OPT is open to F-1 students who are "in status" with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and who have been in F-1 status for one full academic year (students who enroll in September, for example, become eligible to engage in OPT the following summer). Students who have been outside the US for reasons other than study abroad (for example, a non-academic leave spent at home) must complete one full academic year in F-1 status upon their return before they will be eligible for OPT.

OPT is defined as "temporary employment in your field of study," so it may be used only for work that is directly related to your declared major at Mount Holyoke, and it must be at a level that is appropriate for your background (for example, clerical or secretarial work generally is not permissible, even if the job is in a company or organization whose work is relevant to your major).

Please read this important information sheet that explains more about OPT.

Application Procedures for OPT:

To start the OPT application process you can log into Pathways and make an appointment with Jenny Medina. If you are applying for post-completion OPT (to work after graduation), you can apply for OPT up to 45 days after your program end date, but no more than 90 days in advance. We can go over the process and what documents we will need from you to process the I-20 form recommending you for the OPT. You will need to upload the following documents to USCIS after we have issued you the new I-20 form. We will also include these instructions in our meeting with you.

  • $410.00 filing fee - you will pay this by eCheck or credit card/debit card when you submit the application (this fee will be going up to $470 on April 1, 2024)
  • Form I-765 - This can be submitted online and will allow you to upload all documents
  • Scan of new Form I-20 with an employment recommendation
  • Scans of any/all previously issued I-20 forms with work authorization on page 2
  • Pdf of Form I-94, which can be retrieved online
  • Scans of ID and visa pages from passport including entry stamp of the last time you entered the US
  • US Passport-style photo taken within the last 30 days. You can either use a US passport photo app or purchase a flash drive at Walgreens or CVS and ask for the electronic file to be placed on the flash drive. USCIS will return your application if the photos do not meet their requirements

If you have already done OPT, include copies/scans of your previous EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card(s). If you are applying for a replacement or extension EAD card, include the folded insert in which you received the original card; it has a bar code that will facilitate the issuance of a new card.

Once you've uploaded everything you can submit the form.

You will receive a receipt notice from USCIS via email once you submit your application. This verifies your application will be processed. Double-check the information on the receipt notice for accuracy.

Actual processing times vary and may range from 90-120 days. The receipt notice will include a receipt number for your application; once you have the receipt, you may check the status of your application online by visiting the USCIS website, or by calling the national USCIS call center at 1-800-375-5283. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism by which you or we can expedite your application (regardless of how long ago you filed, or whether your expected start date is coming up). For information about general USCIS procedures, see the Vermont Service Center web page.

Once USCIS has approved your application the EAD card will be issued. The EAD will be sent directly to you at the address you list on the I-765 form - usually our office. The EAD card lists the dates for which you are approved to work, in the capacity for which you have applied (remember, the work you apply for and engage in must be related to your major. You may not begin work until you receive this card and the start date listed has come. Please make sure to check the dates on the EAD card when you receive it to make sure there are no mistakes.


Processing times vary greatly, but can take three or four months, so plan ahead.

While in OPT, F-1 students must report certain changes to maintain legal F-1 status. It is your responsibility to report the required information related to your OPT. You must report the following changes by either submitting the OPT Information Form on our website or through the SEVP Portal (see information below):

  • Changes to residential and/or mailing address within 10 days
  • Change in employment status (starting a new position, ending of a job) within 10 days
  • Change in legal name within 10 days – this should be reported by sending an email to global@mtholyoke.edu

OPT SEVP Reporting Portal

On March 23, 2018, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) launched the SEVP Portal, a tool for students on approved post-completion or STEM OPT to:

  • View details about their OPT
  • Report changes to their U.S. residential and mailing addresses and telephone numbers
  • View and update data on their employers
  • Updates made in the SEVP portal will be sent directly to SEVIS.

STEM OPT Reporting Requirements

In addition to the requirements listed above, you must also report the following information:

  • 6 Month Validation Report every six months
  • Annual Self Evaluation on Form I-983 after the first year of STEM OPT. You must email this to brhodes@mtholyoke.edu
  • Final evaluation of Form I-983 at the end of your second year of STEM OPT. You must email this to brhodes@mtholyoke.edu
  • Any material changes to the Form I-983
  • Changing employers (the new employer must be an Everify employer and you must submit a new I-983 Form to the McCulloch Center)
  • Any unemployment time if longer than 10 days

The OPT STEM Extension is a 24 month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 36 months) available to eligible F-1 students (students with majors designated by the federal government as STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Economics and Psychology majors at MHC are also eligible for the STEM extension. Special majors at Mount Holyoke are multi-disciplinary and are not eligible for the STEM extension even if the majority of courses are in stem fields.

