17-Month Extension of Optional Practical Training for STEM Students

If you are on F-1 student Optional Practical Training and you completed a degree in certain designated majors in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), you may qualify for a 17-month extension of OPT.

NOTICE! On October 19, 2015, DHS has published a new proposed STEM OPT Rule that would change the conditions of this employment type.

To qualify for the 17-month STEM OPT extension you must meet all of the following conditions:

  1. You must currently hold valid F-1 status and be working on an approved period of post-completion OPT.
  2. You must have earned a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in a field on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Programs list. See the official list of DHS-approved CIP codes or download a PDF document prepared by the ISSO listing specific BU majors that qualify.
  3. You must be working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student’s STEM major area of study.
  4. Your current or prospective employer must be registered with the DHS E-Verify employment verification system.
  5. You must not have previously received a 17-month OPT extension, as this extension is only given once.
  6. Your employer must agree to report your employment termination or departure to the ISSO within 48 hours of occurrence. If you are absent from work for more than five (5) days without the employer’s approval, the employer must also report to the ISSO that you are no longer working. The employer may report the termination/departure by sending an email to isso@bu.edu or by contacting the ISSO staff.

Applying for a STEM Extension

You must apply for your 17-month STEM extension during a period of approved post-completion OPT and when you have a qualifying employer.

The application must be received by USCIS before the expiration date of your current OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Schedule an ISSO Appointment

Call the ISSO ahead of time to arrange an OPT appointment with your ISSO advisor. On the day of your appointment, you will be expected to arrive with a completed OPT application and all required supporting documents.

If you are working in another part of the U.S. and are unable to arrange an in-person appointment, please contact your ISSO advisor to arrange for a phone appointment and remote processing of your request.

17-Month OPT Extension Application

Download the following PDF documents to begin your application (paper copies are also available at the ISSO):

  • OPT STEM Extension Application Package: This package includes the OPT Extension application form (Form I-765), a list of the documents you must prepare before meeting with your ISSO advisor, and the OPT Acknowledgement that you must sign before receiving an OPT recommendation from the ISSO.
  • Employer Agreement Form: This form must be signed by the student’s employer to provide proof of registration in E-Verify and confirm that the employer agrees to report the student’s termination of employment as required by regulation.

Mailing Instructions

Once you have received your OPT recommendation from an ISSO advisor, your OPT application must be received by USCIS no later than 30 days after the ISSO recommendation. If the USCIS receives your application outside of this window, your application may be denied.

Mail your OPT Application

By Mail:
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
By Express Mail or Courier Service:
Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Highway 121
Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

The ISSO recommends sending your application by an overnight or express courier service (U.S. Express Mail, Federal Express, DHL or UPS ) or via the U.S. Post Office via Certified Mail with a Return Receipt requested to provide confirmation of delivery.

It is very important that you keep official verification that your application was mailed and received by the USCIS. If your application is lost in the mail or if you need follow-up assistance from your ISSO advisor, you will need to provide the USCIS receipt number (usually beginning with “EAC“) provided on your Notice of Action.

E-Notification of Application Acceptance
If you would like an email and/or text message sent to you informing you that USCIS has accepted your application, you may submit a Form G-1145 with our OPT application.

You should receive an official (Receipt Notice) from USCIS approximately two to four weeks after mailing your application. This notice will confirm official receipt of the application and assign a case number to the pending application.

While adjudicating your application, USCIS may send a Form I-797 “Request for Evidence” if an item on the application checklist is missing, or additional information is required before making a decision. If such a letter is received, you should contact the ISSO immediately for assistance.

Changing or Canceling Your OPT Application

Checking the Status of the Application
You may check the case status on-line. If you still have questions after checking the case status on-line you should contact the ISSO. It may take up to 90 days to reach a decision on the case. If the application takes longer than 90 days from the date on the official receipt notice, students may contact the ISSO immediately.

Cancellation of OPT Application
If you have not mailed your application for OPT, you may request cancellation or change of dates on their OPT recommendation through a second appointment with your ISSO advisor. If your application for OPT  is not yet approved and you learn that you will not graduate as expected, contact the ISSO immediately to determine if cancellation of their OPT is still possible. All students are advised to confirm their eligibility for graduation with their academic advisor or department prior to applying for OPT, since change or cancellation of an OPT application at a later time may not be possible.

Once the application is approved, USCIS will mail the student an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to the address the student indicated on the Form I-765. Students must bring this card and their I-20 to the ISSO so the EAD can be copied for the file and the I-20 can be endorsed for travel. It is illegal to begin employment before receiving the EAD or before the start date on the card.