of the new I-983 fulfills your reporting obligation.
  • If the period of time between STEM OPT employers is longer than 10 days, you must first report the loss of employment and then the beginning of new employment with the new I-983.

 

orange divider

Traveling on OPT

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