STEM OPT

24 Month STEM Extension Optional Practical Training (STEM OPT)

EADs mailed to the IPO: 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. You may either pick it up from the IPO or set up an eShip so we can mail it to you.

Online USCIS STEM OPT Portal: If you plan to apply for OPT using USCIS’ online portal, you must still follow the IPO’s STEM OPT I-20 Request Process noted below (except for mailing the application to USCIS). Once you have your STEM OPT I-20, you can transfer the information from the paper I-765 (plus any noted IPO correction suggestions) to USCIS' online portal and upload the required documents.

Per existing and updated federal guidance, the IPO may now print and sign I-20s electronically and email them to you. If you encounter an E-Form access issue and have tried accessing the E-form in multiple web browsers, please email iss[at]umass[dot]edu

Per I-765 regulations, you must be physically in the U.S. at the time you mail your application to USCIS. If you choose to travel after this, please review our FAQs below. Please note that due to the increasing amount of travel bans, the IPO discourages international travel at this time. Updated immigration and reopening info is available here.


Certain F-1 students on Post-Completion OPT are eligible for an additional 2 years of work authorization under STEM OPT. The eligibility, application, and reporting requirements are complex so you are encouraged to review the STEM OPT presentation and the information below prior to applying. 

ISS Critical Updates

See Study in the States for eligibility requirements.

  • You are currently on approved Post-Completion OPT.
  • You had fewer than 90-days of unemployment while on Post-Completion OPT.
  • ​For a list of STEM OPT eligible majors at UMass, please click here.
  • Your employer is enrolled in the E-Verify program and has an EIN (Employer Identification Number). (E-verify and EIN are not the same thing so you will need two different numbers).
  • You are not self-employed.
  • You have a job of at least 20-hours per week that is PAID. Unpaid volunteer or less than 20 hour positions are not permitted on STEM OPT.
  • Your application for STEM OPT extension must be received by USCIS before your Post Completion OPT expires.
  • You can be eligible for two STEM extensions in a lifetime, i.e. Bachelors and Masters, Masters and PhD, Bachelors and PhD.
  • The degree that serves as the basis for a second lifetime STEM OPT extension, must be at a higher educational level than the degree that served as the basis for the student's first STEM OPT extension.
  • A previous STEM degree obtained within the last 10 years from a U.S. institution can be the basis of a STEM OPT extension if current employment is in a STEM field. Example: Undergraduate STEM degree at a U.S. institution. Student then obtains a separate non-STEM Master’s degree. That student is initially only eligible for 12-months of OPT, but if working in a demonstrable STEM field, the student can subsequently apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension based on previous undergraduate STEM degree. Talk to your IPO Advisor if this is your situation as it is rare.
  • USCIS must receipt your STEM OPT application no later than 60-days from the issuance of your STEM OPT I-20 form AND before your 12-month OPT expires. If your application is returned to you, consult with an IPO advisor to determine if you need a new I-20.
  • STEM OPT applications generally take 3-5 months to approve. You are eligible to work for 180 days when your STEM is pending from the 12-month OPT expiration date as long your application was received by the 12-month OPT expiration date.
  • If your STEM OPT application is still pending after 180 days, you must stop working until you EAD is approved. There is no option to expedite your application.
  • Unemployment on STEM OPT is limited to an aggregate of 150 days. This means that while on 12-month OPT, if you used any of the 90 days allowed for unemployment, this is deducted from the 150 days. For example, while on 12-month OPT you use 45 days of unemployment. For STEM OPT, you have only 105 days of unemployment allowed.
  • Unpaid employment is NOT allowed.
  • Self-employment is NOT permitted. If you are currently on 12-month OPT and self-employed, you must establish that there is a bona-fide (real) relationship between you and your employer.
  • You are allowed to work at start-ups as long as all regulatory requirements are met—there is a bona fide relationship between the employer and you as the employee: the employer adheres to the training plan requirements, remains in good standing with E-Verify, will provide compensation to the STEM OPT student commensurate to that provided to similarly situated U.S. workers, and has the resources to comply with the proposed training plan.
  • You are allowed to have multiple employers as long as each employment meets the regulatory requirements and you have reported the information. See STEM OPT Reporting Requirements below for the IPO’s process.
  • You cannot apply for your STEM OPT extension until you are 90 days before your current OPT end date as indicated on your EAD card.
  • USCIS must receive your STEM OPT application no later than 60 days from the issuance of your STEM OPT I-20 form AND before your 12 month OPT expires. If your application is returned to you, consult with an IPO advisor to determine if you need a new STEM OPT I-20.
  • All applications must be received by USCIS before the end date of your current EAD. If the STEM OPT application arrives even one day after your OPT expiration, your STEM OPT will be denied. You should not work if the STEM OPT application is receipted by USCIS after the OPT expiration date.

