(The following information is an adaptation of information available at NAFSA.org and StudyInTheStates.DHS.gov)

F-1 students with bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) from U.S. the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) - certified institutions of higher education may apply for the 24-month STEM OPT Extension from a valid period of 12-month standard post-completion OPT. The start date of the 24-month STEM OPT extension will be automatically set to the day after the expiration of the current 12-month OPT authorization and the end date will be 24 months later. This will allow for a total of 36 months of OPT. Students may not request only a portion of the 24-month STEM OPT extension.

After completing another qualifying degree at a higher degree level and receiving another period of standard post-completion OPT based on that degree, a student would be eligible for one more 24-month STEM OPT extension.

A student is limited to two STEM OPT extensions during his or her lifetime.

To qualify for the 24-month extension, the eligible student must:

  • Student must be in the United States with a valid F1 SEVIS record and I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
  • Have been granted OPT and currently be in a valid period of OPT,
  • Have a STEM major which is on the STEM Designated Degree Program list - ICE
  • Have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree* from a school that is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency and is certified by SEVP.
  • Previously obtained STEM degrees: F-1 students participating in a 12-month period of standard post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree earned from a U.S. institution of higher education to apply for a STEM OPT extension. Students must have received both degrees from currently accredited and SEVP-certified institutions, and cannot have already received a STEM OPT extension based on this prior degree. The practical training opportunity also must be directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree.
  • STEM degrees obtained in the future: If a student enrolls in a new academic program in the future and earns another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level, the student may be eligible for one additional 24-month STEM OPT extension.
  • Work for an E-Verified employer who meets all the requirements in the STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities (For more information, employers and students may refer to the DHS STEM OPT Hub.)
  • Submit a complete STEM OPT application packet to USCIS no earlier than 90 days before his or her current OPT employment authorization expires, and within 60 days of the date the student’s Designated School Official (DSO) [same as International Student Advisor (ISA)] enters the recommendation for the STEM OPT extension into the student’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.
  • *Master’s or doctoral students who have not yet completed their thesis or dissertation may still be eligible for STEM OPT extension and must:
    • Be on a period of standard post-completion OPT, and
    • Have completed all course requirements outside of completing their thesis or dissertation. The thesis requirement or equivalent must be the only degree requirement still outstanding at the time of application; this is not an available option for students using a previously obtained STEM degree.

Types of employment that do not constitute employment under the 24-month STEM OPT extension are:

  • The DSO/ISA must recommend the 24-month STEM OPT extension in SEVIS, after verifying the student's eligibility, certifying that the student's degree is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, and ensuring that the student is aware of their responsibilities for maintaining status while on STEM OPT.
  • Students will have to submit the Form I-765 with fee and qualifying documentation in order to apply for the STEM OPT extension.
  • Students who timely file an application for the 24-month STEM OPT extension will be able to continue employment while the application is pending, until receiving a final decision on the I-765 or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
  • The employment authorization period for the 24-month STEM OPT extension begins on the day after the expiration of the standard post-completion OPT employment authorization, and ends 24 months later, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved.
  • Students may apply for the STEM OPT extension in the 90 days prior to the expiration of the standard OPT EAD.
  • Applications for the STEM OPT extension must be filed and received at USCIS before the current standard OPT EAD expires.
  • Limited Periods of Unemployment to Maintain Status:
    • During standard 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 standard post-completion OPT carried out under the initial standard post-completion OPT authorization.
    • Students granted the 24-month STEM OPT extension are allowed an additional 60 days of unemployment, for an aggregate of 150 days of unemployment during the total 36-month OPT period.
    • Must report their OPT/STEM OPT Employment and Home Address to the UFIC ;within 10 days of any changes to their name, address, or employment status in the U.S.
    • Students must also make a validation report to their DSO/ISA every six months starting from the date the STEM OPT extension begins and ending when the student's F-1 status ends, the student changes educational levels at the same school, the student transfers to another school, or the STEM OPT extension ends, whichever is first.

Each international student advisor is assisting students with urgent deadlines. Each student’s personal deadlines are important, however, the government-issued deadlines require priority. Advisors are processing each student’s request to the best of their abilities. They do their best to review and process documents in the order received, but also take into account the expiration date of the OPT EAD and USCIS deadlines. If there are multiple EAD cards expiring on the same day, advisors process them in the order received.

