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If you earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a specific field listed on the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) STEM Designated Degree Program List and are currently employed on post-completion OPT, you may be eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of your work authorization known as a “STEM OPT” extension. “STEM” has a very specific meaning in the immigration context, and the DHS STEM-Designated Degree Program List is organized based on CIP codes. The CIP code for your degree field is printed on the first page of your Form I-20.

Students must currently be authorized for 12-month post-completion OPT and may be eligible for up to two STEM OPT extensions based on two STEM degrees at different degree levels. Students may also apply for a STEM OPT extension based on a previously-earned STEM degree from an accredited US institution within 10 years for which the student has not previously applied for a STEM OPT extension.

  • When to Apply and Eligibility

    Contact an international student advisor in ISSS to begin the extension process at least 100 days before your current OPT authorization ends. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must receive the STEM OPT application before your current post OPT end date, otherwise it will be denied. You are required to have a job offer in a field directly related to your STEM major field. The job must be paid, and you must work more than 20 hours per week.

    • Volunteering and self-employment are not permitted during STEM OPT extension
    • You must work at least 20 hours per week
    • You are allowed 60 days of unemployment during your STEM OPT extension period, in addition to the 90 days of unemployment allowed under your post-completion OPT period, for a total 150 days of unemployment

    STEM OPT applicants can now apply for the 24 month OPT extension online through the USCIS website after receiving their updated Form I-20 (with STEM OPT recommendation on page 2) from ISSS.

    After choosing the file online option on the middle of the Form I-765 page, students will be prompted to set up a USCIS online account before completing the I-765 and uploading the required documents (see the Documents Needed section below). After completing the application and paying the required $470, students will immediately receive a USCIS receipt to track their case.

  • Documents Needed
    • o New I-20 from ISSS with STEM OPT recommendation on page 2 (students must submit completed Form I-983 online (locate at the top pf the page) to ISSS before obtaining new I-20 copy)
    • F-1 visa, passport biographical page, and Form I-94
    • Previous Form I-20s with CPT or OPT approval
    • Previous EAD
    • Passport photo (measuring 2x2 inches, with white background)
    • Copy of STEM degree diploma
    • Copy of transcript showing proof of STEM-eligible degree

    You will also need to pay the $470 fee using a valid debit or credit card. You will be directed to pay.gov after completing the application to pay the fee.

    Documents must be uploaded using a PDF, JPG, JPEG, TIF, TIFF, or PNG format. Photos must be uploaded using a JPG, JPEG, PNG format.

About Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students

You must collaborate with your supervisor and your employer’s human resources office to complete Sections 1 through 6 on Training Plan (Form I-983) to begin the STEM OPT extension process. A representative from a staffing agency cannot complete the form. Your supervisor or an individual familiar with your proposed work and/or job duties must provide a job description and sign the form certifying that the STEM OPT job duties are related to your degree field. DHS is looking for confirmation both that STEM OPT work is truly for your benefit and that the employer is committed to helping you achieve your educational objectives. ISSS MUST receive completed Form I-983 before ISSS requests STEM OPT Extension for you in SEVIS database and issues a new I-20. You can now submit completed Form I-983 online to ISSS (located at the top of the page).

  • To complete Section 1 of Form I-983 (please complete to the best of your ability and bring to your ISSS appointment)
    • Name of School Recommending STEM OPT: University of Alabama at Birmingham
    • Name of School Where STEM Degree Was Earned: University of Alabama at Birmingham
    • SEVIS School Code: ATL214F00221000
    • Designated School Official Name and Contact Information: either Justin Lampley, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Tracy Maxwell, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    • Student SEVIS ID No.: copy the number beginning with “N” from the top left of your Form I-20
    • STEM OPT Requested Period: enter the day after your post-completion OPT EAD card expires as the “From” date and the date 24 months after that as the “To” date
    • Qualifying Major and Classification of Instructional Programs Code: enter the six-digit decimal code from the “Major 1” field on the first page of your I-20
    • Level/Type of Qualifying Degree: enter bachelor’s, master’s or PhD and the field/major
    • Date Awarded: enter the date you graduate and the date you defend(ed) your thesis
    • Based on Prior Degree?: No, unless instructed otherwise by ISSS
    • Employment Authorization Number: Enter your “A” or "USCIS" number, which may be found on the front of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  • To complete Section 3 of Form I-983 (if you will be employed by UAB)
    • Employer Name: University of Alabama at Birmingham
    • Street Address: the physical street address of the lab or department where you will work
    • Suite: the UAB building code and room number of the lab or department where you will work
    • Employer Website URL: either www.uab.edu or the website of the lab or department where you will work
    • ZIP Code: 35233
    • Employer ID Number (EIN): ISSS office will provide
    • Number of Full-Time Employees in US: enter the date you graduate and the date you defend(ed) your thesis
    • North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Code: 611310
    • OPT Hours Per Week: however many hours per week you will work
    • Start Date of Employment: the day after your post-completion OPT EAD card expires
    • Compensation:
      • Salary Amount and Frequency: dollar amount per hour, month, year-whichever
      • Other Compensation: N/A unless you want to mention health insurance or other typical company benefits