For more information about your eligibility and the timing of your application, see the STEM OPT presentation.

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.

Section 1:

  • 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 employerThis 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.

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.

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.

There are several reporting deadlines for students on STEM OPT. To review your deadlines, use the STEM OPT Reporting Calculator (this will open an excel sheet).

You should use your UMass NETID and password to access SPIRE or the E-forms below.

Residential address, email address, or phone number changes, please update your information in SPIRE.

Validations: STEM OPT students are required to confirm their personal information and employment every 6 months. **NOTE: The IPO can report these on your behalf 30 days before or after your validation deadline. If you are unsure of your deadline, use the STEM OPT Reporting Calculator above.

  • 6 Month Validation: submit the STEM OPT Validation E-Form (confirm personal and employment information)
  • 12 Month Validation and Annual Evaluation: turn in all 5 pages of your current employer’s completed I-983 and complete the Annual Evaluation on the top of page 5 to submit the STEM OPT Validation E-Form. Note: you do not need to redo pages 1-4 if nothing has changed; you need to complete the top portion of page 5 and then upload all 5 pages of the I-983. 
  • 18 Month Validation: submit the STEM OPT Validation E-Form (confirm personal and employment information)
  • 24 months/End of Practical Training Final Evaluation: turn in all 5 pages of your current employer’s I-983 and complete the Final Evaluation on the bottom of page 5 to submit the STEM OPT Validation E-Form. Note: you do not need to redo pages 1-4 if nothing has changed; you need to complete the bottom portion of page 5 and then upload all 5 pages of the I-983. 

Change of Employers while on pending or approved STEM OPT

If you change employers while on pending or approved STEM OPT, you can update your employment using the STEM OPT Extension Employer Reporting E-Form

Documentation needed when changing employers:

  • I-983 with final evaluation completed for prior employer: Turn in all 5 pages of your prior employer’s I-983 and complete the Final Evaluation on the bottom of page 5. Note: you do not need to redo pages 1-4 if nothing has changed; you need to complete the bottom portion of page 5 and then upload all 5 pages of the I-983. 
    • If your STEM OPT has not officially started (i.e. you are technically still on OPT with a pending STEM OPT application, the final evaluation is not required as you have not started STEM OPT yet).
  • New I-983 completed for new employer

Material Changes to your I-983

If you make a Material Change to your I-983, you can update your information using the STEM OPT Extension Employer Reporting E-Form

Material Changes include but are not limited to:

  • Any change to the employer's IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN - the company's Federal Tax ID number) resulting from a change in the employer's ownership or structure, such as a corporate restructuring
  • Any reduction in student compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked
  • Any significant decrease in the number of hours of work per week
  • Any decrease in hours of work that would reduce the student's total hours with that employer to less than 20 hours per week
  • Changes to the employer's commitments or student's learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983

Confirm with your IPO advisor if you are unsure if an updated I-983 due to a material change is necessary.

Cap Gap

If you are eligible for and have received cap gap, submit the OPT/STEM OPT I-20 reprint form so we can verify this and provide an updated I-20. More information on eligibility for the cap gap extension can be found on the Study in the States website.

Change of Status

If you are changing your status from an F-1 to an H-1B, Permanent Resident, etc. please submit this information using the Change of Status E-Form when you have officially begun the new status. For example, if you are on an F-1 and moving to an H-1b starting 10.1, do not submit the change of status request until 10.1.

**If you are no longer a student at UMass and you are on OPT, etc. when you change your status, your NENS access to UMass systems (access to UMass email, UMass VIP, etc.) will be deactivated 30 days after your new change of status begins. Please plan accordingly.

