STEM OPT Extension

24-Month Extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT) for students in certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields of study

Eligibility

Students in F-1 status who are on post-completion OPT and have earned a STEM degree may apply for a 24-month extension of employment authorization period provided they meet all of the following requirements:

  • The student has completed a degree in a STEM eligible field from a U.S. accredited institution with SEVP certification within the last 10 years and has not already utilized this degree to apply for the STEM OPT.  To see if your degree qualifies you for this benefit, compare your major's CIP (Classification of Instructional Programs) Code found on your Form I-20 (under 'Program of Study' on page 1) to the Department of Homeland Security's official list of approved CIP Codes. Please note that it is possible for this list to change, so while we do our best to update our website, the most current information can always be found on the Study in the States website.
  • The student must be currently participating in a period of post-completion OPT, working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student's STEM major area of study.
  • The student's current or prospective employer must be registered in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) E-Verify employment verification system.  Students can find a list of E-Verify employers by using this DHS tool.
  • The student and the employer must complete, sign and adhere to a training plan (Form I-983 which will be submitted with the STEM OPT request to ISSS) and comply with reporting requirements, as explained below.

Students may be eligible for two STEM OPT authorizations of 24-months each, provided the second period of the 24-month extension is after a higher-level STEM degree than the first STEM OPT authorization. In some cases, students may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree to qualify for their second STEM OPT extension. Please refer to the Study in the States website for more information about using a prior STEM degree to qualify for a 24-month STEM OPT extension.

Application Timeline for the STEM Extension

To apply for the extension you must be engaged in an active period of Post-Completion OPT and meet the other eligibility requirements. 

The application for the STEM OPT must be received by USCIS:

  • No more than 90 calendar days before the student's current post-completion OPT period ends;
  • No later than the expiration date of the student's current post-completion OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD); and
  • No later than 60 days after ISSS recommends the STEM OPT Extension in SEVIS.
  • It will take ISSS up to 14 business days (2 weeks) to process the STEM OPT Extension Application request from the date of receipt.
  • Please note that mailing time needs to be taken into consideration in addition to ISSS processing times when requesting your STEM OPT Extension. ISSS will need to mail you the I-20 with the STEM OPT Extension recommendation on it and then you will need to mail the completed STEM OPT Extension application packet to USCIS. Therefore, it is recommended that you submit the STEM OPT Extension application to ISSS at least 30 days before your current post-completion OPT period ends.

Working while a STEM OPT Application is Pending with USCIS

If the initial 12-month period of post-completion OPT expires before the STEM OPT is approved by USCIS, the regulation automatically extends the student's work authorization for up to 180 days.  Students should provide a copy of the USCIS I-765 Receipt Notice for the STEM OPT application to their employer to prove eligibility for continued employment.

Continue to Maintenance of F-1 Status

International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS)

Service Building - Second Floor
84 South Service Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753
P: 802 443-5858
F: 802 443-2063
isss@middlebury.edu