Information For Students on OPT/STEM

This information is made available here for students who have graduated and thus can no longer log in to the resources on UIS myCharger pages. Students with active log-in credentials should seek more information about employment on the student visa in myCharger. Students who are applying for OPT or the STEM extension should consult the OPT Handbook accessible in the Navigation Panel for detailed instructions.

Optional Practical Training and the STEM Extension on the F-1 Visa

Post-completion Optional Practical training (OPT) is a 12-month employment authorization available to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled full-time for at least one academic year and are completing the required coursework to earn an academic degree at the Associates, Bachelors, Masters, or Doctoral level.

F-1 students are permitted one period of OPT after each degree level, and they must engage only in employment directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Post-completion OPT begins after the I-20 program end date, and must conclude no later than 14 months after the program end date.

Students who complete degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics may be eligible for a two-year STEM extension of their post-completion OPT, depending on the support and eligibility of their employers.

Eligibility

To be eligible for post-completion OPT, the student must have been in valid visa status and lawfully enrolled for at least one full academic year immediately preceding their I-20 program end date. UIS recommends that students confirm with their academic advisor that they are on track to complete their coursework as planned, prior to starting the OPT application process. Students may apply up to 90 days prior to their program end date and up to 60 days past their program end date. Due to UIS processing times, it is highly recommended that students apply early. UIS will provide virtual information sessions in March for students graduating in May or August, and in October for students graduating in December.

To be eligible for the STEM extension, a student must have completed a qualifying degree, as listed on the DHS STEM designated program list from an accredited and SEVP-certified school; be employed full-time (20+ hours per week) in a qualifying job that is related to their field of study; AND work for a qualifying employer that is E-Verified and able to fill out an I-983.

OPT/STEM Timeline
  1. 90 Days prior to the completion of Coursework (I-20 Program End Date) – post-completion OPT application begins. Deadline to apply is 60 days after the I-20 program end date.
  2. Student completes the Canvas course and submits the Post-completion OPT I-20 Request Form. UIS issues the OPT Request I-20 to the student.
  3. Within 30 days of the I-20 issuance, student submits I-765 application to USCIS, which issues an I-797 Receipt Notice with the student’s case number.
  4. USCIS adjudicates the OPT application, usually in about 3 months. USCIS send the student an OPT approval notice.
  5. The EAD card is manufactured and shipped separately to the student.
  6. If the student has also applied for the SSN on the same I-765, a different federal agency, the Social Security Administration, will process the application and upon approval, will ship the SSN card to the student.
  7. When the student acquires an employment, they notify the UIS and submit the Update OPT/STEM Information Form with the employment information.
  8. UIS updates the SEVIS record and reprints an I-20, which includes the employer information, which goes to the student.
  9. The student continues to report to the UIS any changes in employment or personal contact information using the Update OPT/STEM Information Form.
  10. If eligible, the student begins the STEM Extension application 90 days prior to the EAD expiration date. Deadline to apply is the EAD expiration date. Find detailed instructions in the OPT Handbook accessible in the Navigation Panel.
  11. Student submits the STEM OPT I-20 Request Form to the UIS along with the I-983 and other requested evidence. UIS issues the STEM Request I-20 to the student.
  12. Within 60 days of I-20 issuance, student submits the I-765 application to USCIS, which sends the student an I-797 Receipt Notice with the case number.
  13. USCIS adjudicates the STEM Extension application, usually in about 3 months. The student may continue working for up to 180 days while the application is pending.
  14. USCIS sends the student an approval notice, and the new EAD card is manufactured and shipped separately to the student. The STEM start date will be one day after the post-completion EAD expiration date.
  15. The student continues to report to the UIS any changes in employment or personal contact information using the Update OPT/STEM Information Form. Any changes to the employer/employment requires a new I-983.
  16. 6 months after the STEM start date, the student reports in to the UIS using the Update OPT/STEM Information Form to confirm their OPT participation with the current employer as reported to the UIS.
  17. 12 months after the STEM start date, the student reports in to the UIS to confirm their OPT participation with the current employer as reported to the UIS, and submits the 12-month evaluation section on the I-983.
  18. 18 months after the STEM start date, the student reports in to the UIS to confirm their OPT participation with the current employer as reported to the UIS.
  19. 24 months after the STEM start date, the student reports in to the UIS to confirm their OPT participation with the current employer as reported to the UIS, and submits the final 24-month evaluation section on the I-983.
  20. At any time during OPT/STEM, the student may change status from F-1 to another visa status (often the H1-B professional workers visa) if their employer chooses to sponsor them. If approved, the student transitions to the new visa status and is no longer under the visa jurisdiction of the University. Frequently asked questions about the change of status to H1-B visa are found in the OPT Handbook accessible in the Navigation Panel. Please note that the University is not involved in the H1-B application, rather the student should work with their employer’s attorney or HR Office.
  21. When the STEM Extension ends, the student may start a new academic program at the same school or transfer to another school. If not, the student has 60 days to depart the U.S.