Students participating in a period of post-completion OPT (initial 12 months) in a qualifying STEM major are eligible to apply for a STEM OPT extension up to 90 days before the end date of the initial EAD. Approvals grant an additional 24 months of employment authorization.
DHS grants STEM OPT extensions to eligible F-1 students once per degree level, and now allows eligible students to participate in the STEM OPT extension twice over the course of their academic career. To participate twice in the STEM OPT extension, a student must earn a second qualifying degree at a higher education level, and be participating in an initial period of OPT at the time they apply to USCIS for their second STEM OPT extension. Students may not apply for a STEM OPT extension during the 60-day grace period following an initial 12-month period of post-completion OPT.
You must currently be working in a period of post-completion OPT and must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in an eligible STEM field from an SEVP-certified school that is accredited at the time you submit your application to USCIS.
You must pursue practical training at least 20 hours a week through an employer that is enrolled at USCIS’s E-Verify employment eligibility verification program. You must have each employer complete the Form I-983 training plan and submit this to OIS before the start of employment.
The Form I-983 is a formal training plan which must clearly articulate the STEM OPT student’s learning objectives and affirm the employer’s commitment to helping the student achieve those objectives.
Common I-983 Questions:
Step 2. Request a STEM OPT I-20 from OIS
Submit the following forms to OIS in order to request a new I-20.
Upon submission of the materials above, an international student advisor will review your application. If eligible, the advisor will issue a new I-20 for you to submit with additional required materials to USCIS to apply for a STEM OPT extension.
7 business days
Step 3. Submit Materials to USCIS
Prepare the other materials required for submission to USCIS; see the instructions located on the USCIS website and our STEM OPT handout. You may wish to use an example I-765 as a guide and have your materials reviewed by an international student advisor prior to mailing. The application must be received by USCIS within 60 days of the signature date on the STEM OPT I-20 and before the end of your EAD.
While on STEM OPT you must regularly check in with OIS throughout the duration of the extension to validate Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) details and report changes made to the training plan. Learn more about reporting requirements on our website or visit the Department of Homeland Security STEM OPT Hub for more information.
additional 24 months
Timely filed applicants will receive an automatic extension of employment authorization for up to 180 days while the application is pending in accordance with 8 CFR 274a.12(b)(6)(iv). Students should provide their employers with the following documents to continue their employment during this period:
Students who are granted a STEM extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during the total period of OPT, including both the 12-month post-completion period and 24-month extension period. If you change employers during your STEM OPT period, remember to make all necessary updates to your I-20 by submitting a final evaluation for your previous employer and a complete Form I-983 for the new employer with your eform submissions to OIS.