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OPT STEM Extension

If you are in your 12 month period of post-graduation OPT, you may be eligible for a 24 month extension, if you meet certain requirements.
list of steps for applying for opt
General Eligibility
  • Completed a degree on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, completed either at William & Mary, or at another U.S. institution that is accredited and SEVP-certified.
  • The CIP code (not your degree name) determines your eligibility for STEM OPT. This is listed on page 1 of your I-20, next to your major.
  • These CIP codes are not set by ISSP, and have to do with the content taught within a major or program. 
Eligible William & Mary and VIMS Programs

These programs currently qualify for the OPT STEM extension:

  • Applied Science
  • Biology
  • MBA, these specializations only:
    • Business Analytics
    • Supply Chain Management
    • Finance (as of Fall 2021)
  • MAcc, Master of Accounting (as of Fall 2021)
  • M.S. in Business Analytics*
  • Chemistry
  • Computational & Applied Mathematics & Statistics
  • Computer Science
  • Computer Science – COR
  • Data Science (as of Spring 2022)
  • Geology
  • Marine Science
  • Mathematics
  • Neuroscience
  • Physics

*Undergraduate Business programs do not qualify for OPT STEM.

If you have a question about your program's eligibility, contact ISSP.

Additional Eligibility Information
  • STEM OPT is based on program or major. Minors are not eligible.
  • STEM OPT is an extension, so to be eligible you must currently have OPT.
  • You must be working for a U.S. employer in a paid job or training opportunity directly related to your major area of study (as listed on your I-20).
  • Self-employment does not qualify. Unpaid opportunities and volunteering do not qualify.
  • Your employer must be registered with E-Verify.
  • You must be working for at least 20 hours per week per employer for your position to qualify for STEM OPT.
  • You have a lifetime limit of two 24-month OPT extensions (one per eligible STEM degree).
Previous Degrees

If you previously completed an eligible STEM degree, and are currently on post-completion OPT, you can apply for a STEM extension if you meet all of the criteria listed above.

Your work during your STEM extension must be related to your STEM degree, even if you did post-completion OPT for a non-STEM degree.

To be eligible, your previous degree must have been conferred within 10 years preceding the date ISSP issues your STEM extension I-20.

Application Process

You can apply for STEM OPT up to 90 days before your current OPT expires, but your application must reach USCIS (Immigration) before the end date listed on your OPT EAD. 

Step 1: Draft forms and gather documents
You must submit an I-983 completed and signed by you and your company before we can issue a STEM OPT I-20 for you.

OPT - Applying Online

  • OPT packet, checklist and tips from the Office of International Students, Scholars, and Programs
    • Look at the packet for information about additional documents you will need to submit, including an I-20 that lists your STEM OPT dates, that you will get during your OPT appointment. If you do not submit this I-20, your OPT will be denied, and your fee will not be refunded.
  • Form I-765, "File Online" button
If you would like to discuss your application, you can schedule an appointment with an ISSP advisor, but this is optional. 

Step 2: Complete the OPT STEM Extension I-20 Request e-form

The earliest we can issue an OPT STEM I-20 is 90 days before your EAD expires:

  • Access the form via iStart.
  • Log into iStart with your W&M ID and password (click on blue login button). IT can help if you forgot your password.
  • Click on F-1 Practical Training in the menu on the left-hand side. Then, click on OPT STEM Extension I-20 Request and complete the form.

We will email your updated I-20 to you; you must then sign page 1.

Step 3: Apply Online

  • Submit the I-765 online.
  • Upload:
    • STEM OPT I-20
    • Application fee
    • Passport-style photo
    • Official transcript from your STEM degree from W&M or another school
    • Supporting documents, summarized in the OPT packet.
  • Your application be received by USCIS within 60 days from the date of the STEM OPT I-20 being issued, and before your EAD card expires.
  • As long as you apply before your EAD expires, you can continue working while your application is pending, for up to 180 days past your original OPT expiration.
Reporting Requirements

While you are on STEM OPT, you must keep your record updated. 

  • Every 6 months (counting from your OPT start date), you must confirm your home address and workplace
  • Every 12 months (and when you leave an employer) you must submit a self-evaluation (the last page of the I-983).
  • Any time you have a new employer, or position, or a "material change" to your I-983 training plan (i.e. a significant change to your position or duties), you must submit an updated I-983.
  • Your employer must agree to report your termination or departure ISSP, and to follow other requirements listed within the training plan.
  • Do all STEM OPT reporting, updates, and evaluations here:
    • Login to iStart using your W&M ID and Password.
    • Click on F-1 Practical Training in the menu on the left side. Then, click on OPT STEM Updates and Evaluations.
  • Learn more about the reporting process while on STEM OPT.
  • You can do address updates through the SEVP Portal, but you must still do your 6 months/12 months reporting through iStart.
Unemployment Limit

While on STEM OPT, you can be unemployed for up to 150 days.

This includes the previous 90 days unemployment you were allotted during your post-completion OPT.

Unlike post-completion OPT, your work during STEM OPT must be paid to count as employment. Unpaid internships or volunteering do not qualify for STEM OPT employment.

International Travel

We recommend waiting until your STEM OPT is approved and have received your new EAD before traveling. See Traveling Abroad While on OPT for additional information.

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