Students must submit the following documents as PDF or JPEG email attachments (Advisors cannot open other document formats):

  • Payment of the STEM OPT Administrative Charge
    The STEM OPT Administrative Charge is as below:
    STEM OPT Standard Administrative Charge: $125.00 for students who submit their completed application in ISSS within the 31-90 days prior to their Standard OPT EAD expiration date
    STEM OPT Late Administrative Charge: $250.00 additional charge (for a total of $375) for students who submit their completed application in ISSS within 30 or fewer days prior to their Standard OPT EAD expiration date
    The student will pay online the applicable charge(s) within the OPT STEM request.
  • I-983 Form (ELECTRONICALLY TYPED, with handwritten/manual signatures. Students should also see:
  • Passport (must be valid/unexpired)
  • Standard OPT EAD copy.
  • Copy of Electronic I-94: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home
  • Copy of Electronic Travel History: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home
  • Confirmation of Coverage of Medical Evacuation and Repatriation Insurance

To start the STEM OPT Extension request, click the following button and use your GatorLink credentials to login (please make sure you only create one request):

 

STEM OPT Extension

 

To return to your request, please use the ISSS login button from the top of the side menu.

When the STEM OPT Recommendation I-20 is ready, the student will receive an email with the STEM OPT Recommendation I-20 attached or instructions on how to download it from the ISSS Portal. The following documents must be prepared and submitted to USCIS for your STEM OPT application. UFIC is not responsible for submitting the application to USCIS nor for the outcome of your application. Please wait to receive the new I-20, reflecting the STEM OPT Extension recommendation on page 2, BEFORE submitting the I-765 application with USCIS. Filing the I-765 with the incorrect I-20 will result in a denial of the application.

  • Please complete and submit the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization form online through the USCIS website.
  • When selecting the I-765 application, be sure to select the eligibility category: (c)(3)(C) – F-1 student, 24-month extension of OPT for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students.
  • If you have previously set up your USCIS online account, use the same account to file this I-765 application. If you still need to set up your USCIS online account, you may do so via the USCIS website.
  • The online submission will involve electronic completion of the I-765 questions, uploading all your supporting documents, and payment of the application fees.  Nothing will need to be mailed to USCIS.

Standard Application Fee is REQUIRED:

  • The current filing fee is $410.00 but is subject to change. The fee can be paid via the following methods and is non-refundable:
    • Debit or Credit Card
    • Electronic withdrawal from a checking or savings account

Premium Processing Fee is OPTIONAL:

  • USCIS provides an option for premium processing of the STEM OPT application for an additional fee. This guarantees USCIS will adjudicate your STEM OPT Extension application within 30 calendar days but DOES NOT guarantee an approval.
    • The current premium processing fee is $1,685 if you are requesting premium processing of Form I-765 with eligibility category (C)(3)(C).
    • The fee amounts are subject to change. Check the USCIS site for the most recent information regarding the current fee amounts.

The two US Regulation Passport Photos of the student

  • Must be in color, white background, and taken within 30 days of the filing of the application
  • Cannot be the exact same picture as in the student’s visa or passport
  • Students must print their full name and I-94 number in pencil or felt tip pen (thin sharpie) on the back of each photo
  • Passport photos can be obtained at the UF Mail & Document Services, Bldg. 715, Radio Road or at a local Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, etc.
  • The digital photo will be uploaded directly in the I-765 application when the student completes the application with USCIS online.
  • This document will be issued from UFIC upon completion of this online request.
  • Applicant’s HANDWRITTEN SIGNATURE is required in blue or black ink before uploading.
  • Current OPT EAD (front and back)
  • Most Recent I-94 - https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94
  • F1 Visa (does not need to be valid)
  • Passport (Must be valid/unexpired)
  • Upload the scanned copy of the student’s diploma and official transcript available through ONE.UF. A scan of the unofficial transcripts is not accepted.
  • If you need to order a diploma or a transcript, please follow the hyperlinks.
  • If this STEM OPT Extension application is based on prior earned degree, meaning a degree you earned in the past, before your most recently earned degree from the University of Florida, the I-765 application will ask you to upload evidence of the school accreditation. Evidence of the school accreditation may be obtained at the U.S. Department of Education DAPIP site. You can search for the school there. This is ONLY necessary if this application is based on a prior earned degree.

