STEM Optional Practical Training

STEM OPT is a 24-month extension of Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization available to F-1 students who graduated with a U.S. degree in an approved science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field and who will be working for an employer who is part of the E-Verify program. Eligible F-1 students must work with ISSS to receive a STEM OPT I-20 and then submit their STEM OPT application to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) for processing.

Fast Facts

  • Apply early. USCIS processing times for STEM OPT applications can take over 3 months.
  • You may apply for the STEM OPT extension up to 90 days before your 12-month post-completion OPT Employment Authorization Document expires. USCIS must receive the application no later than the 12-month OPT expiration date.
  • If you properly file your STEM OPT application on time, you may work up to 180 days beyond the expiration date of your original OPT EAD while the STEM application is pending with USCIS.
  • There is an OPT Administrative Fee for all STEM OPT extension applications. The fee is charged even if your employer will file the STEM OPT application on your behalf.
  • You are allowed up to 150 days of cumulative unemployment during your OPT period, including both your initial OPT period and the STEM OPT extension period. Should you accumulate 150 days or more of unemployment, you are considered to be in violation of your F-1 immigration status and must depart the United States immediately.


  • The primary major CIP code, found on the first page of the I-20, must appear on this list of designated majors.
  • Employment must be paid while on STEM OPT.
  • Applicant must be working on post-completion OPT.
  • Applicant must be working for an E-Verify employer while on STEM OPT. USCIS has created an online E-Verify Employer Search Tool.
  • Applicant must be working directly for the employer.
  • Applicants must be supervised by the employer and not by a client of the employer.
  • Applicant and employer must complete the I-983 Training Plan.

Applying for STEM OPT

  1. Review the STEM OPT Modules

    There is a great deal of information you, the F-1 student, need to understand about STEM OPT before you apply. We have created these instructional modules to help you learn what you need to know. Please review them in full.

    STEM OPT: Overview and Eligibility

    STEM OPT: When to Apply

    STEM OPT: How to Apply

    STEM OPT: While STEM OPT is Pending

    STEM OPT: After STEM OPT is Approved

  2. Pay the OPT Administrative Fee

    Pay the OPT Administrative Fee at least 24 hours prior to submitting your application materials to ISSS.

  3. Submit the STEM OPT Request form

    Submit the STEM OPT Request form with the following materials for your STEM OPT Request in myIO:

    • Completed and printed out Form I-983 (I-983 Instructions).
    • Copy of your newest passport.
    • Copy of the passport you used most recently to enter the U.S. from abroad. (This may or may not be your newest passport.)
    • Copy of your F-1 visa (or most recent entry visa).
    • Most recently issued I-94 (paper or electronic I-94).
    • Copy of your previous EAD's (front and back).
    • Copy of diploma AND official transcript showing your graduation from an eligible STEM field.

    For more detailed information, please review the relevant STEM OPT Modules:

    STEM OPT: How to Apply

  4. Submit your application to USCIS

    Once you receive your STEM OPT I-20 from ISSS, you can file your application wtih USCIS online (strongly recommended) or by mail. ISSS only provides published instructions on how to file online, which you can find here:

    STEM OPT: How to Apply

Applying for STEM OPT outside Austin

You do not need to be in Austin to apply for STEM OPT. All STEM OPT applicants must submit their request for a STEM OPT I-20 remotely via myIO. Your case will be assigned to an international student advisor. The advisor will review your documents and let you know if any edits need to be made. When ready, the ISSS advisor will issue your STEM OPT extension I-20 and email you instructions on how to file your application with USCIS.

Note: All STEM OPT applicants must be in the U.S. to apply for STEM OPT.

Report STEM OPT Employment

Please log into myIO at your required reporting periods (6, 12, 18, and 24 months from the start of your STEM OPT) and any time there is a change to your employment.

Once your STEM OPT is approved and your EAD card arrives, upload a copy for ISSS to review, through myIO. This is an important step because it allows ISSS to review important details in your immigration record and make any corrections if necessary.

STEM OPT Reporting

Reporting requirements are outlined below and in our module, STEM OPT: After STEM OPT is Approved.

Information You Must Keep Up to Date

While engaged in Optional Practical Training, including during the STEM OPT extension period, you are still considered to be in F-1 student status and are required to report your employment information throughout your OPT/STEM OPT period.

Immigration regulations require you to report certain information to ISSS at 6-month intervals, even if your information has not changed.

If your information does change, you must report it within 10 days of the change or be considered in violation of your immigration status.

Employment Information to Report

6-month validation reports: Every six months (i.e., 6, 12, 18, and 24 months from your STEM EAD start date), you must log into myIO and verify that your employment and local address details are correct. Reporting your employment will allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to verify that you are currently employed and not in violation of the 150-day unemployment rule.

Change in current employment details: You are responsible for updating any changes to your employment within 10 days. You can review the official details of your employment in your SEVP Portal account. The information in SEVP Portal comes directly from what you have reported to ISSS, either when requesting your STEM OPT I-20 or in subsequent updates. Do not change information directly in SEVP Portal; you should only use it to view information, not to update information. Any time there is a change to your employment details as listed on your I-983 or in SEVP Portal (change in job title, duties, employer site, employer name/EIN/E-Verify number, etc.), you must report the change via myIO. Use the STEM Employment Update form in myIO.

Changing employers: If you change employers, you must complete reporting requirements for the employer you are leaving and the employer you are joining.

Employer you are leaving:

  • Work with your employer to complete the "Final Evaluation on Student Progress (I-983, p. 5) no later than your last day of employment.
  • Log into myIO and submit the STEM Report End Employment form within 10 days of your last day of employment.

Employer you are joining:

  • Work with your new employer to complete pp. 1-4 of the I-983 Training Plan.
  • Log into myIO and submit the STEM Report New Employment form (you will need to upload the I-983 Training Plan). Ideally, this should be done 3 weeks prior to starting your new job. It must be done no later than 10 days from your new job start date.

Change of Home Address, Email Address and Phone Number

Make sure that the local address in MyUT/UT Direct is where you are currently living. Update your address in MyUT/UT Direct within 10 days of any change. ISSS will push your address update to the SEVIS immigration database.

Change in Immigration Status

If you change your immigration status, upload in myIO your Change of Status Approval Notice. An international student advisor will review your information and request any documentation required to complete your SEVIS record. 

Departing the U.S. and Discontinuing STEM OPT

If you decide to depart the U.S. and not use your STEM OPT authorization, submit the Early Completion of STEM OPT form in myIO after you have departed the U.S. An international student advisor will complete your SEVIS record and report your departure from the United States.

Starting a New Program of Study at UT Austin

Log into myIO to submit your request for an updated I-20 to start a new program of study at UT Austin. Classes must begin within 5 months of your STEM OPT end date. Your STEM OPT work authorization will automatically end on your STEM EAD end date or on the date you register for classes in the new program, whichever is earlier.

Starting a New Program of Study at a Different School

Log into myIO to submit your request to transfer your SEVIS record to start a new program of study at a different institution. Classes must begin within 5 months of your STEM OPT end date or your SEVIS transfer release date, whichever is earlier. Your STEM OPT work authorization will automatically end on your STEM EAD end date or on your SEVIS transfer release date, whichever is earlier.

Still have questions?

International Student Advisors are available to assist you while you are on STEM OPT. For general questions or requests, please email For non-general inquires, please schedule an appointment to speak with an International Student Advisor.

Please keep in mind that International Student Advisors are trained in student visa topics. For information on employer-sponsored visas or residency applications, please consult with your employer's representative or a qualified Immigration Attorney.