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Confirming Your STEM OPT Status

You must confirm usage of your STEM OPT every six months from the start date of STEM OPT, until the end of the 24-month STEM extension. Please report the name and address of your current employer and your current residential address to the ISSO. Failure to report will terminate your STEM OPT status.


Students who majored in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields may apply for an additional 24-month extension of their OPT authorization. You may begin your STEM extension application starting 90 days before the end of your Post-Completion OPT, and it must be received by USCIS before your current OPT expires. With the receipt of your application, you may continue to work up to 180 days while waiting for your new STEM-approved EAD card. See the text on your I-797 Receipt Notice for details.

  • Astronomy
  • Biochemistry
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Economics (Quantitative Economics track only)
  • Engineering
  • Environmental Science & Policy
  • Geosciences
  • Mathematics
  • Mathematical Statistics
  • Neuroscience
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Statistical & Data Sciences

Additional Information

To Apply for STEM OPT

  1. Collect your application documents (see list in next dropdown).
  2. Email ISSO the Form I-983 completed by you and your employer, and Smith’s OPT Request Form.
  3. In addition, email a draft of the I-765 that will go into your STEM OPT application (For online applications, create an account on website and create a draft I-765 application, but do not submit. On the "Review and Submit" page, click the link titled "View Draft Snapshot" to download a PDF of your online I-765 application. If you prefer to mail your application by post, the paper Form I-765 is still a valid form).
  4. ISSO will review these documents and will then email you a new I-20, extending your employment dates and recommending your STEM OPT Extension. We will keep your I-983 and your OPT Request Form for our records, since you are not required to mail them as part of your STEM OPT application.
  5. Once you receive your new I-20 with our STEM OPT recommendation on page 2, make sure to print it and sign on the first page before either uploading it to your online application or attaching a copy to your paper application. 
  6. Once your application is complete, submit it to USCIS. USCIS must receive this application within 60 days of when we issue the new I-20, and before the last date of your Post-Completion OPT.

Tips for Completing STEM OPT I-765

  • If you need extra space for any field, use space in Part 6: Additional Information.
  • For paper applications: USCIS instructions state that all questions on their forms must be fully and accurately answered. If a question does not apply to you, type or print "N/A" or "none", unless otherwise directed.
  • Reason for Applying: Even though STEM OPT is an extension of work authorization, it's a new eligibility category and therefore another initial application.
  • OPT STEM extension eligibility category: (c)(3)(C).
  • For paper applications:  If you answer "No" on question 14, you do not need to fill in questions 15–17.
  • Travel Document: For use only for those who are unable to obtain a passport.
  • Arrival Information: Information should match printed I-94 record and travel history. If it does not, please contact ISSO.
  • SEVIS ID: Provide all previously used SEVIS ID numbers. If you have had more than one SEVIS ID, "additional information" sheet (page 7) can be used to list prior records.
  • Degree: Provide degree level and major (for example, bachelor’s degree in English)
  • Employer Information: Make sure to check with your employer exactly how their company name is listed in E-Verify, and provide your employer’s E-Verify Company Identification Number, or a valid E-Verify Client Company Identification Number in the spaces provided. Your employer's E-Verify number should come from their Human Resources or Legal office and is not the same as the EIN (Employer Identification Number). If you need additional space, you can use Part 6: Additional Information!
  • For paper applications: Leave questions 29-31 blank, if these eligibility categories do not apply to you.
  • For paper applications: Sign in BLACK pen under "Applicant’s Signature," and make sure to stay within the white space! Stamped or typewritten signatures are not acceptable.

Tips for Completing I-983

See tips from from Study in the States—USCIS website.

Page 5: These are evaluations that should be completed at the 1-year and 2-year marks of your STEM OPT Extension. You do not need to submit them with your STEM OPT Extension application, but you do need to submit them to ISSO when you pass the halfway mark of your 2-year extension, and again at 2 years or whenever you finish your employment with the company, whichever comes first.

Form I-983 is submitted to Smith ISSO, but is not to be included in final application to USCIS.

Assembling Your Materials

Assemble the following, and upload to your online application, or for a paper application, attach on left-hand side in this order. See I-765 Instructions for more details.

