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Office of Visa & Immigration Service AdvisingSTEM Optical Practical Training (STEM OPT)

What is STEM OPT?

STEM refers to majors in Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It allows a student who majored in one of those areas to obtain a STEM OPT extension of an additional 24 months, bringing the total OPT time to 36 months. Minors do not count for STEM. Students with a previous STEM degree may be eligible for the STEM extension.

Front and back samples of Employment Authorization Document card

OPT/STEM OPT Presentation

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Eligible CIP Codes


The following items must be submitted to our office in order to apply for STEM OPT:

  • STEM request form and responsibilities form
  • Signed I-765 form
  • Completed I-983 Training Form (pages 1-4). Page 5: Evaluation page must be submitted to us later after 12 & 24 months of STEM OPT.
  • Copies of all I-20s ever issued to you by ODU and any other school
  • Biographical information page from your passport (if the picture and/or expiration date are on different pages, include those as well)
  • Most recent visa stamp
  • I-94 arrival record OR I-94 card (from a pre-May 2013 entry)
  • Any previous EADs (front & back sides)
  • Two 2 x 2 passport-style photos
  • Personal check for $410 made out to US Department of Homeland Security OR Form G-1450 for credit card payment of $410
  • Copy of your diploma
  • Official or Unofficial transcripts with degree conferral date
  • Complete G-1145 form (E-notification for application/petition acceptance)—optional

Please note that copies should be submitted on 8.5 x 11 paper and documents should be copied in actual size and centered on the page. The only exception to this is your diploma, which must be reduced in size to fit on 8.5 x 11 paper.

USCIS announced that Optional Practical Training applications (Regular and STEM OPT) can be submitted online via myaccount.uscis.gov.

You will receive the receipt notice immediately; however, the processing time for EAD cards will not change. USCIS will continue to receive and process paper OPT and STEM OPT applications.


  • You will still be required email your application to our office at intlstu@odu.edu to review and generate the OPT I-20. You will have to save/download a completed I-765 form to send to our office for review.
  • The online filing requires the same documentation—it will be uploaded to the USCIS portal. The OPT I-20 will have to be signed, scanned and uploaded. Electronic signatures on I-20s are not accepted.

Application Checklist:

  • STEM OPT Request Form and responsibilities sheet (submitted to the VISA office but not to USCIS)
  • Online I-765 form AFTER creating myaccount.uscis.gov and select FILE A FORM ONLINE.
  • Completed I-983 Training Form (pages 1-4). Page 5: Evaluation page must be submitted to us later after 12 & 24 months of STEM OPT.
  • STEM OPT I-20 issued by ODU, signed with ink. No electronic signatures.
  • Copies of ALL I-20s EVER issued to and used by you from ODU and any other school
  • Copies of biographical information page(s) from your passport
  • Copy of most recent visa stamp
  • I-94 arrival record OR I-94 card (from a pre-May 2013 entry)
  • Copies of any previous EADs (both sides)
  • Copy of your diploma
  • Official or Unofficial transcripts with degree conferral date
  • Two passport-style photos. Photos must be JPG, JPEG or PNG.
  • Payment Options: credit/debit/online checking account. You will know when you payment is accepted immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I change employers while my STEM OPT application is pending?

Notify our office immediately via e-mail AND submit the OPT Employment Update as well as a new I-983. In your e-mail, be sure to provide both your UIN and your SEVIS ID number, and specifically state that your STEM OPT application is pending. We will update USCIS on your behalf.

What is the STEM OPT application timeline?

You should submit your STEM OPT application 90 days before your Regular OPT expires—no sooner than that. As always, your application will take up to ten business days to be processed in our office. As with Regular OPT, you will be sent an e-mail to notify you when it is ready for you to pick up and then you will mail it to the address we have indicated in that e-mail.

How often do I submit STEM OPT Employment updates?

Please submit OPT Employment Updates every six months regardless if there is any change in your employment.

  • At 6 months: OPT Employment Update online form
  • At 12 months: OPT Employment Update online form & 12-month self-evaluation (last page of I-983)
  • At 18 months: OPT Employment Update online form
  • At 24 months: Final Employment evaluation (last page of I-983)

What happens if I don't get my EAD in time?

Provided you have submitted your application to VISA within the time period mentioned in the previous question, you should get a receipt notice from USCIS that will allow you to continue working up to 180 days while your EAD is being issued. Be sure to keep your receipt--even after your EAD is issued.

What are the STEM OPT employment requirements?

Your employer must be registered with E-Verify, a Department of Labor system. STEM OPT employment must be a paid position for at least 20 hours per week. The employment must be directly related to your major.

Can I travel on STEM?

Yes, however, USCIS states that you may not travel while your application is pending. Once your STEM OPT EAD has been issued, you'll be able to travel with proof of employment with an E-Verify employer and other documents as detailed on our Traveling Aboard and Re-Entering the U.S. page on our Resource webpage. If you need to get a new visa in your passport, you'll get an F-1 stamp.

Do I need any special documentation to re-enter the U.S. after travel while on STEM?

Yes. You should have the following:

  • Proof of employment that you'll be starting or resuming a job
  • Pay stubs from current employer(s)
  • STEM OPT I-20 with a travel signature that is less than six months old upon re-entry
  • EAD
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp

Am I allowed to have any unemployment days on STEM?

Yes. For your regular OPT plus STEM OPT employment authorization, you have a total of 150 days of unemployment. That means that if you were continuously employed while on regular OPT with no unemployment days, you have 150 days of unemployment while on your STEM extension. If you used 89 days of unemployment while on regular OPT, you have just 61 days of unemployment while on your STEM extension.

Can I volunteer while on STEM OPT to stop the unemployment "clock?"

No, USCIS no longer allows this for STEM extensions.

Can I have more than one employer on STEM OPT?

Yes, but all employers must be registered with E-Verify. You must submit the I-983 form for each of your employment to our office.

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