Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT)
The OPT Final Rule published by the Department of Homeland Security in Federal Register effective May 10, 2016 allows a 24-month extension of the Post Completion OPT. The final rule allows F-1 students who are currently on OPT after earning a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (government approved STEM fields) to now be able to apply for 24 months of additional OPT if they have a job or job offer from an E-Verify employer and meet all other required criteria.
- Earning another qualifying STEM degree at a "higher degree level" and
- Obtaining a new initial grant of standard 12-month post-completion practical training based on that higher degree
- Steps to Apply
- Completing the Form I-983 Training Plan
- Application Timeline
- Maintaining Status While on OPT and OPT Reporting Requirements
- Travel While on STEM OPT
In order to be issued the new I-20, submit the following to the ISS office:
- Form I-983 Training Plan
- Employer letter stating the following: Employer name, address, and E-verify number; your job title
- If this is a new employer, you must also complete the online OPT Employment Update Form
You will compile your own packet for USCIS - see STEM OPT Filing Procedure for a list of required documents.
- Please carefully read through the entire Form I-983 Training Plan and Instructions with your employer, as you are required to sign that you have read, understand, and will adhere to this plan.
- DO NOT complete or sign the last page (page 5). You are required to submit the evaluations to our office at the end of your first and second year:
- The first evaluation is to be completed before the one year anniversary of the start date of the STEM OPT
- The final evaluation is to be completed at the end of your STEM OPT.
More guidance on the I-983 for you and your employer can be found here.
- USCIS must receive your application for STEM Extension before your current OPT expires, but no earlier than 90 days before it expires
- Applications can take as long as 90 days to be approved by USCIS and cannot be expedited
- If your current OPT expires while the STEM OPT application is pending, you have 180 days beyond expiration to continue working. The 180 days count towards the 24-month extension.
- Employer must be enrolled in E-verify
- Job must be a paid job, for at least 20 hours per week
- Student cannot be self-employed
- In addition to the 90 days unemployment allowed on OPT, students approved for the 24-month extension receive an additional 60 days of unemployment. You may not exceed 150 days of unemployment during the total OPT period.
- Report any changes to the ISS office within 10 days of the change: any material changes or deviations from the original Form I-983 (i.e. hours, learning objectives), your legal name; your address; your employer’s name; employer’s address; loss of employment
- You must submit self-evaluation (page 5 of Form I-983) within 10 days of ending each employment with current employer.
- If you change employers during your STEM OPT, you must submit the following documentation:
- Click here for a chart explaining specific actions required of students, employers, and DSOs
Students on STEM OPT extensions and those whose application for a STEM OPT extension is pending may travel abroad and reenter. If your STEM OPT extension application is pending, the expired post-completion OPT EAD card is automatically extended for 180 days and is considered unexpired when combined with a Form I-20 recommending the extension and signed for travel within the last 6 months.
In addition to the EAD and Form I-20, you must travel with a valid, unexpired F-1 visa stamp, passport (must be valid for at least 6 months into the future), and an employment letter verifying employment.
For more information on STEM Extension OPT, please visit the DHS STEM OPT Hub