The Department of Homeland Security has indicated that failure to provide any of the reporting requirements mentioned above can result in the automatic termination of your SEVIS immigration record and corresponding F-1 immigration status. The IPO will not take responsibility for a student’s failure to update information accordingly and to adhere to these considerable STEM OPT reporting requirements.

As you make your travel plans, please remember to keep travel restrictions, quarantines, negative test/vaccine documentation, airline obligations, and visa requirements in mind. You should also note the visa appointment availability due to consulate backlogs and closings prior to making any travel decision (if your visa is expiring soon/expired).

Whether traveling within the U.S. or outside, there are certain considerations you need to make before leaving UMass. While you can make plans to depart at any time, you need to make certain that you have the appropriate documentation to return to the U.S.

Inside the U.S.

NOTE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has the right to check all documents of any person within 100 miles of the U.S. border. You should carry originals of your documents if you are within these zones.

Beginning in May 2023, you will need to use your passport to fly within the U.S. unless you have a REAL ID from Massachusetts.

Outside the U.S. while on STEM OPT

If you plan to leave the U.S. to visit another country, all F-1 students on OPT and their dependents must have certain documentation to return to the US. If the F-2 dependent is traveling without the F-1 student, the dependent should also carry copies of the F-1 student's documents mentioned below.

F-1 Students on STEM OPT should keep the information below in mind while planning their travels. Any student who wishes to enter the U.S. must have the following documents:

  • Valid Passport
  • Valid Visa (unless you are Canadian) (for exceptions read Automatic Visa Revalidation)
  • I-20 with a valid travel signature on page 2 (signed within the last 6 months)
  • Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) if on approved STEM OPT (this is technically not a travel document but is helpful to have with you)
  • Job offer letter or job confirmation letter

There are numerous scenarios for students pending STEM OPT and on approved STEM OPT with regards to travel. Please read below to determine which scenario fits you best.

Remember: You may leave the U.S. without an updated travel signature. Failure to acquire a travel signature prior to departing the U.S. is NOT an emergency. Do NOT call UMPD. Request a reprint of your document and we can email it to you wherever you are.

Travel while my STEM Extension is pending

Yes, however as with most international travel there is risk. Please make sure you have a copy of your STEM Receipt Notice (I-797) from USCIS, updated I-20 with valid travel signature (travel signatures are only valid for 6 months on STEM OPT), offer letter or paystub from employer, valid visa stamp, and valid passport. Request a reprint of your I-20 for travel using the STEM OPT I-20 Reprint Request.

 

Travel while on my approved STEM Extension

Yes, however as with most international travel there is risk. If you travel, be sure all your documents are in order (valid passport, valid visa, I-20 with travel signature—on STEM OPT these are valid for 6 months only).  Some ports of entry may request your EAD card, your approval notice, or confirmation of employment—lack of these documents may cause issues but are not technically required for travel. Request a reprint of your I-20 for travel using the STEM OPT I-20 Reprint Request.

 

Travel while on STEM OPT (pending or approved) and needing to renew my visa:

Yes, however as with all international travel there is risk involved. Students should be prepared to present a valid passport, valid visa, I-20 with STEM OPT extension signed within the last 6 months, and your I-797 receipt indicating you filed your STEM OPT before your 12-month OPT expired. You should also have confirmation of employment in case it is requested. Additionally, delays in visa issuance can happen and expediting is not a possibility. Confirm with your chosen Consulate as to additional documents required to renew your visa. Request a reprint of your I-20 for travel using the STEM OPT I-20 Reprint Request.

 

Cap-gap and applying for an H-1b: You should confirm with your immigration attorney that you can leave the U.S. while your H-1b (or other immigration status) is pending. Leaving the U.S. is often considered an abandonment of your application so you will need to make alternative arrangements.

Requesting a New Travel Signature

While on OPT, travel signatures are valid for 6 months and must be renewed if it will expire before re-entry to the U.S. Check the travel signature date on page 2 of your most recently issued I-20. You may leave the U.S. without an updated travel signature.

