17-month F-1 OPT extension for students with STEM degrees


During the initial period of 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT), certain government-designated STEM degree-holders (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in the following fields may be eligible for an additional 17 months of OPT for a total of 29 months.


  • Computer Science Applications
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Mathematics and Statistics
  • Physical Sciences
  • Science Technologies
  • Medical Scientist (MS, PhD)


The degree programs that qualify for a STEM extension are listed at http://www.ice.gov/sevis/stemlist.htm. Note that the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code is printed next to “Primary Major” under the student name on page 3 of the Gardner-Webb University I-20.


Requirements for 17-month STEM extensions:

  • Student must be currently participating in a 12-month period of Gardner-Webb University administered OPT and working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study.
  • Student must have successfully completed a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a field on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List.
  • Student must have a job or job offer from an employer registered with the E-Verify employment verification system. (E-Verify information at http://www.uscis.gov/E-Verify)
  • Student has not previously received a 17-month OPT extension
  • Gardner-Webb University Office of International Programs (OIP) must recommend the 17-month OPT extension in SEVIS, after verifying a student's eligibility, certifying that the student's degree is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, and ensuring that the student is aware of his or her responsibilities for maintaining status while on OPT.
  • Student must apply for the 17-month extension on Form I-765 with fee. Students who timely file an application for the 17-month OPT extension will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending, until a final decision on the I-765 or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
  • Employer must agree to report the termination or departure of the student to the OIP by e-mail to titilolaadewale@gardner-webb.edu . An employer must consider a worker to have departed when the employer knows the student has left employment, or if the student has not reported for work for a period of 5 consecutive business days without the employer's consent.


Validation and reporting requirements during STEM extension:

Students with an approved 17-month OPT extension must make a validation report to the OIP every six months starting from the date the extension begins and ending when

  1. the student's F-1 status ends,
  2. the student changes educational levels at the same school,
  3. the student transfers to another school,
  4. the 17-month OPT extension ends


The validation report must include:

  1. student's full name
  2. current residence address and mailing address if different from residence address
  3. name and address of the current employer
  4. date student began working for the current employer


In addition to the validation reports, students on a STEM extension must notify the OIP within 10 days of:

  1. any change of name or residence or mailing address
  2. any change of employer, giving the name and address of the new employer
  3. any change to the name and address of this employer
  4. any interruption of this employment


Contact tadewale@gardner-webb.edu to submit the validation report using the above-mentioned information and other changes listed above.


The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) updated the comprehensive OPT information and FAQs on 4/2010. STEM extension information is found under section 8.



Application Process

The following items are required by OIP to apply for a STEM extension:

  • a completed STEM extension application (link to application form - see below).
  • a completed I-765 form (Go to http://www.uscis.gov/I-765)
  • your I-94 card (front and back copies)
  • your EAD card (front and back copies)


Upon receipt of the above-mentioned documents, the OIP will issue a new I-20 recommending the STEM OPT extension starting on the day following the expiration of your current EAD and ending 17 months later.


Application Period:

The student will send Form I-765 and supporting documents (see Checklist below) to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regional office having jurisdiction over your address of residence. The earliest USCIS may receive the application is 120 days before the end date of your initial period of OPT and the latest is the date your EAD expires.


Extension of Work Authorization:

Students who timely file an application for the 17-month OPT extension will be able to continue employment.



**Although you may continue to work while the OPT extension application is pending, you will not be able to return to the US after a trip abroad after the first EAD has expired and before you receive the EAD for the 17-month extension. As always, you will need to have an unexpired passport valid for 6 months into the future and an unexpired F-1 visa in your passport to return from a trip abroad in F-1 status.


Checklist for the application to USCIS (Student will send application to USCIS)

  1. I-765 Application for Employment Eligibility
    1. Question 16: Eligibility code is (c) (3) (C) *Note: The first “c” is not a capital letter.
    2. Question 17: List your degree and major as it appears on page 3 of your I-20, and your employer name and number as listed in the government’s E-verify program.
  2. Required I-765 fee of $380, payable to US Department of Homeland Security by bank check, money order or personal check. Write "USCIS I-765" in the memo line of the check or money order. Please note that a money order is more difficult to track than a check.
  3. Photocopy of I-94 card, front and back.
  4. Photocopy of your current EAD card (both sides) and any previous EAD cards (if applicable)
  5. Photocopy of your most recent diploma that shows the degree name and the date awarded.
  6. Official or unofficial transcript as evidence of your program of study being in a government-designated STEM field.
  7. Two passport-style photos (http://travel.state.gov/pdf/Photo-Quality-Requirements.pdf) meeting specifications of the link and taken within 30 days of filing the application.
  8. Photocopy of page 1 and 3 of I-20 recommending the STEM extension, endorsed by the OIP on page 3.
    1. *USCIS must receive the application within 30 days of OIP’s endorsement.
  9. Photocopy of the identification page(s) of your passport, including photo and expiration date.
  10. You will mail your application to the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over the place of residence you have written in Item 3 of the I-765.


If you live in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania or any other state in the Northeast region, send the application to the following, if using:


U.S Postal Service (USPS)Courier Service (FEDEX, UPS)
PO Box 660867Attn: AOS
Dallas, TX 752662501 S. State Hwy. 121, Business Suite 401
 Lewisville, TX 75067


If you live in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Guam, or the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, send the application to the following, if using:


U.S. Postal Service (USPS)Courier Service (FEDEX, UPS)
PO Box 21281Attn: AOS
Phoenix, AZ 850361820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
 Suite 100
 Phoenix, AZ 85034


The USCIS will send the EAD card to the address indicated on the I-765 form. The address must be within the jurisdiction of USCIS Regional Service Center to which the application is submitted or it will not be processed. If your address in Item 3 on the I-765 is or will be outside the Northeast region at the time you expect to receive the EAD, speak with your OIP advisor before mailing your application.


Gardner-Webb University,

110 S. Main Street, Boiling Springs NC 28017, Box 7255

Office of International Programs, Room 332 Tucker Student Center

Tel 704-406-3046