The OPT STEM Extension is a twice-per-lifetime 24-month extension for eligible STEM majors who are currently in an authorized period of post-completion OPT.
The STEM degree (bachelor’s or higher) may have been earned at UW-Madison or may be based on a previously earned degree from an accredited U.S. college/university. To process the STEM extension application based on a degree earned at a previous institution, students must submit proof of degree conferral and proof of immigration status.
Completing your USCIS Form I-765
As the applicant, you are responsible for your OPT STEM extension application. You should review the full instructions available on the USCIS I-765 page. Please review each item carefully to ensure your I-765 is filled out correctly.
ISS has developed guidance for how to fill out the I-765 if you are applying for the STEM extension in response to common questions from students. Each item discussed is highlighted in the image as to where it appears on the actual I-765 Form.
USCIS Form I-765 for STEM Extension (Note: This guidance is intended to help you and should not be viewed as legal advice.)
Download the form using Chrome or Firefox and complete it in Adobe Acrobat, print out single-sided, and sign in black ink only.
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OPT STEM Eligibility Requirements
- Currently in an authorized period of post-completion OPT (unexpired EAD card)
- Have a qualified STEM major
- CIP Assignments at UW-Madison (The CIP is the 6-digit code next to your major on your I-20.)
- Secure employment directly related to the qualified STEM major(s)
- Employer must be in good standing with E-Verify
- Training experience must be at least 20 hours per week
- Employer and student together must complete the Form I-983 Training Plan
– I-983 Instructions for UW-Madison
– Form I-983 Tutorial
- Must file the STEM Extension application with USCIS no earlier than 90 days before OPT EAD card end date and no later than the EAD card date
OPT STEM Application Process
- Apply for STEM Extension recommendation I-20 from ISS
- Submit the STEM OPT Extension form in Terra Dotta.
- Upload your current EAD card as a PDF
- Upload your completed & signed Form I-983 as a PDF
- You can apply for the STEM I-20 up to 120 days before your EAD card expires
- Submit the STEM OPT Extension form in Terra Dotta.
- Gather all required materials for USCIS application
- Mail your completed OPT STEM Extension application to the proper USCIS office
- You can apply to USCIS 90 days before your EAD card expires, and you can submit to ISS earlier
- Report the outcome of your application to ISS
OPT STEM Application Timeframe
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has a strict application time frame during which an OPT STEM Extension application must be received.
Respect the following application time frame:
- Earliest you can apply to USCIS: 90 days before your post-completion OPT EAD card expires
- Latest you can apply to USCIS: post-completion EAD card expiration date
- Your I-20 for OPT STEM Extension must be issued within 60 days from the date USCIS receives your application
Processing times take an average of 3 months.
You are eligible to continue employment up to 180 days beyond the current EAD card end date as long as you have proof of a pending OPT STEM Extension application with USCIS.
OPT STEM Reporting Requirements for Students
You must update ISS with the information listed below at periodic times throughout your OPT STEM Extension employment period. Failure to do so is a violation of your F-1 status and may result in the termination of your student immigration record and loss of legal employment authorization.
Report through the OPT and STEM Extension Reporting Form.
You can read about STEM OPT Reporting Requirements on the Study in the States website.
|You must report any of the following:||Your reporting time frame|
|Change in legal name||Within 10 days|
|Change in U.S. or Foreign (home) address||Within 10 days|
|Change in employer name or address (same employer but new company name or location)||Within 10 days|
|Change in or addition of employer
(Updated/new Form I–983 is required)
|Within 10 days|
|Change in employment status (no longer employed, multiple employers, etc.) (Updated/new Form I–983 is required)||Within 10 days|
|Material change or deviation to your Form I–983 Training Plan||As soon as possible|
|Noncompliance with terms of Form I–983 Training Plan||As soon as possible|
You must report to ISS every 6 months, starting from the EAD card start date of your STEM OPT extension. We recommend that you set calendar reminders as soon as you receive your EAD card.
|Reporting category||Your reporting time frame|
|6–month validation||Within 10 days of 6–month validation date|
|12–month self–evaluation||Within 10 days of 12–month anniversary of approved start date on STEM Extension EAD card|
|18–month validation||Within 10 days of 18–month validation date|
|Final evaluation||Within 10 days of end of training experience with a company OR at EAD card expiration, whichever is first|
Evaluations at 12 months and at 24 months
You must submit a self-evaluation of your progress toward the training goals described in Form I-983 no later than 10 days following the 12-month evaluation period and following the conclusion of the 24-month OPT STEM Extension EAD card start date. Evaluation pages for these progress milestones are found on page 5 of the form I-983 Training Plan. Both you and your employer should keep a copy of your I-983 Training Plan, and make sure ISS always has your most updated version.
OPT STEM Reporting Requirements for Employers
Your employer is required to report your termination or departure if it occurs before your EAD card expires. They must report within 5 business days of the event.
Departure is defined as the time at which the employer knows you have left employment or if you do not report to work for 5 consecutive business days without your employer’s consent. This must be reported to ISS via the Employer Reporting Form for OPT and OPT STEM Extension Employees.
Multiple STEM OPT Employers
Students approved for STEM OPT must submit I-983s for each employment opportunity. Every employment opportunity on STEM OPT must be for at least 20 hours per week. Study in the States provides additional guidelines regarding multiple employers.
After OPT STEM Extension EAD Expiry
If you maintain status during the STEM Extension by complying with all reporting requirements and not being unemployed for more than 150 days over your 36-month period of authorization, you will have earned a 60-day grace period during which you can:
- Prepare to depart the U.S.
- Apply for a change of status with USCIS
- Start a new program of study at UW-Madison
– Program must start within five months of date of change of level to I-20 or EAD end date, whichever is earlier
- Transfer your SEVIS record to start a new program of study at another U.S. institution
– Program must start within 5 months of date of transfer or EAD end date, whichever is earlier
STEM Employment at UW-Madison
International Faculty and Staff Services released a memo in late 2017 to human resources and payroll specialists on campus regarding changes to the University’s E-Verify agreement with the federal government. Questions regarding the change and alternative visa options should be directed to your employing department on campus.