Read all the information regarding STEM OPT. Once you have read all of the information and determined that you are eligible, follow the below steps to apply for the STEM OPT Extension Benefit. As with most immigration-related benefits, USCIS makes the final determination on whether an F-1 student is eligible. Your request to ISSS for the STEM OPT Extension recommendation and ISSS determining that we can recommend you for the benefit, does not guarantee that USCIS will approve the STEM OPT Extension application.
STEM OPT Application Process
1. Complete and submit to ISSS the STEM OPT Intake Form found on the Forms section of our website. *Due to security reasons, please do not email these documents as attachments to us.
You will need to prepare the following documents to upload with the STEM OPT Intake form to ISSS for us to review and determine if we can make a STEM OPT Extension recommendation in your F-1 SEVIS record.
- Fill out on-line and print the I-765 Application for Employment Authorization form.
- G-1145 e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance form. If you are mailing the application packet to USCIS, this form will enable them to notify you via text or email the status of your application. If you are filing on-line, then you won’t need this form.
- Copy of the diploma and transcripts for the STEM degree.
- Copy of your most recent I-94 record to be downloaded from: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home.
- Copy of your passport identification page, plus your most recent entry stamp and most recent visa;
- Copy of your current OPT Employment Authorization Card (EAC) and any previous EACs you were issued; and
- Copies of all your previous I-20s (pages 1 and 2).
- Completed and signed I-983 Training Plan with all attestations and supporting documentation. The I-983 form and instructions can be found at https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/form-i-983-overview.
3. Give your employer the link to the STEM OPT Employer Reporting Requirements webpage. It provides information about the role the employer plays in the STEM OPT reporting process.
4. The ISSS Advisor will review all documents, make the STEM OPT recommendation in SEVIS, and create an updated I-20.
5. ISSS will notify you via email that we issued an updated I-20 and will provide instructions for you to pay for the shipping of the I-20 to you. Follow those instructions to have the updated I-20 mailed to you.
6. Upon receipt of the updated I-20, you will:
- Sign and date the updated I-20 in the Student Attestation box on the bottom of the first page;
- Copy pages 1 and 2 of the new I-20 for inclusion in the STEM OPT application packet, if you are mailing it to USCIS.
NOTE: Remember to keep your original updated SEVIS I‑20 form with STEM OPT recommendation as your current I‑20 form for travel. If you mail the original to USCIS, they will NOT send it back to you.
7. Submit the STEM OPT Extension application to USCIS. You may file the STEM OPT Extension application packet with USCIS by mailing the application packet to them or you may file the application packet on-line.
- If you are going to submit the STEM OPT Application online, you can do so via https://www.uscis.gov/i-765. The USCIS website is better accessed via a PC and via the Internet Explorer browser, especially if filling out forms. Follow the instructions and upload as requested.
- If you are mailing the paper STEM OPT Application packet to USCIS, assemble the STEM OPT application packet as follows:
- Check or Money Order for Filing Fee made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” – refer to www.uscis.gov for the most current filing fee; and
- Photos that meet USCIS requirements (with name and SEVIS ID # in pencil on back) – see Form I-765 Instructions for USCIS Photo Specifications; and
- The documents in the bulleted list in #1 above in that order.
BEFORE mailing, make a copy or scan f your entire OPT packet. Keep this duplicate packet for your personal records.
Place your complete application in an envelope, and then mail to USCIS inside the express mail envelope. On the front of the envelope you place inside the express mail envelope, write “I-765 - OPT Application.”
- USCIS must receive your OPT application with Form I-765 and supporting documents within 60 days of the date that your DSO enters the recommendation in your SEVIS record. Refer to the date by the signature of the DSO on the first page of the I-20 to determine the date.
- USCIS must physically receive the completed packet by no later than the expiration date of your current post-completion OPT Employment Authorization Card (EAC). (Be sure it arrives on a weekday.)
- You submit the I-765 application packet based on the mailing address you use on the I-765 form in part 2.
Note: Mailing addresses for I-765 can change without notice. So, before mailing, verify the address on the USCIS website: https://www.uscis.gov/i-765 under the “Where to File.” section.
