Optional Practical Training and STEM OPT Extension

Two types of practical training opportunities are available to our on-campus international students:

  • Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  • 24-Month STEM OPT Extension (STEM OPT)

General information on both options can be found at:

Application forms and application tracking for both OPT and STEM OPT:


Post-completion OPT is an opportunity for international students to apply to extend their student visa to work in the United States for up to 12 months after graduating from the DC or the NMD program. Contact your DSO at [email protected] with any questions or to get started.

Interested? If you’re 2 quarters or less away from graduation, please fill out UWS’s OPT request form to begin the process.

To file your OPT application (Form I-765), you must have a new I-20 with OPT recommendation from a university DSO.  In order to receive the I-20 with OPT recommendation you must be:

  • In good academic standing at UWS
  • Have any incomplete or failing grades resolved
  • On track to graduate
  • Have no pending financial, legal, or disciplinary actions prior to the PDSO recommending your OPT request

Once your DSO has recommended you for OPT and given you an updated I-20 with OPT recommendation, you must apply for OPT by submitting your I-765 application online within 30 days of your DSO’s endorsement.

OPT application processing times are approximately 2-3 months. OPT is a privilege attached to your temporary F-1 student status; it should not be assumed that an OPT request will be granted automatically. Neither should you view OPT as a step towards obtaining permanent residency – it is not.  Please consider making alternative plans in the chance that your request may not be approved in a timely manner or denied altogether.

Find more information here.


The 24-month STEM OPT Extension allows UWS students who received a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology degree from UWS to apply to extend their student visa to work in the United States for an additional 24 months after 12-months of post-completion OPT. You can apply for the STEM extension within 90 days of your OPT end date.

The requirements are different between OPT and STEM OPT, including employer requirements. See below for more details an email [email protected] with any questions.

Interested? If you’re in the final 90 days of your OPT then fill out UWS’s STEM OPT Extension request form to begin the STEM OPT Extension process.

To file your STEM OPT Extension application (Form I-765), you must have a new I-20 with STEM OPT Extension recommendation from a university DSO. In order to receive the I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation you must be:

  • Currently approved and working in OPT
  • Received the Bachelor of Science in Human Biology degree from UWS.
    • Must include copy of your transcript or Bachelor of Science diploma from UWS in your application
  • Have graduated from UWS’s DC or NMD program
  • Must include UWS’s accreditation information on the I-765 online application for STEM OPT Extension
    • Submit screen shot of UWS’s accreditation details found here under the University of Western States header and attached letter
  • Have no pending financial, legal, or disciplinary actions prior to your DSO recommending your STEM OPT request
  • You must have an employer and a job related to the BS in Human Biology degree
  • Your employer must be registered in E-Verify
  • You and your employer must have submitted a fully completed, formal training plan (I-983) to your DSO at [email protected] for approval as part of the application process

Find more information here.


How often does the I-20 need to be signed for travel during OPT or STEM OPT?
Every 6 months

What needs to be submitted to your DSO after your OPT and/or STEM OPT Extension application has been approved?
You must submit a copy of your EAD card (front and back) and your I-797c Notice of Action listing the approval along with any I-20s with your signature issued during your practical training.

Do I need to submit employer information?
Yes, during OPT and/or STEM OPT Extension you must report all new employment/loss of employment immediately to your DSO at [email protected].  

During the STEM OPT extension, if you change employers, the new employer must be enrolled in E-Verify before you begin to work for pay. You must also submit a new Form I-983 Training Plan to your DSO at [email protected] within 10 days of starting the new practical training opportunity.

Find details here.

What is the definition for full-time employment under OPT and STEM OPT?
20 or more hours a week to maintain your required full-time employment status.

What if I am unable to locate a practical training employment opportunity?
Students on OPT and STEM OPT Extension are allowed a limited number of unemployment days. Students approved for OPT are allowed up to 90 days of unemployment.

Students approved for the 24-month STEM OPT Extension are allowed to use an additional 60 days of unemployment.

Find details here.

Can I travel outside of the US while waiting for OPT approval?
While your OPT application is pending, we discourage students from traveling outside of the US after their program ends since it may be viewed by individual border agents as abandonment of the OPT application.

If your program has ended, but your OPT has been approved, you should travel with the following documents:

  • Valid F-1 visa stamp (if applicable) – Not required for Canadian students.
  • Unexpired Passport
  • EAD card
  • I-797c Notice of Action regarding the approval.
  • All I-20 documents including OPT/STEM OPT endorsed I-20 signed within the last 6-months.
  • I-20 financial documents (recommended)
  • Travel Support letter from employer or DSO listing your travel dates.

Find details here.

Why did I receive a notice that my photo submitted with the application was rejected?
Photos taken from a phone are often rejected, the best choice is to get an inexpensive passport photo.