When can I apply for a STEM extension?

  • You must be currently on post-completion OPT
    • You may file the STEM OPT application up to 90 days before the current OPT end date.  
    • The STEM OPT application must be received at USCIS before the end of the current OPT period.
    • The STEM OPT application must be received by USCIS within 60 days of the date on which ISSS issues an OPT I-20.  
    • Processing times for OPT applications can be found on the USCIS website.
    • In general, an OPT application will take three months to be approved.
    • Your work authorization is extended for up to 180 days while the STEM extension application is pending.

Can I travel while on STEM OPT?

  • It is prudent to consult an ISSS advisor prior to leaving the US as immigration regulations can change at any time.  

Currently the following are required to return to the US:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport (citizens of Canada and Bermuda EXEMPT)
  • Your OPT I-20 endorsed for reentry by an ISSS advisor within the last six months
  • Your valid EAD for OPT
  • Evidence of employment such as a job offer or employment verification letter

If you do not have all of these documents listed above or plan to leave the US while your OPT application is pending with USCIS, you should consult an ISSS advisor before traveling abroad. 

We recommend that you remain in the US while OPT is pending at USCIS to respond to any additional requests from USCIS.  For more information read here.

Please note: Your EAD will have a notation “not valid for reentry to US.” This is printed on all EAD cards issued for OPT and simply means that the card alone is not sufficient for reentry to the US.


What types of employment are permitted on STEM OPT?

  • All jobs must be paid. You cannot volunteer or participate in an unpaid internship during STEM OPT.
  • Employment must be related to the STEM qualifying degree.
  • You are permitted to hold more than one job but each position must be full time (at least 20 hours per week).
  • Self-employment is not permitted. Students must have a "bona fide employer-employee relationship".

How much unemployment time can I accrue?

  • Students on approved 24-month STEM OPT cannot accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during their total OPT time, (this includes post-completion and stem opt). 

I received a Request for Evidence from USCIS. What should I do?

  • If you receive a Request for Evidence (RFE), please consult an ISSS advisor. 

Can I study while on approved STEM OPT?

  • Your OPT will be automatically terminated when you begin study at another educational level or transfer to another school.

Can I change employers while on approved STEM OPT?

  • Yes, you may change employers during STEM OPT. You must report any changes to your employment status to ISSS, complete the required evaluation forms, and submit an I-983 when reporting new employment. 

Can I work while my 24-month extension is pending?

  • Yes, your employment authorization is automatically extended for 180 days while your STEM extension is pending with USCIS. You are permitted to work even if your EAD card expires during the 180 day period.