ISSS recommends sending your application by an express mail service (such as UPS or FedEx) that offers package tracking. If you mail via US Postal Service (USPS), be sure to request a method with a tracking number. DO NOT use a “signature upon delivery” option because USCIS may not “sign” for the package.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you choose NOT to use the ISSS mailing address on the I-765 form, please be sure to provide ISSS with a clear copy of any USCIS notices and the Employment Authorization Card (EAC), as regulations require us to report updates in SEVIS throughout your STEM OPT Extension period. If you do not use our address, USCIS will not notify ISSS about anything relating to your application. *DO NOT email these copies due to security and privacy reasons.* Instead, upload them through our secure Document Submission Form which can be found on the Forms section of this website.
Additional Form I-765 Filing Guidance
>>REASON FOR APPLYING
Refer to page 4 of the USCIS Form I-765 instructions for how to complete the form based on the Foreign Students Category. It is recommended if you are applying for STEM OPT Extension, to mark 1a - “Initial permission to accept employment.”
>> YOUR U.S. MAILING ADDRESS
Use a valid, U.S. address as this is where USCIS will send notices, the Employment Authorization Card (EAC) and Social Security Number (SSN) (if requested). We encourage you to use Middlebury College’s ISSS office address so we can receive the card when it is approved, update our records appropriately, and help you if there are any Requests for Evidence or errors on the card. We will notify you when we receive any mail for you, and will arrange with you to send it to you.
- 5a: Middlebury College ISSS
- 5b 14 Old Chapel Road
- 5d: Middlebury
- 5e: VT 5f: 05753
- 6: No
>> YOUR U.S. PHYSICAL ADDRESS
Use a valid, U.S. address for where you are physically living. (DO NOT PUT AN ADDRESS WITH A P.O. BOX)
>> OTHER INFORMATION
- Question 8: Your A-number can be found at the top of your post completion OPT EAC mailer or on your post completion EAC.
- Question 9: If you have never created a USCIS On-line account number, then you can leave this question blank.
- Question 12: Since you have applied for employment authorization in the past, select YES. Provide copies of all previous EACs, front and backside. (You will also have to provide additional information in PART 6.)
- Question 13a: Everyone must answer question 13a. It asks if the Social Security Administration (SSA) has ever officially issued you a Social Security card.
- Question 14: Most F-1 students who are on post-completion OPT have a SSN and should answer No to this, then skip ahead to Part 2, Question 18a.
>> YOUR COUNTRY OR COUNTRIES OF CITIZENSHIP
- If you are stateless, use the name of the country where you were last a citizen or national.
- If you are a citizen or national of more than one country, use the name of the foreign country that issued your last passport.
>> INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR LAST ARRIVAL IN THE U.S.
- Question 21a: Use your I-94 number and travel history from the I-94 website at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home.
- Question 21b: Use your passport information.
- Question 21c: Most of you will be able to answer 21b with your passport information. In this case, you can write NONE for 21c. (This question is only relevant if you have a travel document other than a passport.)
>> INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR ELIGIBILITY CATEGORY
Question 27: The STEM OPT Extension category is (c)(3)(C).
Questions 28a, 28b, & 28c: Put the STEM degree you earned, for example: BS - Biology, and name of employer as it is listed in the E-Verify system and the E-Verify number for the employer. If you fail to include the E-Verify number (usually 6 or 8 digits), your application may be denied.
>> APPLICANT’S STATEMENT
Select the appropriate box. Most students will choose 1a.
>> APPLICANT’S CONTACT INFORMATION
For questions 3 to 5, use your contact information. If you do not have a phone number for question 3, use the ISSS number at 802-443-5858.
>> APPLICANT’S SIGNATURE
Sign your name in the box (black ink) for 7a and make sure that your signature stays in the box. USCIS will not accept a stamped or typewritten name in place of a signature.
>>PARTS 4 OR 5 are used only if the applicant uses an interpreter or preparer (i.e. attorney).
>>PART 6 - FOR ANYONE FILING A STEM OPT Extension:
List, separately, all previously issued SEVIS numbers (the N number found on your Form I-20s), all periods of CPT, and all periods of OPT previously granted, including the current post-completion OPT period, as well as the educational level at which they were authorized. Since there are no clear USCIS instructions on how to list this information, consider the following method:
- 1. Family Name, Given Name, Middle Name (as listed in your passport and on the I-765)
- 2. A-Number you can find it under the USCIS # on your EAC or at the top of the EAC mailer.
- 3a. Page Number: 2
- 3b. Part Number: 2
- 3c. Item Number: 12
- 3d. (provide the additional information):
- SEVIS ID N000000000000 (use your specific number)
- MM/DD/YYY to MM/DD/YYYY
- Degree Level
- Post-completion OPT (or Pre-Completion OPT or CPT depending on the type of employment authorization granted)
- Answer all questions fully and accurately.