You must be working for an employer that is part of the Everify system and they must be willing to complete and adhere to the Form I-983. The employment must be regular, paid employment. You must complete a new I-983 if you change employers before we will be able to issue you new I-20 form with the new employer information. 

Working for a third party employers (such as temp or staffing agencies, consulting agencies) is not allowed unless the student is working solely for employer. They may not assign or contract out students to work for one of their customers or clients, and assign, or otherwise delegate, their training responsibilities to the customer or client. The employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student. 

The STEM OPT Extension Powerpoint has information on eligibility and requirements for the OPT STEM Extension

When to Apply

  • USCIS must issue you a receipt for your application dated no later than the end date of the your current 12-month OPT (the end date on the EAD card). This means you MUST provide a completed I-983 to the McCulloch Center at least one week before your OPT expiration date.
  • Students may apply as early as 90 before their OPT EAD end date
  • OPT will be automatically extended for up to 150 days while the STEM OPT application is pending, however, to travel, students must have an unexpired EAD card

How to Apply

  1. Work with your e-verify employer to complete an I-983 Form. Email the completed form to Bri Rhodes and mail the hard copy with original ink signatures to the McCulloch Center
  2. Complete the STEM OPT Request form. We will need this completed form to process your new STEM extension request I-20 form
  3. Once the McCulloch Center receives these two documents, we will send you a new I-20 with a STEM extension recommendation. Do not apply without a new I-20!
  4. Once you have received the new I-20, complete the I-765 online. You will pay the $410 filing fee as part of the online application, You’ll also need to gather the following documents:
    • Scans of any previously issued I-20 forms with CPT or OPT authorization on them
    • Scans of previous EAD cards
    • PDF of Form I-94 reflecting your most recent entry into the US. You can retrieve it online.
    • Official transcripts - Mount Holyoke does not currently have electronic transcripts, so you must request that official hard copies of transcripts are mailed to you and then you will scan and upload them.
    • Scans of ID and most recent visa pages from passport including most recent entry stamp of the last time you entered the US
    • Passport-style photo taken within the last 30 days. You can either use a US passport photo app or purchase a flash drive at Walgreens or CVS and ask the electronic file to be placed on the flash drive

After STEM OPT is Approved

STEM Reporting Timeline

General Reporting Requirements (Be sure to report any of the following changes to the McCulloch Center within 10 days of the change):

  • Your legal name
  • Your residential or mailing address
  • Your employer’s name and address
  • Any loss of employment

Mandatory Validation Report Requirements While on STEM OPT Extension (submitted every six months)

Beginning from the start date of your STEM OPT Extension, you are required to submit a validation report to the McCulloch Center every six months. You are required to submit this information every 6 months - even if nothing has changed.

6 Month STEM OPT Validation Report Form

Mandatory I-983 Evaluations and Updates (submitted every 12 months)

Any changes to the information in the I-983 training plan must be submitted to the McCulloch Center. This includes, but is not limited to, if your work site, supervisor, role at your company, or company itself changes. Any changes in employer or additional employers require submission of an updated training plan.

Regardless of changes, students are also required to submit self-evaluations every 12 months of the STEM extension. You must complete the Evaluation on Student Progress at 12 months, and the Final Evaluation on Student Progress at 24 months, or the completion of your STEM extension period.

Changes in Employer while on STEM OPT

Contact the McCulloch Center immediately if you have or plan to change employers on STEM Extension. You must fill out a new I-983 Training Plan with your new employer. You cannot begin working for a new employer until you have completed and sent in the new I-983 form and we have issued you a new I-20 form with the new employer information on page 2.

Traveling on STEM OPT

When traveling during your STEM OPT Extension, be sure to use your STEM OPT EAD card. While on a period of STEM OPT you must travel with the following documents:

  • Your STEM OPT Form I-20 form with a valid travel signature (valid for 6 months)
  • Valid, unexpired F-1 visa stamp
  • Passport (valid at least 6 months in to the future)
  • Letter from your E-Verify employer confirming your employment

Also consider traveling with all of your previously issued EAD cards and I-20s

Unemployment while on STEM OPT

You are permitted a total of 150 days of unemployment during the entire 36 months (12 month standard OPT + 24 month extension). If you accrue any more than 150 days of unemployment you are considered out of status, lose the rest of your STEM OPT time, and must leave the U.S.

Please complete a STEM Extension request to receive the STEM OPT Extension I-20 form from the McCulloch Center. You must also submit the completed I-983 to the McCulloch Center before we can recommend a 24 month extension. Make sure to also request an official transcript from the Registrar's Office as you will need to send it in with your OPT extension application. This form must also be completed if you change employers and a new I-983 must be submitted.