STEM Frequently Asked Questions
The STEM benefit provides a 24-month extension (for a total of 36 months on OPT).
- Am I eligible to apply for STEM?
- When should I apply for STEM?
- Can I continue working while my STEM application is pending?
- Can I travel outside of the United States while my STEM application is pending?
- What if I am unemployed at any time?
- How do I apply for STEM? What Documents do I need to submit?
Am I eligible to apply for STEM OPT?
To be eligible for the STEM Extension,
- Your employer must be enrolled in E-Verify.
- Your work must be directly related to the academic major indicated on the I-20.
- The STEM application must be based on a BS, MS, or PhD degree in a STEM-eligible field.
The following Caltech majors do NOT qualify for STEM OPT:
- Business Economics and Management
- History and Philosophy of Science
- Independent Studies Program
- Political Science
- Social Science
When should I apply for STEM?
Your STEM application must be received by USCIS before your current EAD (Employment Authorization Document) expires. However, you cannot apply earlier than 90 days prior to the current EAD end date. Your application must be received by USCIS within 60 days of the date ISP signed the STEM I-20. USCIS processing times may take more than 90-days. Your new EAD for STEM will be mailed by USCIS.
Can I continue working while my STEM application is pending?
Yes! Once your STEM application has been received and accepted by USCIS, your employment authorization is automatically extended 180 days beyond the expiration date of your initial EAD. Once you have received your new STEM EAD, your OPT is extended to the expiration date printed on your new EAD.
Can I travel outside of the United States while my STEM application is pending?
You must have a valid (unexpired) I-20, issued for the 24-month STEM extension. You should also travel with your official Receipt Notice, showing that you have properly filed the STEM application. You may need to present your current EAD, so carry it with you, even if the end date has passed.
What if I am unemployed at any time?
When you are on the approved STEM period, you are permitted a maximum of 150 days of unemployment, including any days of unemployment during the original 12-month OPT period. If you are nearing 90 days of unemployment, contact ISP to discuss what options are available to you. You must have an employment offer in order to apply for STEM.
How do I apply for STEM? What documents do I need to submit?
The application process is basically the same process as applying for the initial 12 months of OPT, but with one additional form (Form I-983 Training Plan) and a new fee of $410. See ISP's STEM Application Procedures.
Am I required to do anything else?
Yes! As always, you are required to report to ISP your current U.S. residential address, your employer, and a new Form I-983 to reflect any updates to your U.S. employment.
Address Reporting Requirement
Notify ISP within 10 days of any change to your U.S. residential address (where you live in the United States).
Employment Reporting Requirement
- New Employment or Change in Employment
- Form I-983 is required for each new employer or change within employment
- Notify ISP within 5 days of any change in employment, including if you become unemployed
- 12-Month Reporting
- Self-Evaluation Page of Form I-983 must be submitted to ISP at the completion of 12 months on STEM
- 24-Month Reporting or End-of-Job Reporting
- Final Evaluation Page of Form I-983 must be submitted to ISP at the completion of 24 months on STEM, or upon completion of work for a particular employer, or upon change of status (end of F-1 status) whichever is soonest.