International Student and Scholar Services

24-month STEM Extension

What is a STEM Extension?

A STEM Extension is an additional 24 months of Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) granted to certain degree holders in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). 

Key Aspects

  • Students need to apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for STEM Extension authorization with the help of both their employer and a Designated School Official (DSO) from the Center for International Studies (CIS)
  • The STEM Extension is official once the student receives a new STEM EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card from USCIS


  • Student is participating in Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT).
  • Student is working for a U.S. employer in a paid job (at least 20 hours/week) directly related to the student’s major area of study.
  • The student has completed a degree in a program on the STEM-Designated Degree Program list.
    • Exception for students completing a thesis, dissertation, starred paper, or capstone.
  • Student is working for a company that is registered with the E-Verify employment verification system and has an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN).
  • Student has not exceeded 90 days of unemployment during their Post-Completion OPT.
  • A student may use a prior STEM degree from an accredited SEVP-certified school if:
    • They have received their most recent degree (does not need to be a STEM-Designated Degree Program) from an SEVP-certified school that is currently accredited.
    • They have received their prior, qualifying STEM degree (at the bachelor’s level or higher) within 10 years preceding the date of application for the STEM Optional Practical Training extension with USCIS.
  • A student cannot apply for a STEM Extension if the student:
    • Finished  or end-dated their post-completion Optional Practical Training.
    • Has received a STEM extension of any duration at the same level as the student now wants to apply.  A student must earn a second qualifying degree to seek a second STEM extension.
    • Has exceeded 90 days of unemployment during their post-completion Optional Practical Training period.

 Things to Know before Applying

  • The earliest a student can apply for a STEM Extension is 90 days before their OPT end date.
  • The latest a student can apply for a STEM Extension is on their OPT end date (USCIS must receive the application by this time).
  • Graduation from SCSU should be conferred in order to qualify for a STEM Extension.
    • Exception: the student's academic advisor provides a letter explaining (a) why the degree has not been conferred and (b) when it will be conferred.
  • While the STEM Extension application is pending, the student's Post-Completion OPT is automatically extended until the STEM application has finished processing (or 180 days, whichever is sooner).
  • USCIS usually takes about 3 months to process STEM Extension applications.
  • When granted, authorization is usually valid for two years.

Steps for Applying

To apply, students will need to submit a STEM OPT application to USCIS with the help of their current OPT employer and a Designated School Official (DSO) from CIS. These are the steps:

  1. Review the Eligibility requirements and Things to Know before Applying above to determine if you are eligible. If you are unsure, you can contact CIS for guidance
  2. Pay the $200 STEM Administrative Processing Fee
    • While you are working in the U.S. on your STEM Extension, CIS is federally required to maintain, update, and report on your SEVIS record until all employment authorization has concluded. This fee offsets the expenses of all SEVP-mandated employment reporting.
    • To pay, send an email requesting the processing fee to be added to your account
    • Pay the processing fee in one of the following ways:
      • Online – through e-Services (; Mastercard, Visa, Discover, or E-Check accepted
      • Phone – call the Cashier’s Office at (320)308-4012; 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday – Friday
      • In-person – Administrative Service Building, Room 123; 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday – Friday
  3. Contact CIS for assistance with your STEM Extension application, by submitting the following documents via e-mail to the CIS front desk at
    • Receipt of $200 STEM Processing Fee payment
    • Completed STEM Extension Request form
    • Completed Draft Form I-765
    • Unofficial or Official Transcript
      • Unofficial transcripts may be downloaded via e-services. Official transcripts must be requested via Records and Registration. Transcripts must show degree conferral date.
      • Note: Official transcripts must be submitted in your STEM OPT extension application to USCIS. Do not submit unofficial transcripts in your package to USCIS.
    • Letter from your employer on letterhead that includes:
      • Employer’s name as listed on E-Verify
      • Employer’s E-Verify company identification number
      • Description of job duties, in detail
      • Salary
      • Location of the company
      • Part- or full-time
    • Form I-983
      • Be sure you are using the 7/16 edition (found on the bottom left of the form)
      • You should download the form and type in the required information using the table below.
Item Important information
Student email address
Enter your personal email address, NOT St. Cloud State email
Name of school where STEM degree was earned
Enter St. Cloud State University unless the STEM application is based on a degree program from a previous SEVIS-certified, accredited school. Then enter that school name.
SEVIS School Code of school recommending STEM OPT
SCSU Main Campus = SPM214F00271000
SCSU Plymouth Campus = SPM214F00271001
Designated school officials
Kristy Nelson Ramos: 320-308-4287
Jacob Mercer: 320-308-4274
STEM OPT Request Period
The "From" date should be the day after your OPT ends (according to your EAD card).
The "To" date should be 2 years later.
Qualifying major and classification of instructional programs (CIP) code
This can be found on the 1st page on your I-20 under “Program of Study” or under #5 on the old I-20.
CIP code is in this form: XX.XXXX.
Level/Type of Qualifying Degree
Undergraduate, graduate or doctoral
Date Awarded
This is the date that your degree was conferred (see your official transcript).
Employment Authorization Number
This is the “A” number on your optional practical training employment authorization document card.
Sections 3 and 4
These sections are to be completed by the student’s employer.
Section 5
This section is to be completed by the student and the employer.
Section 6
This section is to be completed by the student’s employer.
Evaluation on student progress
This section is to be completed by the student and employer at the student’s 12-month date of the STEM extension.
Final Evaluation on student progress
This section is to be completed by the student and employer at the student’s 24-month date of the STEM extension. It should not be included in this application.