You may request a reprint of your I-20 through the STEM OPT I-20 Reprint E-Form for an emailed I-20 that you will need to print. The approval emails occasionally go into your Spam/Junk folder. Please check this folder if 2-3 business days have passed and you have not received the approval email yet.
 

Renewing Your Visa Stamp

If your U.S. F-1 visa in your passport has expired or will expire prior to your next re-entry to the U.S., you will need to renew your visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad before you can re-enter the US.  There is no option to renew a U.S. visa while inside the U.S. Visit this website for updated visa renewal information and procedures at your nearest U.S. consulate in your home country.

Note: If you are currently in the U.S. and your U.S. visa has expired, or will expire, please remember that you do not need to renew your U.S. visa if you do not have actual travel plans.  Your U.S. immigration status remains valid as long as you are maintaining proper F-1 status at UMass. While on OPT, this means you have remained employed, reported personal information changes in SPIRE, and not accumulated more than 90 days of unemployment.  A U.S. visa is only necessary for travel and re-entry to the U.S., but is not necessary if you do not have immediate travel plans.

Passports

Anyone planning to depart from the U.S. and return after a temporary absence must have a valid passport in order to exit the U.S. The passport must also be valid for a minimum of six months into the future at the time of re-entry to the U.S. Some countries have an agreement with the U.S. that automatically extends passport validity for 6 months, for U.S. entry purposes only.

Automatic Visa Revalidation

For a visit of less than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean (except Cuba), you are allowed to re-enter the U.S. with an expired visa. This process is known as Automatic Visa Revalidation.

You will need your:

  • Valid Passport
  • Most recent Visa Stamp
  • Current I-20 with a valid travel signature

Please note if you apply for an F-1 visa in Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean and are denied, you will not be able to return to the U.S. using Automatic Revalidation.

Nationals of Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria are not eligible for automatic revalidation of an expired visa.

Can I continue to work when my 12-month initial OPT is expiring but I have applied for my STEM OPT extension?

If your OPT is expiring soon and you have applied to STEM OPT, please note that current F-1 regulations state that STEM OPT only has to be timely filed with USCIS in order to continue working.

You are eligible to work for up to 180 days AFTER the end date on your initial OPT EAD as long as your STEM OPT application was received by USCIS before your OPT expiration date. If your STEM OPT is not approved within 180 days of your OPT expiration date, you must stop working.

You will need to update your I-9 with your employer once your OPT expires and you are on STEM OPT. If you have received your I-797 receipt, you should use this to update your I-9 with your employer.

If you have not received your I-797 that indicates your STEM OPT is pending: F-1 regulations do not require a USCIS receipt nor that the case be in pending status to continue working. USCIS states that the expired OPT EAD plus your updated I-20 with STEM OPT endorsement should be sufficient in order to update your employer’s I-9 work authorization paperwork.

The IPO recommends that you discuss this with your employer’s Human Resources office or other hiring authority if your initial 12-month OPT is expiring soon and you need to update your I-9 paperwork.

I am a graduate student who has not finished my thesis or dissertation yet. Am I eligible for STEM OPT?

Yes. As long as you have finished all coursework, are still working towards degree completion, and are currently on 12-month OPT, you are likely eligible for STEM OPT. Review the STEM OPT I-20 Request Process to review what academic credentials you need to submit in lieu of a final transcript.

Do I have to report every 6-months, even if there are no changes to any of my information?

Yes, regulations for STEM OPT require you to self-report to your sponsoring institution every 6-months, even if no information has changed. Review the STEM OPT Reporting Requirements for more information. Personal information should be verified and updated in SPIRE. 

I have moved but I have not received my EAD yet, where can I update my address?

The U.S. Postal Service WILL NOT forward mail from the USCIS!  It is extremely important that the address you put on the I-765 application form be valid for the next several months. You can consider using a friend or relative’s address if your name is on their mailbox. You can also consider using the IPO address: IPO, 70 Butterfield Terrace, Amherst, MA 01003 (please note that IPO is not responsible for postage errors that are not the fault of the IPO).

If you need to change your address while your application is pending you must do so directly with USCIS. You should also update your address in SPIRE.

What if I change employers while my STEM extension application is still pending?

