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.
*The USCIS Online Portal is a new process for STEM OPT applications. The IPO still recommends mailing your application as we can only provide basic information on the online application process, how it works, and the long-term outcomes are unknown at this time.
Step 1. Receive the STEM OPT I-20 from the IPO by following the STEM OPT I-20 Request Process above.
Step 2. Prepare your application documents to upload to the USCIS Portal. The I-765 application will be submitted entirely online.
- Two passport-style photographs. Instructions on photo size can be found on the I-765 instructions.
- New STEM OPT I-20 attached to the “STEM OPT I-20 is ready” email from the IPO (you must sign the I-20 with a pen prior to submitting to USCIS). Students are not permitted to sign the I-20 digitally or electronically.
- Copy of your biographical page from your passport (it is ok to apply with an expired passport but upload your new passport to your USCIS STEM OPT application once renewed) and copy of your F-1 visa stamp (it is ok if the visa is expired).
- Copy (front and back) of your 12-month OPT EAD
- 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: submitting your fee will be the last thing you do as part of your online application. Review current USCIS fees as they frequently change. USCIS’ fee website can be reviewed here. Once the USCIS fee is submitted online, you have applied for STEM OPT and no changes can be made to your application. DO NOT PAY THE FEE UNTIL YOU HAVE THE STEM OPT I-20 FROM THE IPO.
Step 3. Create your USCIS account online
Step 4. Apply for OPT using USCIS’ online application
Please review the IPO’s tips for applying for STEM OPT online using USCIS’ portal.
Any technical questions regarding the online application should be directed to USCIS.
Step 5. Receive I-797 Receipt Notice for Your Pending STEM OPT Application
Your receipt will be created almost automatically and uploaded to the “Documents” tab of your online account.
Step 6. STEM OPT Approval
USCIS processing time is 3-5 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 7. 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.