4. A DSO will review your completed documents, request your STEM Extension in SEVIS, and create an updated I-20 with the STEM Extension request. (The request will be found on page 2 of the I-20.)

5. When the processing is finished, CIS will email you with your new I-20, your application materials with the DSO’s comments, and instructions for both online filing and filing via mail/courier.

6. Gather all of the application materials that USCIS requires. See "Complete List of Application Materials to USCIS (Online Filing)" below.

7. Save copies of all application materials for your records.

8. Create an account with the USCIS online portal (or use existing account, if you have one).

9. Submit your application packet to USCIS. Instructions can be found here.

  • If you would rather file your application to USCIS via mail/courier, complete instructions and a list of application materials can be found here.

Complete List of Application Materials to USCIS (Online Filing)

  • 2 x 2 photo
    • Be sure to review the guidelines for taking and uploading a photo. Selfies are not acceptable, and the picture must be taken on a plain white or off-white background.
    • You can upload your photo to the Photo Tool on the Department of State's Passport Photos page to create an acceptable passport-style photo. You can also have one professionally taken at Walgreens, CVS, or Walmart.
  • Valid passport photo page
  • I-94
  • Most recent I-20 with OPT requested status on page 2
  • I-20s of current degree level showing CPT authorization(s) (if applicable)
    • If you do not have these I-20s, he CIS front desk can you send you any scanned copies we may have on file for you. Please contact and include your SCSU ID#. 
  • All previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD) cards
  • Official transcript showing your degree conferral
  • Letter from your employer
  • $410, payable by debit/credit card

Acceptable File Formats
Photos: JPG, JPEG, PNG
Documents: JPG JPEG, PDF, TIF, TIFF (.doc or .bmp files are not allowed)
Maximum size: 6MB per file

 **You do not need to submit your Form I-983 to USCIS. The Center for International Studies keeps it on file for you.**


  • USCIS usually takes 2-3 months to process STEM OPT Applications.
  • Once your application and payment are submitted, you can use your online account for the following:
    • Access your receipt notice
    • Access biometrics notices (if applicable)
    • Review Requests for Evidence (RFEs), if applicable
    • View your case status (via the Case Status tab)
    • See a PDF of the completed Form I-765
    • Access your Decision Letter
  • If your application is returned with a Request for Further Evidence (RFE), you should contact a DSO for assistance. We will likely need to create a new I-20 for you.
  • When your application is approved, USCIS will send the EAD card to the mailing address you provided in you application.
  • You should submit a copy of your EAD to your employer. 
  • If your application is denied, USCIS will notify you.

Reporting STEM Extension employment

While on STEM OPT Extension, you must report your Optional Practical Training employment regularly. Please visit the link for reporting requirements.

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