  • Recent passport size (2” x 2”) color photo(s). Online applicants only need one photo to upload. Applicants mailing documents will need two photos, and should write their name & I-94 number LIGHTLY in pencil on back of each.
  • $410 Payment
    • Online applicants may pay by credit card. The last step after payment information is submission, so be careful not to submit before you're ready!
    • Mailed applications should include a check or money order made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (from a U.S. bank account).
    • Alternatively, if you prefer to mail and pay by credit card, please fill out Form G-1450 in lieu of a check or money order. Please double-check all numbers and don’t forget to sign your form; we've seen quite a few rejected applications as a result of mistakes on this form
  • (For paper application only) Form G-1145. For email and/or text message notifications about updates to your application.
  • Complete, signed Form I-765
    • Online applicants fill this out by clicking the "File Online" button in the linked page and creating an account with USCIS online. In the "review" section of the application there is a small link titled "view draft snapshot" that shows a preview PDF of what your I-765 would look like in paper copy.
    • Online applicants will upload all supporting documents via the appropriate pages on the USCIS application website.
  • Copies of all your past I-20s that show work authorization (prior CPT or OPT).
  • Copy of signed new STEM OPT I-20 from ISSO, signed by you (either electronically or in blue pen).
  • Copies of any documentation about previous status, if applicable. If you applied for a Change of Status to F-1 within the United States, include notification forms (this is uncommon). Please note: if you visited the US as a tourist and left before coming in as a student, you DO NOT need to include documentation about these types of travel.
  • Copy of letter of employment (optional)
  • Your Smith College transcript, showing your major as a STEM-extension eligible field.
  • Copy of current or previous EAD (OPT card), front and back. Include any other EADs from other institutions or education levels, if applicable.
  • Copy of your current passport's photo page.
  • Copy of most recent F-1 entry visa (F-1 visa may be expired)(optional).
  • Your most recent I-94 arrival record.

Make copies of all documents you submit for travel purposes.

Shipping Information

If you are applying online, everything can be submitted in your online application portal. However, if you are using a paper application, you will need to mail your physical packet to USCIS. The most updated mailing address can be found on the USCIS website, under Foreign Students, and you are looking at category (c)(3)(C) for STEM OPT. If you have questions, please contact Dean Caitlin or Claire. 

If you have created an online account with USCIS, you will be notified once your application has been received and again when it’s approved (12+ weeks) by USCIS. You will also be mailed a hard-copy receipt notice. When your application is approved, they will send an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card directly to your mailing address.  Please note: Unlike Post-Completion OPT, you may continue to work while your STEM OPT application is pending. Your hardcopy receipt is proof that your EAD is automatically extended up to 180 days after expiry, or until your application is adjudicated by USCIS, whichever is sooner.

You have reporting responsibilities once you have received your new STEM OPT card and are working in a STEM field.

You must confirm your STEM OPT usage to Smith every six months. Mark your calendar, now! Please send us a confirmation of your address and employment information (employer, job title, employer address). You must also submit a Self-Evaluation (Page 5 of the I-983) to the ISSO when you pass the one-year mark of your two-year extension, and again at two years or whenever you finish your employment with the company, whichever comes first.

There are additional restrictions surrounding employment using your STEM OPT.

  • Each new employer requires a new Form I-983. The ISSO must have receipt of your updated I-983 prior to your start date at the new position.
  • Every employer must be an e-Verify employer.
  • Self-employment is not allowed during STEM OPT.
  • You must work a minimum of 20 hours per week for each employer you have on STEM OPT.
  • Unpaid work is not allowed on STEM OPT.
  • Third-party employers (staffing and temporary agencies and consulting firms) only qualify for STEM OPT usage if they will be the entity that provides the practical training experience to the student and they have and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. More information can be found on USCIS' STEM OPT site or on Study in the States.

During your Post-Completion OPT, you are allowed a maximum of 90 days of unemployment. If there are any days remaining at the end of your authorization period, those unemployment days will roll over into your STEM OPT authorization. In addition, STEM OPT affords 60 additional unemployment days, for a maximum total of 150 days.

A STEM OPT Extension can be based on two scenarios:

  • The degree that served as the basis for the student's current period of standard 12-month Post-Completion OPT
  • A prior STEM degree from a US institution, for which the STEM OPT extension was not utilized. This can be used even if the degree was conferred by a different institution than the current I-20 shows.

If you plan to utilize a prior degree as the basis for your STEM OPT, the degree must be from a US institution and be conferred within the last 10 years. Please note: If you use a STEM OPT extension, the practical training opportunity MUST relate to the STEM-eligible degree.

An example use of a prior degree:

  • Student earns a BA in Biology. Student decides not to utilize their STEM OPT.
  • Student then completes an MBA program (which is a non-STEM program).
  • Student utilizes 12 months of Post-Completion OPT based on the MBA program.
  • Student can then apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension, based on the Biology degree, as long as the qualifying job relates back to the Biology major.  (Determining the relation between the STEM OPT job and the prior degree field should be done with the current visa sponsor, who will process the STEM OPT application.)

Contact International Students and Scholars

125 Wright Hall

Smith College

Northampton, MA USA

Phone: 413-585-7598 Email:

Open office hours: Schedule a meeting with Dean Caitlin or with Claire Seely when it’s convenient for you!