Per STEM OPT application instructions, you must be physically in the U.S. at the time you submit your application to USCIS. If you choose to travel after this, please review our STEM OPT Travel information below. Updated immigration and reopening info are available here.
*The IPO will create a new STEM OPT I-20 for your STEM OPT application. You should NOT submit your application to USCIS until you have completed all the application steps below and received your STEM OPT I-20.
Step 1. Review STEM OPT When to Apply above.
Step 2. Pay IPO Processing Fee here.
The receipt is required as part of the STEM OPT application to the IPO.
Step 3. Complete Form I-765:
Whether you apply online with USCIS or mail in your application, you still need to submit an I-765 to the IPO so we can review it. Use ONLY the I-765 found on the USCIS website. The incorrect version will result in a rejection/denial or a delay in your OPT application. Review which I-765 version you should submit. The IPO will look over your I-765 when reviewing your STEM OPT I-20 Request E-Form and will provide suggestions for corrections. We cannot review your I-765 during advising hours.
If you submitted the USCIS STEM OPT application without the STEM OPT I-20, contact your IPO advisor immediately.
Tips for completing the I-765:
- Indicate you are applying for “Initial Employment” (STEM OPT is technically a new type of work authorization, not a renewal)
- Your I-765 does not need to be signed for submission to the IPO. Refer to submission instructions below for signatures on the I-765.
- The mailing address on the I-765 should be valid and able to receive your mail for 3-5 months after submitting your application. If using a friend or relative’s address, add your name to the mailbox. If you choose to use IPO as a mailing address, use the following address:
#5.a.: IPO, UMass Amherst
#5.b.: 70 Butterfield Terrace
#5.d: Amherst #5.e: MA #5.f: 01003
NOTE: If you use the IPO’s address to receive your I-797’s and EAD, please give us permission to open your mail per the STEM OPT I-20 Request E-Form. The IPO is not responsible for lost or damaged mail. Nor is the IPO responsible for postage errors or undeliverable mail. The IPO will contact you when your documents are received.
- If you move while your STEM OPT application is still pending you must change your address directly with USCIS and update SPIRE. If you are potentially close to being approved, remember that USCIS might not make the change in time and your card may not be delivered. Consider using the IPO’s address if you might move prior to or near your approval.
- Question #27 on the I-765 form, enter (c) (3) (C).
- Question #28 on the I-765 form, enter the name of the degree and major as shown on your I-20 (you may need to abbreviate). Enter your employer’s name as listed in E-verify and your employer’s specific E-verify identification number, which is 4-7 numbers (your employer needs to provide you with this information). An incorrect E-verify number will result in a delayed application. The E-verify number is NOT the same as the EIN (Employment Identification Number).
- Part 6: should have your name, even if there is nothing you need to add.
Step 4. Complete Form I-983:
Signed and completed by both you and your employer. Form I-983 Training Plan instructions are available here.
Tips for Completing the I-983:
- All signatures must be based on real signatures. No electronic signatures are currently permitted.
- Designated School Official: Find your IPO advisor by clicking here.
- School Code: Can be found on your I-20 under the School Information Section
- Qualifying Major and Classification of CIP Code: include both the descriptive major and the CIP code found on your I-20 under the “Program of Study” section.
- Date Awarded: match your transcript: see below in Step #4 if you have not graduated yet.
- Based on prior degree: select "No” if you are using your most recently completed UMass degree to apply for STEM OPT. Contact your IPO Advisor if you are not using your UMass degree to apply for STEM OPT.
Section 3: none of these items can be blank—ask your employer if you do not know
- Start date of employment: must match your start date of STEM OPT not when you started working at your employer. This is the number one error for the I-983. If the start date of employment does not match the STEM OPT start date, the IPO will reset your STEM OPT request, thus delaying your application.
Section 5: this information should indicate where you physically work
Page 5: does not need to be completed when applying for STEM OPT. Use the STEM OPT calculator to determine when they are required. See STEM OPT Reporting Requirements for more information.
Step 5. Obtain evidence of your degree in a STEM Field.
This should be your official transcript as the evidence must state your degree level and your program of study and not all UMass diplomas have this information. You can request your transcript from SPIRE.
Graduate Students: If you have not finished your dissertation or thesis yet, acquire a letter from your Graduate Program Director confirming your degree level, program of study, that you have finished all coursework, only need to complete your thesis/dissertation, and indicate what date you anticipate finishing. You will need to include this in your application to USCIS as well as provide it to IPO in lieu of a transcript. This letter must be on UMass letterhead and signed by your GPD.
Step 6. Submit the Following Documents in the STEM OPT I-20 Request E-Form. If you encounter an E-Form access issue and have tried accessing the E-Form in multiple web browsers and have cleared your cache to no avail, please email iss[at]umass[dot]edu.
- I-983 Form (complete and signed by you/employer)
- Transcript (unofficial is fine for the IPO but USCIS must have the official transcript)
- I-765 Form
- QuickPay IPO receipt
It will take the IPO approximately 7-15 business days to process/review your STEM OPT materials once they are properly submitted. You will be contacted by the IPO once your I-20 with STEM OPT endorsement is ready.
Step 7. Receive STEM OPT I-20 From the IPO
You should not apply for STEM OPT with USCIS without the STEM OPT I-20 from the IPO.
STEM OPT approval emails occasionally go into your Spam/Junk folder. Please check your spam folder if 7-15 business days have passed and you have not received the approval email yet. The IPO will provide a document checklist as well any noted correction suggestions for your I-765 in this approval email.
Step 8. Submit your STEM OPT Application to USCIS. Review the instructions below for you chosen method.