UCI International Center

OPT STEM Application Instructions

Section 1

Reviewing the information below will help you begin the process of applying for OPT STEM 24-Month Extension.

OPT STEM Information Sessions

The International Center provides bi-weekly information sessions that will review the 24-Month OPT STEM Tutorial with an International Student Advisor. Click here to register for the session you wish to attend.

24-Month STEM OPT Extension:

Updated 4/8/2021: It has come to our attention that USCIS has recently created an online filing application of the Form I-765. There has been no official launch or announcement regarding this update as of April 5, 2021. It is our understanding that this is still currently in the testing stage. Until more information becomes available, we urge caution in choosing the online filing option for the OPT application. Students who choose to file online will be doing so at their own risk. Should any issues arise from online filing, the International Center may not be able to assist given the present limited knowledge about this filing option. As soon as we learn more, we will update this page with additional information and guidance.

Updated 11/08/2021: The International Center will be implementing a ‘Post-Completion Administrative Fee’ for all Post-Completion Academic Training, Post-Completion Optional Practical Training, and STEM OPT Extension applications on December 13, 2021. For more information about the fee, please review our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Application Instructions

F-1 students with degrees in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) may be eligible for an extension of their Post-Completion OPT work permission. The extension permits those on OPT to apply for an additional 24 months of full time work authorization. As with the original OPT application, OPT STEM is recommended by an advisor at the International Center, but final approval is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

Step 1: Review the 24 Month OPT STEM Presentation

Step 2: Complete the OPT STEM I-20 Request Documents

  • OPT STEM Extension Request
  • OPT STEM Employment Update Form
  • I-94 Document
  • Photocopy of Post-Completion EAD card
  • I-765 completed in black ink
    • Front and back
  • I-983 Training Plan
    • Meet with your employer to complete the Form I-983
      • The I-983 will not be returned to you and does not need to be mailed to USCIS. The I-983 is retained by the International Center for SEVIS reporting purposes.

* If applicable include the OPT STEM Prior Degree Checklist ONLY if you are applying for OPT STEM based on a previously earned STEM degree.

Step 3: Upload your OPT STEM I-20 Request Documents

  • When you are in your 90 day window of time to apply, upload your application items here – if you have any issues uploading, please email the .pdf attachments of your application to internationalcenter@uci.edu.

Step 4: Receive your OPT STEM I-20 from the International Center

  • Processing time is 7 business days (day one starts the day after you submit your completed STEM OPT I-20 Request documents)

*Processing times may be delayed due to the IC working remotely, you will receive an email when your I-20 document is prepared for shipping.

Step 5: Prepare Your OPT Application for Mailing to USCIS:

  • Arrange your documents in the following order:
    • Two identical passport sized photos
    • Include your form of payment (check, money order, credit card) payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. See the fee schedule for I-765 filing here
    • G-1145 (optional), for electronic acknowledgement from USCIS
    • I-765 typed, printed, and signed in BLACK ink
    • Photocopy of diploma
    • Photocopy of front and back of current Post-Completion EAD card
    • Photo copy of passport biographical page
    • Photo copy of most recent F-1 visa stamp
    • I-94 document
    • Photocopies of ALL previous I-20s; including those from previous schools
  • If applicable:
    • If you applied and were received an EAD card for previous OPT in the past, include a copy of the EAD card with your application.
    • If you have changed your status to F-1 inside of the U.S., include a copy of the I-797 Approval Notice and I-94 document.

Step 6: Mail Your OPT Application

  • USCIS must receive your OPT Application within 30 days of the issuance of your OPT I-20
  • Where to mail your OPT Application: go to the USCIS website and choose "Foreign Students" to find your category description and corresponding filing location.

Step 7: Wait for USCIS to Adjudicate Your Request

  • I-797C Receipt Notice:
    • USCIS will mail you an I-797 Receipt Notice within 2-4 weeks of receiving your application.
    • Your I-797 will have a case number, which can be used to track the progress of your application on the USCIS Website.  
  • I-797C Approval Notice/Employment Authorization Card (EAD):
    • If your OPT application is approved you will receive an I-797C Approval Notice/Employment Authorization Card (EAD).