If you have been offered STEM OPT employment by UAB, you must bring your Form I-983 to the ISSS office in order to be signed on page 2 so that an ISSS advisor can issue your new I-20 containing the STEM OPT recommendation language.

If you have been offered STEM OPT employment by an entity other than UAB, you are responsible for obtaining the signature of the responsible individual at your employer’s office before providing the signed Form I-983 to ISSS for review. ISSS will not issue a STEM OPT Form I-20 without reviewing a signed Form I-983.

Remember that you must also complete two self-evaluations during your STEM OPT employment, including a final evaluation. There are spaces on page 5 of the Form I-983 to enter this information at the appropriate times.

Form I-9 Updates for UAB Employees

F1 Students approved for a 24 month STEM OPT extension must communicate with their UAB department administrators to update their Form I-9 as soon as possible after receiving their renewed Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS. The Form I-9 is used to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired in the United States, and must be updated to reflect a F1 Student’s current immigration status in the US. ISSS can assist with Form I-9 updates for employees of UAB by appointment. Book an appointment with ISSS.

Information about STEM OPT for UAB Departments and Outside Employers

A student’s degree-granting institution authorizes STEM OPT employment via a government database accessed by authorized individuals in the international office. Supervisors of UAB-degreed students must email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to notify the international student advisors of any material changes in a STEM OPT student’s duties or pay during the period of STEM OPT employment, or if the nature of the work changes such that it is no longer related to the student’s degree field. Supervisors must also email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. within 5 days of the termination of STEM OPT employment.

If your STEM OPT student did not graduate from UAB, our office still has an obligation to notify the student’s home institution’s international office of any changes and/or termination (since that institution authorized the student’s STEM OPT work authorization). Supervisors of STEM OPT students are ultimately responsible for ensuring compliance with the Form I-983 requirements.


  • Can I volunteer while on STEM OPT?

    Not as the basis for your STEM OPT work authorization. You must work at least 20 hours per week for salary for an employer that uses E-Verify in order to qualify for STEM OPT employment. If you wish to donate your time on weekends as a volunteer for animal shelters, religious organizations, homeless shelters, that’s fine, as long as you remain employed more than 20 hours per week in a field directly related to your STEM degree.

  • How long do I have to look for employment?

    You must have a job offer and a signed Form I-983 at the time you meet with ISSS to review and submit your STEM OPT application. If your anticipated STEM OPT job offer falls through, or you later resign or are terminated, you are allowed 60 days of unemployment.

  • Do I still have to report information in the SEVP portal?

    Yes, you must still update personal information such as a change in residential address through the SEVP portal. You must also complete a new Form I-983 and provide it to ISSS if you change employers.

  • Can I continue working past the end date on my current OPT EAD card while my STEM extension is pending?

    Yes. If you have filed a timely STEM OPT petition with USCIS (prior to your current OPT expiry date), you may continue working up to 180 days while your application is pending. Examples of evidence of a timely filed STEM OPT application are a receipt notice from USCIS, or an I-20 copy endorsed for a STEM OPT extension by a UAB Designated School Official (DSO), along with proof of delivery of your application to a USCIS lockbox. More information about I-9 updates for F1 students on OPT can be found on the USCIS website.

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