- If a question does not apply to you, type or print N/A, or NONE for questions requiring a numeric response, unless otherwise directed.
- If the form will not allow you to type N/A, you can type NOT APPLICABLE.
- If there are any fields that do not contain sufficient space or for which you would like to provide additional information, such as your full name as it is on your passport, please put it on page 6 and reference the page, part, and item numbers for which you are providing additional information.
- QUESTIONS? If you have questions after carefully reading this document and reviewing USCIS resources, please contact ISSS at email@example.com.
After Applying for STEM OPT
What happens after filing for the STEM OPT Extension with USCIS?
Within a few weeks, USCIS will send a “Notice of Action” with a case number to confirm receipt of your application. With the “Notice of Action,” you can check the status of your case online.
- If your application is incomplete or requires further information, USCIS will send a Request for Evidence (RFE).
- If you use the ISSS mailing address, the RFE will come to ISSS and we will alert you.
- If you respond to an RFE or for any other further correspondence to USCIS about your OPT application, always put a copy of your Notice of Action on top of your correspondence to ensure that it goes directly to your file.
- If you receive an RFE, consult with ISSS to confirm that you are responding appropriately.
As long as you file your STEM OPT application and it is received by USCIS before your current OPT authorization expires (i.e. the end date of your current Employment Authorization Card), your employment authorization is considered automatically extended for up to 180 days while the STEM OPT application is pending.
Once you receive the EAC, you are authorized to work during the time period specified on the card. Your employer may need to see the card to prove that you are eligible for employment.
Compliance with STEM OPT reporting requirements is primarily the responsibility of the student and, secondarily, the sponsoring school. The employer also has reporting obligations. To maintain your status, be sure to comply with the necessary reporting in a timely manner. Please see the Maintaining F-1 Status on STEM OPT section of our website for more information. All forms and resources can be found on the Forms page of our website. Additionally, here is a link to the federal site that describes the regulatory requirements for those on STEM OPT: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students-stem-optreporting-requirements.
Note: You cannot be unemployed for more than an aggregate of 150 days (during your combined 36 months of Post-Completion OPT and STEM OPT). It is important to update ISSS with any employment changes right away.
Travel During the STEM OPT Period
You may travel outside of the U.S. after your STEM OPT is approved and you have the new EAD.
The safest time to travel outside the U.S. is after your STEM OPT is approved. If you choose to travel while the STEM OPT application is pending, do so with caution. Please refer to the US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) website for answers to F-1 students traveling with a pending OPT application: https://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel.
To return to the U.S. during the F-1 Student STEM OPT period and re-enter the U.S. in F-1 student status, the following documents are needed:
- A valid passport.
- A valid I-20 with your STEM OPT recommendation and a valid travel signature no older than 6 months at time of re-entry to the U.S. on page 2. To obtain a travel signature from ISSS, please fill out the Updated I-20 Request Form on the Forms section of our website.
- A valid F-1 visa stamp (that permits multiple entries) in your passport. (Note: Citizens of Canada and Bermuda do not require visa stamps.)
- A valid Employment Authorization Document (EAC). 5. PROOF OF EMPLOYMENT such as a job offer letter or employment verification letter is also recommended.
Your non-immigrant status will be determined by the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) official at time of admission (or through USCIS via the adjudication of a change of status petition). When you attempt to re-enter, the U.S. border official may inquire as to whether you are returning to the U.S. to resume employment. You should be prepared for this question. If you have the documents listed above, you should have what you need to show as evidence for your eligibility to re-enter the U.S in F-1 status.
Immigration regulations state that you may return to the U.S. to “resume employment after a period of temporary absence” (less than 5 months). If you are absent from the United States for more than 5 months, your F-1 status is broken and your OPT automatically comes to an end.
If your F-1 visa has expired, you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to reenter the U.S. We recommend that you do this in your home country per Department of State guidance. You may be required to show documentation that you have a job to return to and sufficient income or funds to cover your living expenses.
Note: If you apply for a new visa, please be sure to check your passport to ensure that an F-1 visa has been posted. In some cases, Embassies have granted a B-1/B-2 (Business/Tourist) visa in error! You will be able to correct this error relatively easily if you notify the Embassy immediately. If you leave the Embassy without making the correction, it is very difficult to correct at a later date.
After you re- enter the US be sure to check your I-94 record to ensure you were entering in the US on a F-1/DS status.