Per I-765 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.
Step 1. Receive the STEM OPT I-20 from the IPO. Follow the STEM OPT I-20 Request Process above.
Step 2. Prepare your application documents
The documents (except for the photos and I-765) submitted to USCIS can be in black and white as long as all the information is legible. We suggest you type the information into the I-765.
- Two passport-style photographs (name and date of birth written on the back). Instructions on photo size can be found on the I-765 instructions.
- A properly completed, signed, and dated I-765 form. Review which form to submit here. You should not sign electronically or digitally. Sign with a pen prior to mailing.
- New STEM OPT I-20 attached to the “STEM OPT I-20 is ready” email (you must sign the STEM OPT I-20 with a pen prior to submitting to USCIS)
- Copy of your biographical page from your passport (it is ok to apply with an expired passport but contact your IPO advisor with the new copy once it has been renewed) and copy of your F-1 visa stamp.
- Copy (front and back) of your prior 12-month OPT EAD (if you have one from a previous OPT approval)
- Print out of your current I-94 record
- Official transcript from UMass (it does not need to be in a sealed envelope). You can request your transcript from SPIRE.
- Fee (mailing): A personal check or money order made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Review current USCIS fees as they frequently change. USCIS’ fee website can be reviewed here. Remember to send the fee with the application; do not send it in a separate package.
- Form G-1145 is optional but highly recommended as USCIS will e-mail and/or text you with updates regarding your OPT application if you include this form.
Step 3. Mail your application to USCIS
All mailed OPT applications should be sent to USCIS’ Chicago lockbox. Please be sure to get tracking on your package to USCIS. If you mail your application to the wrong lockbox, USCIS will transfer your application to the correct location but there will likely be a delay in your receipt processing.
Step 4. Receive I-797 Receipt Notice for Your Pending STEM OPT Application
Usually within 10 business days of USCIS receiving your package. If you used the IPO’s address as your mailing address, we will email you a scanned .pdf of your receipt notice. If you used the G-1145, you should receive an email/text message as soon as the case number is assigned.
Step 5. STEM OPT Approval
USCIS processing time is 3-4 months. You will receive a I-797 approval notice and your employment authorization document (EAD) once approved (usually 90-120 days after the case is receipted).
The hardcopy approval notice and EAD will be sent to your mailing address on your I-765.
If you used the IPO’s address: Once the IPO actually has received your EAD and approval documents you will receive an email notification from us. Please be mindful that while tracking may say it’s delivered, that doesn’t mean the IPO has it in our possession yet. Please wait until we contact you with next steps.
Step 5. STEM OPT Reporting and Life After STEM OPT
Report your STEM OPT employment changes by reviewing the STEM OPT Reporting Requirements. Review the STEM OPT Life after STEM OPT information for additional information.