STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT)

STEM 24-Month Extension

  • The Cooper Union eligible STEM programs and Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes: 
    • Bachelor of Architecture – 04.0902 
    • Bachelor of Engineering in Chemical – 14.0701
    • Bachelor of Engineering in Civil – 14.0801
    • Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical – 14.1001
    • Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical – 14.1901
    • Bachelor of Science in General Engineering – 14.0101
    • Master of Science in Architecture – 15.1303
    • Master of Engineering in Chemical – 14.0701
    • Master of Engineering in Civil – 14.0801
    • Master of Engineering in Electrical – 14.1001
    • Master of Engineering in Mechanical – 14.1901

Eligibility Requirements

  • Your major's Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code must be listed on the STEM List released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Make sure to read the first two paragraphs in full, as it can be confusing to determine whether or not your program is STEM eligible.
    • Your CIP code is a 6-digit code listed on your I-20 next to the name of your major and is in XX.XXXX format.
  • Your employer must be registered in the E-Verify program.
  • Your employment must be paid.
  • You must have a bonafide employer-employee relationship with the company providing the training and this company must complete the Form I-983. If you are getting paid through a staffing agency, the staffing agency cannot complete your Form I-983. As Study in the States explains, "F-1 students cannot qualify for STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) extensions unless they will be bonafide employees of the employer signing the Form I-983. F-1 students may not provide employer attestations on their own behalf. However, STEM OPT applicants can participate in a start-up or small business so long as all regulatory requirements are met. The employer that signs the Training Plan document must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience."
  • You must work at least 20 hours per week.

How to Apply

  • The earliest your STEM Extension OPT application can reach the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is 90 days before the end of your post-completion OPT. The latest your application can reach the USCIS is the last day of your post-completion OPT. USCIS maintains that your application should be filed in a "timely manner," so early application is recommended.
  • USCIS must receive your STEM Extension application before your post-completion OPT ends.
  • If you live out of town, do not physically mail your STEM OPT application to the International Student Services Office (ISSO). Any application materials sent to the ISSO will be returned to you. The ISSO will review your STEM OPT application by email, then mail your new I-20 to you. You will send your STEM OPT application to USCIS after receiving your new I-20.

As of April 2021, USCIS allows I-765 for OPT applications to be filed online. This process is still very new. If you do wish to file your OPT application online, you will need to create an online account with the USCIS to proceed.

  • Step 1: Send electronic copies (PDF files) of the following documents to the International Students and Scholars Services Office (ISSO) at international@cooper.edu.

    • STEM OPT I-20 Request Form, signed by you (electronic signature or scanned signatures acceptable)

    • I-983 – review guide for completing form I-983

    • I-765 (optional) – The ISSO will check the I-765 for completion, but you are responsible for confirming the accuracy of all information and for ensuring that you are submitting the most current version of the I-765 from the USCIS website.

  • Step 2: Wait for the ISSO to send your new STEM OPT extension I-20 to you via email.

    • This can take up to 5 business days
  • Step 3: Prepare the following materials to send to the USCIS in the exact order listed below.

    • Your STEM OPT extension Statement of Responsibility should not be mailed to the USCIS. This is an internal ISSO form.
    • Form I-983 should not be mailed to the USCIS. This form is uploaded to your SEVIS record by the ISSO.
    • Your STEM OPT extension application must reach the USCIS within 60 days. The ISSO department makes the STEM OPT extension recommendation in SEVIS.
    • Your STEM OPT extension application must reach the USCIS before the end date of your post-completion OPT.
    • The following checklist is a recommendation. You should also check the official I-765 instructions on the USCIS website prior to mailing your application.
      • G-1145
      • I-765
        • Your signature must be a “wet signature” in black ink. A digital or scanned signature is not acceptable on the I-765.
        • Make sure to use extremely clear handwriting or type your information other than the signature.
        • Make sure you are using the most recent form available on the official USCIS website.
        • Copy of the new STEM OPT extension I-20 (the ISSO will create the new I-20 and email to you after reviewing the forms mentioned above)
        • You should print 2 copies of the I-20 sent to you via email. Sign and date both. Keep one copy for yourself. Mail the other copy to the USCIS.
        • Copy of Passport Photo Page
        • Copy of F-1 visa
        • Copy of your current Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
        • Copy of your post-completion OPT I-20
        • I-94 (can be obtained here by selecting “Get Most Recent I-94”)
        • Check or money order made out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Please check the filing fee here.
        • 2 new passport photos taken within the last 30 days with name and I-94 number written on the back. For examples of acceptable passport photos, see the DOS website. You can get appropriate passport photos taken at a drugstore such as CVS or at a mailing store such as Fed-Ex. If you wish to take the photos yourself, review the Department of State’s tool for taking digital photos.
        • Official academic transcript. You can order this through your Self Service Account. If you have forgotten your login, visit the registrar’s office website here. The transcript does not have to be sealed. Unofficial transcripts are not acceptable.
        • Copy of diploma. If you have misplaced your diploma, you will need to order a replacement diploma. To do so, visit the registrar’s office website here.
  • Step 4: Mail your STEM OPT extension to the USCIS.

    • Mail your application to the address listed in the USCIS Direct Filing Addresses section.
    • You should navigate to the section for “Foreign Students,” then navigate to the first row for Optional Practical Training.
    • Choosing regular mailing vs. courier mailing does not have an impact on your application. P.O. Boxes cannot be used by courier mail services, which is why there’s a separate address for courier services.
    • ISSO recommends that you always mail your application with a tracking number.
    • ISSO recommends that you keep a digital scan of all your application materials in your personal files.

Reporting Requirements

Updated reporting requirements for students authorized for a 24-month STEM Extension are below. Send all required updates by using the STEM OPT Update Form or by emailing international@cooper.edu. Students on STEM OPT should not utilize the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) portal but should contact the ISSO directly.

  • Every six months, you must confirm with the ISSO that your SEVIS record is accurate using the STEM OPT Update Form.
  • Annually, you are required to complete the Evaluation of Student Progress portion of the Form I-983 and complete the STEM OPT Update Form.
  • When the STEM OPT ends, you must conduct a second, final assessment, and procure signatures from your employer on page 5 of the Form I-983.
  • Any changes in employment, including termination, must be reported to the ISSO within 5 days using the STEM OPT Update Form.

Please note, it is the student's responsibility to report changes in a timely manner.

Unemployment Information

Students on their 24-month STEM Extension OPT have 60 days of allowable unemployment in addition to the 90 days of allowable unemployment on post-completion OPT for a total of 150 days of allowable unemployment.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.