STEM OPT Extension

Students graduating from Towson University with degrees in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields are eligible for a 24 month STEM OPT extension.  New STEM OPT regulations went into effect on May 10, 2016. 

24 Month OPT STEM Extension Rules

  • Students are now allowed up to two(2) periods of STEM OPT. Previously students were only allowed one period of STEM OPT.
  • Students with a prior bachelor's or higher degree (completed within the last 10 years) in a STEM field can apply for STEM OPT after completion of a non-STEM degree OPT period.
  • Total number of allowed unemployment days while on OPT and STEM OPT extended from 120 to 150 total days.
  • STEM OPT employment must be paid and salary must be commensurate to that of U.S. workers in similar positions
  • Students on STEM cannot use volunteer positions or self-employment to meet employment requirement. Many contract work positions and temporary agency work may no longer qualify for STEM extension employment. 
  • Students and their employers need to complete form I-983. Form I-983 is a formal training plan between the student and employer.
  • There are now additional reporting requirements and the possibility of site visits by the Department of Homeland Security.

Criteria to Apply for OPT STEM Extension

  • Be currently authorized for OPT AND working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to your field of study. 
  • Completed a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM major/program or have a STEM degree from a previous institution. 

    Stem Fields of STUDY at Towson University

    Bachelor's Degree Programs

    Computer Science
    Earth Science
    Environmental Science and Studies
    Forensic Chemistry
    Information Systems
    Information Technology
    Molecular Biology, Biochemistry & Bioinfomatics

    Master's Degree Programs

    Applied and Industrial Mathematics
    Applied Information Technology
    Applied Physics
    Computer Science
    Environmental Science
    Forensic Science
    Instructional Technology
    Marketing Intelligence **approved February 2017**

    Doctoral Degree Programs

    Information Technology
    Instructional Technology

  • Not have more than 90 days of unemployment during OPT.
  • Have a job or job offer from an employer registered with the E-Verify federal employment verification system. 
  • Students wishing to apply for STEM extension must be paid. Students cannot use volunteer positions or self-employment to meet employment requirement.  Many contract work positions and temporary work may no longer qualify for the STEM extension employment.

Applying for STEM OPT Extension

The earliest you can apply for STEM OPT is 90 days before the end date of your current OPT. Please allow 5 business days for the ISSO to process your OPT STEM Extension. 

  1. Work with your employer to complete the I-983 Training Plan.  DHS instructions for I-983. 
  2. If needed update your employer and contact information with the ISSO. We cannot process your STEM OPT without updated information.
  3. Submit electronically to the ISSO. *** Please do not submit hard/paper copies.  ***
      1. Completed form I-983 . Helpful tips(PDF) for completing I-983.
      2. Completed STEM Request Form 
      3. Copy of EAD card
      4. completed I-765 form.  Helpful tips (PDF) for completing I-765. 
      5. I-94 copy
  4. You will be notified by email if your form I-983 is approved or needs to be resubmitted.  
  5. Once approved, you may pick up your new I-20 in person or have it sent by regular mail or express mail.

OPT STEM Application Checklist

Send the following documents to USCIS. Make a copy of your full package before mailing it. 

  1. Form G-1145 – USCIS will notify you of receipt of your application by email or text.
  2. The original Form I-765 ISSO instructions (PDF)
  3. A photocopy of your new SEVIS Form I-20 with a recommendation for OPT STEM extension on page 2. Be sure you have signed it before the photocopy is made for your application. You should keep the original I-20.
  4. $410.00 check payable to: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security. You should include the notation “OPT STEM application” and your I-94 admission number on the memo line. If the check is in someone else’s name, include the applicant's name on the check.
  5. Two U.S. passport photographs (print in pencil your name and I-94 admission number on the back of each picture; put the pictures in an envelope which you may staple to your application materials)
  6. Photocopy of the photo/biographical page(s) of your passport and photocopy of another photo ID if your passport photo does not closely resemble your new photographs
  7. Photocopy of all previously issued I-20s
  8. Photocopy of your visa
  9. Print copy of your I-94 or photocopy of both sides of I-94 if it is the white card
  10. Photocopy of previously issued EAD(s)
  11. An official or unofficial transcript  
  12. Copy of diploma demonstrating that you have been awarded a degree in a STEM field.

If you file your STEM OPT application in a timely manner, you may continue to work for up to 180 days while the application is pending.

Mailing Instructions

Make sure you send a complete OPT application to the USCIS.  We recommend that you send it by Express Mail or Courier Service so there is evidence of when your application is received. You will send your application to USCIS to either the Dallas Lockbox or the Phoenix Lockbox, depending on your mailing address:  

Mail to Dallas Lockbox

If your mailing address is in: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, or West Virginia, send your application to the Dallas lockbox:

For US Postal Service Deliveries:
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

For Express Mail & Courier Service Deliveries:
Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business
Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

Mail to Phoenix Lockbox:

If you live in: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Guam, or the Northern Mariana Islands, send your application to the Phoenix lockbox:

For US Postal Service Deliveries:
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

For Express Mail & Courier Service Deliveries:
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

STEM OPT Reporting Requirements and Responsibilities for Students and Employers

  • Every 6 months students on STEM OPT must confirm continued employment with ISSO.  If there are any changes to the students’ name, address, email and/or phone number, the student must report that change to the ISSO within 10 business days.
  • Students may not accrue more than 150 days of unemployment during the total 36-month period.
  • Employer must report the termination or departure of a student to the ISSO.
  • The student and employer must submit by email the mid-term (after first year) and final (upon completion) self-evaluation reports to the ISSO. The ISSO will keep these evaluations in the student’s immigration file.
  • If the student changes employers or moves to a position in the same company with different responsibilities, a new I-983 must be submitted within 10 business days to the ISSO.