Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM Extension Application Guidelines
Students on an F-1 student visa can request an Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM Extension. The OPT STEM extension allows a student in the field of science, technology, engineering or mathematics to apply for an additional 17 months of OPT. A student must submit application materials before the end date listed on their EAD card. A student can only be authorized for one 17-month extension in a lifetime.
To be eligible, a student must have completed a degree in one of the following fields:
- Actuarial Science
- Chemical Engineering
- Computer Science Applications
- Engineering Technologies
- Life Sciences
- Military Technologies
- Physical Sciences
All students on OPT are required to report to the International Student Program Advisor any change of name and/or address, and any interruption of such employment. Every student authorized for an OPT STEM Extension must submit a validation report every six months starting from the date the extension begins and ending when the student's F-1 status ends, the student changes educational levels at SOU, the student transfers to another school or the OPT Extension ends, whichever is first. This validation is a confirmation that the student's name and address, employer name and address, and/or loss of employment is current and accurate. The report is due to the DSO within 10 business days of each reporting date.
A student may change employers during the 17 month extension. However, USCIS and SEVP advise against changing employers while the I-765 is pending, since the I-765 names a specific employer. While on a 17-month extension, the student is only allowed to be employed by employers who are registered with E-Verify.
During post-completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT carried out under the initial post-completion OPT authorization. Students granted a 17-month OPT extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 120 days of unemployment during the total 29-month OPT period.
- Obtain a job offer letter (printed on company letterhead) from your prospective/current employer that describes the nature and location of the employment, the start and end dates of the employment, the number of hours per week and the rate of pay (if applicable).
- Have your employer register their company with E-Verify. You will need to provide their E-Verify number on your Form I-765.
- Submit your job offer letter to the International Student Advisor for review. If approved, the Advisor will create a new I-20 for you that includes a STEM Extension endorsement. Please note that this process can take a few days.
- Obtain proof of your degree that supports the major field of study listed on your Form I-20. This proof can be in the form of transcripts or a copy of your diploma.
- Download and complete a Form I-765 Application For Employment Authorization, available on the USCIS website. The correct eligibility code for an OPT Stem Extension (Item #16) is (c)(3)(C).
- Write a personal check or obtain a money order for the I-765 filing fee ($340), payable to "US Department of Homeland Security".
- Sign your new I-20 and make a copy for your records.
- Mail the following documents to USCIS to the correct USCIS lockbox within 30 days of the date your new I-20 was issued:
- Form I-765
- Check or money order
- Original of new I-20 with OPT STEM Extension endorsement
For applications sent via US Postal Service (USPS), use the following address:
PO Box 21281
Phoenix AZ 85036
For applications sent via courier/express mail, use the following address:
1820 E Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix AZ 85034