Once the student submits the I-765 application online via the USCIS site, the student can track the application status within the USCIS online account. If the student needs to submit any additional documentation, it can be uploaded in the “Unsolicited” evidence section of the application found by logging into the USCIS online account.

  • The OPT application MUST be submitted to USCIS within 60 days from the date the STEM OPT recommendation was made in SEVIS AND before the student’s standard post-completion OPT expires, whichever comes first!
  • If the student’s application is approved, he or she will need to upload a scan of the STEM OPT EAD as instructed in the OPT and STEM OPT Reporting Requirements page.

Students who maintain their F-1 status while on STEM OPT will receive the 60-day Grace Period upon the expiration of the STEM OPT card. The student has the following options prior to the expiration of the grace period:

Students who have applied and been admitted to a new program at UF must request an I-20 for Change of Educational Level (COL). In order for the student not to be required to depart the US before the start of the new program:

  • the new program must start within 150 days or less from the STEM OPT expiration date and
  • the I-20 request must be made in ISSS at least 7-10 business days prior and the I-20 must be issued before the STEM OPT 60 day grace period expires.

If the program will not start within 150 days or less, or if the I-20 update request is not made to the ISA at least 7-10 business days prior to the grace period deadline, the student will be required to leave the US by the end of the STEM OPT 60 day grace period. An Initial I-20, which will have a new SEVIS ID, to apply for a new F-1 visa abroad, will be mailed to the student’s home address abroad. Students are required to pay the SEVIS fee for the new SEVIS ID, along with the F-1 visa application fee. The student will then be able to return to the US within the 30 days prior to the program start date indicated on the Initial I-20.

When a student is admitted to a new program at the same school, the remaining portion of STEM OPT, if any, is automatically terminated when the current school registers the student for the new program in SEVIS.

Students who have been admitted to a new program at a school other than UF must request a Transfer-Out to transfer their F-1 SEVIS record to the new school. In order not to be required to depart the US before the start of the new program:

  • the new program must start within 150 days or less of the STEM OPT expiration date and
  • the request must be made in ISSS at least 7-10 business days prior to and the SEVIS record must be transferred before the STEM OPT 60 day grace period expires.

A SEVIS transfer is not possible after the Grace Period has expired.

If the program will not start within 150 days or less, or if the SEVIS transfer request is not made to the ISA at least 7-10 business days prior to the grace period deadline, the student will be required to leave the US by the end of the STEM OPT 60 day grace period. The new school will provide the student with an Initial I-20, which will have a new SEVIS ID, to apply for a new F-1 visa abroad. Students are required to pay the SEVIS fee for the new SEVIS ID, along with the F-1 visa application fee. The student will then be able to return to the US within the 30 days prior to the program start date indicated on the Initial I-20 from the new school.

When a student is admitted to a new program at another school, the remaining portion of STEM OPT, if any, is terminated when the SEVIS record is transferred to the new school.

If the F-1 student has applied for and received approval for a change of visa status, such as to F-2, H1B, H4, J1, J2, Permanent Resident, etc., the student should email their ISA. Include the UFID number and a copy of the USCIS approval notice or Permanent Resident/Green Card.

If the F-1 student would like to apply for a change of status from F-1 to F-2, and the F-1 spouse is a student at UF, please visit Requesting Change of Visa Status to F-2 and contact the spouse’s F-1 advisor.

If the F-1 spouse is a student at another institution, please contact the spouse’s F-1 advisor at the other U.S. institution.

* USCIS may require that the Change of Status application is filed prior to the expiration of the STEM OPT card itself. This means the USCIS receipt date of the application may need to be prior to the start of the 60-day grace period.

Students who will leave the U.S. indefinitely, with no current intentions of returning to continue their STEM OPT, or if the STEM OPT has ended, should send an email to their ISA; include the UFID number and a copy of the flight itinerary. This does not include temporary travel for vacation or work, if the student plans to return to continue their STEM OPT.

The student’s F-1 SEVIS record will be terminated/completed, and the remainder of the STEM OPT, if any, will become invalid; this decision is final, cannot be withdrawn/revoked. The student must depart the US within 15 days of the termination of their SEVIS record.