Please submit the STEM OPT Extension Employer Reporting E-Form as soon as possible. You may continue to work if you submitted your application to USCIS before your 12-month OPT expired.

Please see the STEM OPT Reporting Requirements for more detailed information on what is required.

What if my current degree is not STEM eligible but my previous degree was, can I apply for a STEM extension?

A previous STEM degree obtained from a U.S. institution can be the basis for a STEM OPT extension if your current employment is in a STEM field. Example: Undergraduate STEM degree. Student then obtains a separate non-STEM Master’s degree. That student is initially only eligible for 12-months of OPT, but if working in a demonstrable STEM field, the student can subsequently apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension based on previous undergraduate STEM degree. Please contact your IPO advisor if you believe this option applies to you.

If I applied for a STEM extension based on a lower degree, am I eligible for another STEM extension at a higher degree?

You can be eligible for two STEM extensions in a lifetime, i.e. Bachelors and Masters, Masters and PhD, Bachelors and PhD. The degree that serves as the basis for a second lifetime STEM OPT extension, must be at a higher educational level than the degree that served as the basis for the student's first STEM OPT extension.

What if I lose my job, do I have unemployment time?

Yes, you can accrue no more than 150 days of unemployment TOTAL between your Post Completion OPT and your STEM extension. For example, while on 12-month OPT, you use 45 days of unemployment. For STEM OPT, you have only 105 days of unemployment allowed.

I was offered a new position but it is unpaid or under 20 hours a week. Is this ok?

No. All STEM OPT positions must be paid, at least 20 hours/week, related to your degree, and have an I-983. You may have multiple positions while on STEM OPT but each position must meet these requirements.

What is Cap Gap? Am I eligible? How do I get an updated I-20?

Cap gap is the period between the end of OPT/STEM OPT and the start of your H-1B on 10.1. This extension permits some students to work after your EAD expiration and until your H-1B starts. 

Not all students are eligible for and need cap gap if their H-1B is scheduled to begin on 10.1. Please review the Study in the States website for more information.

Should you believe you are eligible and want an updated I-20, please submit the OPT/STEM OPT I-20 reprint E-Form above so we can verify this and provide an updated I-20.

To ensure your change of status to H-1B is applied correctly to your F-1 record on 10.1, please submit our Change of Status E-Form (found under STEM OPT Reporting Requirements) in early October so the IPO can confirm everything is correct.

** If you are no longer a student at UMass after changing your status, your NENS access to UMass systems (access to UMass email, UMass VIP, etc.) will be deactivated 30 days after your new change of status begins. Please plan accordingly.

What if I move while my STEM OPT is pending at USCIS?

The U.S. Postal Service WILL NOT forward mail from the USCIS!  It is extremely important that the address you put on the I-765 application form be valid for the next several months. You can consider using a friend or relative’s address if your name is on their mailbox. You can also consider using the IPO address: C/O IPO, UMass Amherst, 70 Butterfield Terrace, Amherst, MA 01003 (please note that IPO is not responsible for mailing errors/delays that are not the fault of the IPO).

If you need to change your address while your application is pending you must do so directly with USCIS. You should also update your address in SPIRE.

I used the IPO as my mailing address with USCIS. How do I get my EAD and approval document?

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. You may either pick it up from the IPO (by appointment only) or set up an eShip so we can mail it to you.

I lost my EAD, can I continue to work?

You may continue to work as your employment authorization is not impacted until the expiration of the lost/stolen EAD. You must apply for a replacement EAD as soon as possible.  A replacement EAD takes 3-4 months and requires the USCIS fee. You must file a replacement application, with a new I-765 and filing fee plus the documents noted in the STEM OPT I-20 Request Process above (you do not need to do submit the STEM OPT I-20 E-Form or I-983 again).

If you need to change employers while waiting for a replacement, you will need to show different documentation during your I-9 process since you don’t have your EAD. Work directly with your employer’s Human Resources as there are documents they can temporarily accept in lieu of an EAD.

My EAD never arrived in the mail, can I work when my start date arrives with my receipt notice?

