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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Frequently Asked Questions | OPT Application | OPT Extension | OPT Reporting | H1-B Cap-Gap

OPT Extension

Students who have received a U.S. Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral degrees in certain STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), are eligible for a one-time 17-month OPT extension.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Be in valid F-1 status on Post-Completion OPT.
  • Must not have exceeded 90 days of unemployment in the initial 12-month period of OPT.
  • Have earned your most recent degree in a STEM field specified by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).
  • At the time of application for the OPT extension, the student must have a paid employment with an employer who is registered with and participating in the USCIS' E-Verify employment verification program.
  • Agree to make reports to SIUE within 10 days of any change in employment status regarding your employment, or every 6 months if no change has occurred.

When to Apply for an OPT Extension

You must apply for the STEM OPT extension 120 days before your current Post-Completion OPT expires.

Application Procedure

Please bring the following completed documents to the International Programs Office to apply for OPT Extension.

  • STEM OPT Employer Information Form pdf
  • Check for $380 made payable to: Department of Homeland Security. (A sample check is attached here and please DO NOT sign the back of the check) 
  • 2 recent passport-style photos on white background. The photo must be 2x2 inches; the images must be no more than 1 3/8 inches from the top of the head to the chin. Your name and I-94 number must be printed in pencil on the back of the photos. For an example, see photo.
  • Form I-765 pdf Click here for detailed instructions. 
  • Photocopy of passport biographical information page and expiration page
  • Photocopy of visa page
  • Photocopy of I-94 card (front and back) or most recent I-94 print out
  • Copy of your most recent pay stub
  • Copy of your most recent diploma in a STEM field (If diploma is not available, you can send an official transcripts from the Registrar's office showing degree completion)
  • Copy of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card-front & back)
  • Once all the documents are turned in to the International Programs Office your adviser will issue a new I-20. Processing time for new I-20 is 2-4 business days. You should plan to return to the office to sign the new I-20.
  • Include a self-addressed return envelope with tracking number with sufficient stamps/postage to have the OPT Extension I-20 mailed back to you once it is ready. SIUE can no longer scan and email I-20s.

International Programs cannot mail the application until you have signed your new OPT Extension I-20.

Once you have applied for the 17-month STEM OPT Extension

  • The International Programs Office should receive an official USCIS receipt notice within a month of mailing your application. After receiving the receipt notice, you can check on the status of your application in the Case Status Online section of the USCIS website.
  • You may continue your OPT employment while your extension request is pending for up to 180 days.
  • You may not accumulate a total of more than 120 days of unemployment for 29 months of OPT.
  • Any employment during the 17-month STEM OPT Extension period must be with an employer registered with the E-Verify program.

While on OPT Extension

You are still considered to be in F-1 student status while on OPT Extension, so any questions or concerns can be addressed by an International Student Adviser during this period.

You must report to the Office of International Programs within 10 working days of any change to your address, employment or immigration status via the online OPT Reporting Form.

Traveling While on OPT Extension

You may travel while on OPT Extension. However, please keep in mind that you are still in F-1 status and that you will need the following in order to re-enter the United States:

  • A valid travel signature on your most current I-20 (within 5 months of re-entry)
  • Your unexpired Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or I-797 receipt notice
  • A letter from your employer indicating that you currently hold a job in your field of study and will be returning to the U.S. to resume employment
  • A valid passport
  • A valid F-1 visa

After completing your 17-month STEM OPT Extension

You are entitled to a 60-day grace period after the last day of OPT as indicated on your EAD. You may not work during your 60-day grace period. This 60-day grace period is to return home or to start a new program.You will need to notify Office of International Programs if you plan to begin another course of study after your OPT.

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