STEM Extension Application Process
Step One: Complete I-983
All prospective STEM OPT students and employers are required to complete a Training Plan (Form I-983) to establish expected outcomes and learning objectives. This reporting and oversight requirement establishes the extended OPT period as an integral piece of an academic training experience. Students will need to review their Form I-983 every 12 months throughout the STEM OPT experience to assess progress and performance. Information about the training plan, or Form I-983, can be found on SEVP’s website here. A Form I-983 pre-populated with NC State University’s School SEVIS Code and DSO Contact Information can be found on OIS’s Forms for Current Students page.
- Pages 1-4 of the I-983 must be completed and signed in ink by the student and the employer
- Page 5 of the I-983 must be completed and signed by the student and employer for annual and/or final evaluations
Step Two: Request a new I-20 from OIS
The STEM OPT application requires a Form I-20 with a STEM OPT recommendation. In order for OIS to issue the STEM OPT I-20, you must submit a request in GlobalHome. You must have the following documents to complete the request:
- Copy of Form I-983 (pages 1-4) completed and signed by student and employer.
- Receipt from payment of the OIS STEM OPT Maintenance Fee
*Note: The STEM OPT Request pdf form is no longer required; the same information is collected in the GlobalHome request.
Please allow up to 10 business days for processing and issuance of the new I-20. You will receive an email as soon as your new I-20 is ready.
Please do not submit your request more than 104 days before your EAD expiration date; OIS will not issue the I-20 until the application eligibility window has opened.
Step Three: Submit application to USCIS
The earliest USCIS can receive your STEM OPT application is 90 days before the expiration date of your post-completion OPT EAD. Your application also must be received within 60 days of the STEM OPT I-20 issuance and before your EAD expires. Please note, it is important that you are physically present in the U.S. when you submit your application to USCIS and remain in the U.S. at least until you receive your I-797 receipt notice from USCIS.
OIS has prepared the above Guide with important information about completing the I-765, common mistakes to avoid, and next steps to prepare for. Please consult the guide as you prepare the following materials for your STEM OPT application:
- Form G-1145. Use most recent version available at http://www.uscis.gov/g-1145. This form will facilitate an electronic notification that your application has been received.
- Form I-765. Use most recent version available at http://www.uscis.gov/i-765. Important Note: among other things, you will need to indicate your employer’s E-Verify number on the I-765. Many students confuse the E-Verify number with the Employer Identification Number (EIN). E-Verify and EIN are not the same number. Make sure you obtain the correct E-Verify number from your employer.
- Using OIS’ mailing address. We are again allowing students to use OIS’ address as their mailing address for the I-765 application if they have no other stable address options. Full conditions and instructions are included in the OPT/ STEM OPT Mail Waiver, which you must complete should you choose to use OIS’ mailing address.
- Check or money order for $410 stapled to I-765, made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. **Please check USCIS’ website for the correct fee on the date you mail your application**
- Two passport-style photos (2″ x 2″) taken within the last 30 days. Write your full name and A-Number (same as USCIS # on your current EAD) on the back of each photo. Attach the photos to the I-765. For specific photo requirements, please refer to the I-765 Instructions available at http://www.uscis.gov/i-765.
- Copy of the STEM OPT I-20 (sign the I-20 before photocopying).
- Copy of your current and any previously issued EAD(s) (front and back).
- Copy of most recent I-94 record. Download your most recent I-94 record from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94.
- Copies of most recent F-1 visa and passport (valid at least 6 months into the future)
- Copy of diploma and/or transcript for the degree upon which your STEM OPT application is based. If your diploma does not list your particular field/major, you must also include the transcript. Unofficial transcripts are fine.
- Do NOT include a copy of your Form I-983
Use this list of USCIS lockbox facilities to determine where to mail your application (see “Foreign Students” section).
Information regarding employment authorization is subject to change. Students should confirm the application requirements, fees and process with USCIS. For the most up to date instructions regarding the I-765 please see: http://www.uscis.gov/i-765
Step Four: USCIS Processing
The following information should be kept in mind regarding USCIS processing of the STEM OPT application.
- Processing time varies, currently anywhere from 2.5 to 5 months from the day USCIS receives your application.
- Within a few days of USCIS receiving your application, you should receive a text message and/or email if you included the G-1145.
- Within a few weeks of USCIS receiving your application, you should receive a paper receipt notice indicating that your case has been accepted for processing. If you do not receive this receipt within 30 days, please contact USCIS as there may be an issue with your mailing address.
- If something is missing from your application (i.e. I-765 is missing a page or a signature), USCIS may reject your application instead of receipting it – in this case, they will return the entire application to you, along with a rejection notice. Please contact OIS right away if your application is rejected. If your application is rejected too close to or after your original EAD expiration date, you will not be eligible to re-apply.
- The paper receipt notice documents that your case has been accepted for processing by USCIS. As long as your application is received by USCIS before your EAD expiration date, your F-1 status and work authorization are automatically extended for 180 days or until a decision is made on your application. Your expired EAD presented together with the Form I-20 issued for the STEM extension and the Receipt Notice from USCIS are sufficient to prove your employment authorization until you receive the new EAD.
- Once your case is approved, you will receive the I-797 Approval Notice and the EAD (separately).
- If USCIS needs more information or documentation to approve your case, you will receive a Request for Evidence (RFE). If you receive an RFE, please contact OIS immediately.
USCIS does not allow applicants to pay a fee for expedited processing and only accepts requests for expedited processing of petitions filed in a timely manner based on certain extreme criteria. Students may follow the instructions on the USCIS web page to determine if you meet the USCIS criteria for expedited processing and to complete an expedited processing request. OIS is not involved in the processing of any petitions filed with USCIS and any inquiries regarding expedited processing need to be sent to USCIS.
Students may also contact USCIS directly to ask questions regarding pending applications, though contact is only recommended sparingly and when you have a particular concern about your application (and not about the processing time if your application has been processing for less than USCIS’ published processing times).