You may NOT begin working until you have the physical EAD in hand, even if the start date has passed. In rare cases, a card can be lost in the mail. Note that USCIS does not make a duplicate of your EAD card so the one mailed to you is the only copy. If your card shows as delivered but you do not have it, check with your local post office, your landlord, roommates, neighbors, etc., to make sure the card is really lost and not delivered to the wrong person or returned to the post office. Submit a lost card notice to USCIS and they will determine if it was returned to them already and sent to their Undeliverable Mail Office.

If the card was not returned to USCIS or found by the local post office, etc. the only way to get another EAD is to file a replacement application, with a new I-765 and filing fee plus the documents noted in the STEM OPT I-20 Request Process above (you do not need to do the STEM OPT I-20 E-form or I-983 again). While waiting for a replacement, you will need to show different documentation during your I-9 process since you don’t have your EAD. Work directly with your employer’s Human Resources as there are documents they can temporarily accept in lieu of an EAD.

Students have several options for Life After STEM OPT. Please review these below:

  • Leave the U.S. within 60 days of STEM OPT expiration. Note: the 60-day grace period also applies to F-2 dependents
  • Transfer to a new institution or start a new degree program at UMass within 60 days of STEM OPT expiration
  • Change your Immigration Status within 60 days of STEM OPT expiration. Please use the Change of Status E-Form under the STEM OPT Reporting Requirements above to report any changes

Basic Info about an H-1B and Changing your Status:

The H-1B is a specialty occupation work visa sponsored by an U.S. company on behalf of an international person. You will work with your employer or immigration attorney on this process.

H-1Bs can be filed requesting either Change of Status or Consular Processing. This is at the discretion of the employer filing the H-1B and both have specific implications for your F-1 status.

Change of Status – The H-1B approval notice will contain an I-94 card, which will forcibly change your status from F-1 to H-1B on October 1. Depending on your situation, possible benefits include Cap Gap and you may not need to file for your STEM OPT extension. If you believe you are eligible for the Cap Gap, request an I-20 reprint above so the IPO can review it.

Students with a change of status effective October 1, should submit the Change of Status E-form to the IPO around October 1 so we can verify your F-1 ended correctly.

Consular Processing – The H-1B approval notice will contain a consular notification that you can use to leave the U.S. and apply for an H-1B visa stamp in your passport when you are ready to take on H-1B status. H-1B cases filed under Consular Processing cannot benefit from Cap Gap.

Students with Consular Processing, should submit the Change of Status E-form to the IPO AFTER you have left the U.S., received your H-1B visa stamp, and returned to the U.S. as an H-1B.

Use the STEM OPT Reprint E-Form to request a reprint of your I-20. If you need to report updated employment information, use the STEM OPT Extension Employer Update E-Form and request an I-20 there.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) launched a new SEVP Portal to assist F-1 students on post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM OPT.

  1. The SEVP Portal is optional. If you choose to open a SEVP Portal account, you still need to comply with the IPO’s Reporting Requirements for OPT and STEM OPT.
    1. Update personal information changes in SPIRE.
    2. Use the IPO’s OPT or STEM OPT Reporting E-Forms to report updates to your employment information.
    3. STEM OPT has additional reporting requirements that cannot be met with the portal and you must use the IPO’s STEM OPT E-Forms under STEM OPT Reporting Requirements.
  2. Once approved and your EAD start date is current, SEVP will send an email to your UMass email account listed in your SEVIS record. SEVP Portal emails are sent from: do-not-reply.SEVP [at] ice.dhs.gov.
    1. Refer to information about creating a SEVP Portal account below.
      1. The IPO will not reset your SEVP Portal access or unlock your account.
  3. If the SEVIS ID is entered incorrectly more than three times, the account will be locked. The IPO does not reset your SEVP Portal access or unlock your account.
  4. Please make certain that you are only responding to emails and opening links from this trusted email address.
    1. Be careful of email scammers or “phishing” attempts. See further information about avoiding immigration scams, about common scams targeting international students, as well as information from UMass about fighting phishing.
  5. If you need an I-20 printed, please use the OPT/STEM OPT I-20 reprint form.

If you have any questions about the SEVP Portal or need assistance, call the SEVP Response Center at 703-603-3400 or email SEVP [at] ice.dhs.gov. The IPO does not oversee the SEVP Portal and cannot advise students about it.

For more detailed about the new SEVP Portal information see: