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STEM OPT Extension

The OPT STEM Extension is a 24 month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 36 months) available to eligible F-1 students (students with majors designated by the federal government as STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Economics and Psychology majors at MHC are also eligible for the STEM extension.

You must be working for an employer that is part of the Everify system and they must be willing to complete and adhere to the Form I-983. The employment must be regular, paid employment. You must complete a new I-983 if you change employers before we will be able to issue you new I-20 form with the new employer information.

Working for a third party employers (such as temp or staffing agencies, consulating agencies) is not allowed unless the student is working solely for employer. They may not assign or contract out students to work for one of their customers or clients, and assign, or otherwise delegate, their training responsibilities to the customer or client. The employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student.

Here is a powerpoint presentation that has information on eligibility and requirements for the OPT STEM Extension

When to Apply

  • USCIS must issue you a receipt for your application dated no late than the end date of the student's current 12-month OPT (the end date on the EAD card)
  • Students may apply as early as 90 before their OPT EAD end date
  • OPT will be automatically extended for up to 150 days while the STEM OPT application is pending, however, to travel, students must have an unexpired EAD card

How to Apply

  1. Work with your e-verify employer to complete an I-983 Form. Email the completed form to Bri Rhodes and mail the hard copy with original ink signatures to the McCulloch Center
  2. Complete the STEM OPT Request form. We will need this completed form to process your new STEM extension request I-20 form
  3. Once the McCulloch Center receives these two documents, we will send you a new I-20 with a STEM extension recommendation. Do not apply without a new I-20!
  4. Once you have received the new I-20, complete the I-765 online. You will pay the $410 filing fee as part of the online application, You’ll also need to gather the following documents:
    • Scans of any previously issued I-20 forms with CPT or OPT authorization on them
    • Scans of previous EAD cards
    • PDF of Form I-94 reflecting your most recent entry into the US. You can retrieve it online.
    • Official transcripts - Mount Holyoke does not currently have electronic transcripts, so you must request that official hard copies of transcripts are mailed to you and then you will scan and upload them.
    • Scans of ID and most recent visa pages from passport including most recent entry stamp of the last time you entered the US
    • Passport-style photo taken within the last 30 days. You can either use a US passport photo app or purchase a flash drive at Walgreens or CVS and ask the electronic file to be placed on the flash drive
After STEM OPT is Approved

General Reporting Requirements (Be sure to report any of the following changes to the McCulloch Center within 10 days of the change):

  • Your legal name
  • Your residential or mailing address
  • Your employer’s name and address
  • Any loss of employment

Mandatory Validation Report Requirements While on STEM OPT Extension (submitted every six months)

Beginning from the start date of your STEM OPT Extension, you are required to submit a validation report to the McCulloch Center every six months. You are required to submit this information every 6 months - even if nothing has changed.

6 Month STEM OPT Validation Report Form

Mandatory I-983 Evaluations and Updates (submitted every 12 months)

Any changes to the information in the I-983 training plan must be submitted to the McCulloch Center. This includes, but is not limited to, if your work site, supervisor, role at your company, or company itself changes. Any changes in employer or additional employers require submission of an updated training plan.

Regardless of changes, students are also required to submit self-evaluations every 12 months of the STEM extension. You must complete the Evaluation on Student Progress at 12 months, and the Final Evaluation on Student Progress at 24 months, or the completion of your STEM extension period.

Changes in Employer while on STEM OPT

Contact the McCulloch Center immediately if you have or plan to change employers on STEM Extension. You must fill out a new I-983 Training Plan with your new employer. You cannot begin working for a new employer until you have completed and sent in the new I-983 form and we have issued you a new I-20 form with the new employer information on page 2.

Traveling on STEM OPT

When traveling during your STEM OPT Extension, be sure to use your STEM OPT EAD card. While on a period of STEM OPT you must travel with the following documents:

  • Your STEM OPT Form I-20 form with a valid travel signature (valid for 6 months)

  • Valid, unexpired F-1 visa stamp

  • Passport (valid at least 6 months in to the future)

  • Letter from your E-Verify employer confirming your employment


Also consider traveling with all of your previously issued EAD cards and I-20s

Unemployment while on STEM OPT

You are permitted a total of 150 days of unemployment during the entire 36 months (12 month standard OPT + 24 month extension). If you accrue any more than 150 days of unemployment you are considered out of status, lose the rest of your STEM OPT time, and must leave the U.S.