How to Apply for STEM OPT
The STEM application
- Must be received by USCIS prior to the initial OPT EAD expiration
- Cannot be received by USCIS more than 90 days prior to the academic completion date (I-20 program end date)
- Must be received by USCIS within 60 days of the date ISP issued the STEM I-20
USCIS systems operate on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and application deadlines are based on UTC standards.
An application will be rejected if it does not meet these filing requirements.
Send a PDF copy of the completed and signed Form I-983 Training Plan to ISP. Electronic signatures accepted. The I-983 must be received by ISP before ISP can the I-20 for STEM application. Keep a copy of the I-983 for your own records, but it is not required to upload to the USCIS online application.
See ISP's I-983 guidance, below, to help you complete and maintain Form I-983 throughout your period of authorized employment under STEM. Electronic signatures are accepted.
ISP will email you the signed PDF I-20 to be used for your STEM application.
Click Here to Create or Access Your USCIS Online Account
The USCIS online application allows STEM applicants to submit forms, documents, photos and fee electronically, and to check case status, receive notices, and respond to requests for further evidence. If you created a USCIS Account for your previous OPT application, do not create a new account.
Have the following documents scanned and ready for electronic upload
- I-20 issued for STEM OPT Extension (You must have printed, signed, and scanned the I-20 for upload)
- EAD for initial OPT
- I-94 showing date of most recent U.S. entry
- Passport Photo, specifications explained here
- Caltech Diploma or Caltech Academic Transcript
- Select the correct STEM filing code = c 3 C (VERY IMPORTANT)
- Reason for Applying is "Initial permission to accept employment," as (c) (3) (C) is a new category of EAD specifically for the STEM extension
- When prompted to upload proof of "institutional accreditation," skip this question as it refers only to those who apply based on a PRIOR (non-Caltech) degree
- When prompted to enter an A-number (Alien Registration Number), you will find it listed as the USCIS# the front of your current EAD
- Additional Information: This section is to be used to list any additional details, if applicable. This may include previous SEVIS Numbers from any I-20s or DS-2019s you received prior to the current one, and for CPT and OPT. There are no specific instructions on how to complete this section.
Selecting Your Mailing Address
- CAUTION: If you used the USCIS Online Account for your initial OPT application, CAREFULLY REVIEW the Mailing Address in your account BEFORE submitting the STEM application. In some cases, USCIS has incorrectly mailed the EAD to an applicant's OLD mailing address. Consult with ISP if you are concerned about this.
- You can use the ISP Mailing Address in an attempt to help prevent lost documents. ISP will email you upon receipt of documents and can FedEx the EAD to you.
1200 E California Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91125
- Enter your current U.S. residential address in the U.S. physical address section.
- USCIS will NOT forward mail. This is one reason why we offer the ISP Mailing Address. If you choose not to use the ISP Mailing Address, be very sure you enter a reliable U.S. Mailing Address that can receive mail up to 5 months into the future.
- After you submit your STEM application, do NOT update your U.S. address in SEVIS or with USPS until after the STEM EAD is in your hands. You must still notify ISP within 10 days of any move so that we can record it, but a change of address in SEVIS or with USPS could cause delays or non-delivery of your EAD.
- NOTE: If you did NOT previously use ISP's Mailing Address, Sign Up for USPS Informed Delivery (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)
Occasionally, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has lost the EAD by mail. Their error could potentially cause you to re-apply with another application fee at your expense. To limit such problems, we highly recommend that you sign up for USPS Informed Delivery. (USPS Informed Delivery is not possible if you used ISP's Mailing Address.)
Receipt of Application
- Upon submission of your online STEM application online, you will receive an immediate USCIS receipt number confirming your application has been received and is pending. Check your account a few days later to retrieve the PDF Receipt Notice and CAREFULLY REVIEW the Mailing Address. Contact ISP if you have any questions or concerns.
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 OPT EAD. Once you have received your new STEM EAD, your work authorization is extended to the expiration date printed on your new EAD.
Yes! F-1 students on STEM (including pending STEM extensions) may travel abroad, apply for an F-1 visa, and seek reentry to the United States in F-1 status if they have a current I-20 with ISP travel endorsement signed within the last six months.
- I-20 issued for STEM OPT
- Receipt Notice showing you properly filed the STEM application, if application is still pending
- Initial OPT EAD even if the end date has passed
- Letter from your employer verifying your current employment
You must have an employment offer in order to apply for STEM. However, 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.
SEVIS School Code: Found on the I-20 under "School Information" and begins with LOS214F__
Designated School Official (DSO): Found on the I-20 under "School Information" and can be either Daniel or Laura.
Date Awarded: Enter the Program End Date from Page 1 of your I-20 issued for STEM OPT.
Based on Prior Degree? Check "No" if the employment is related to the Caltech degree program you attended.
STEM OPT Requested Period (mm-dd-yyyy): List the full 24-Month period. Enter the start date as the day after your current EAD expires. Then, enter the end date as 24 months later. For example, if your current 12-Month OPT ends on June 19, 2022, you will enter the STEM OPT Requested Period as: "06/20/2022 To: 06/19/2024."
Consult with your employer for any information needed to complete this section. You may enter the information.
Start Date of Employment (mm-dd-yyyy): This is the date on which you began employment with the employer listed on the I-983.
Enter the name, phone number, and email address of your direct supervisor. This information is required in SEVIS. We cannot issue an I-20 without it.
Employer Name and Employer Site Name are typically the same, but they may be different if your employer has more than one site.
The Student Role, Goals & Objectives, Employer Oversight, and Measures & Assessments must be completed by you, in consultation with your employer or supervisor. ISP cannot assist with the content of these sections.
Initial applicants can leave this section blank, but STEM participants must complete this evaluation (signed by you and your direct supervisor) at the end of the first 12 months of work on STEM. We do not require an entirely new I-983 if only the Evaluation Page is needed.
24-Month Reporting / End-of-Job Reporting / End-of-Status Reporting
Initial applicants can leave this section blank for now, but all STEM participants must complete the final evaluation (signed by you and your direct supervisor)...
- at the completion of your EAD, or
- upon completion of work for the current employer, or
- upon completion of F-1 status (if you obtain H1B status, a green card, or other)
STEM participants must pay very careful attention to I-983 Reporting Requirements. Adhering to reporting deadlines is a critical part of maintaining F-1 status to avoid unlawful presence.
STEM participants are required to maintain and submit an updated I-983 for each STEM employment. A new I-983 must be submitted to ISP if there is any material change to a previously-submitted I-983.