Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT)
On March 11, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security
final rule allowing certain F-1 students who receive science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees, and who meet
other specified requirements, to apply for a 24-month extension of
their post-completion OPT. The 24-month extension replaced the
17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to STEM students. Eligible students may begin applying for a 24-month STEM
OPT extension on May 10, 2016.
for the STEM OPT Extension
To qualify for the 24-month extension, an F-1 student must:
- Have been granted OPT and currently be in a valid period of
- Have earned a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from
a school that is accredited by a U.S. Department of
Education-recognized accrediting agency and is certified by the
Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) when the student submits
the STEM OPT extension application.
- Previously obtained STEM degrees: An F-1
student participating in a 12-month period of post-completion OPT based
on a non-STEM degree may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree
earned from a U.S. institution of higher education to apply for a STEM
OPT extension. An eligible student must have received both degrees from currently
accredited and SEVP-certified institutions, and cannot have already
received a STEM OPT extension based on this prior degree. The practical
training opportunity also must be directly related to the previously
obtained STEM degree.
- For example: If you are currently participating in
OPT based on a master's degree in business administration but you
previously received a bachelor's degree in mathematics, you may be able
to apply for a STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor's degree as
long as it is from an accredited U.S. college or university and the OPT
employment opportunity is directly related to your bachelor's degree in
- STEM degrees obtained in the future: If a student enrolls in
a new academic program in the future and earns another qualifying STEM
degree at a higher educational level, the student may be eligible for one
additional 24-month STEM OPT extension.
- For example: If you receive a 24-month STEM OPT
extension based on your bachelor's degree in engineering and you later
earn a master's degree in engineering, you may apply for an additional
24-month STEM OPT extension based on your master's degree.
- Work for an employer who meets all the requirements listed
below in the STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities section.
- Submit the Form
I-765, Application for Employment Authorization up to 90 days
before the current OPT employment authorization expires, and within 60
days of the date that the designated school official (DSO) enters the
recommendation for OPT into the student's Student and Exchange Visitor
Information System (SEVIS) record.
for a STEM OPT Extension
To apply for an extension, a student must properly file:
- Form I-765 with the application fee on or after May 10,
- Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant
Student Status, endorsed by the DSO on or after May 10, 2016, and
- A copy of the STEM degree.
If a student file an extension application on time and the OPT
period expires while the extension application is pending, USCIS will
extend employment authorization for up to 180 days.
Receiving a STEM OPT Extension
A student receing a STEM OPT extension must:
- Report changes to the DSO within 10 days of the change.
The student must report changes to:
- Legal name
- Residential or mailing address
- Email address
- Employer's name
- Employer's address
- The student must report to the DSO every 6 months to confirm the
information listed above, even if none of that information has changed.
More information can be found at the DHS
Study in the States F-1 Optional Practical Training page.
during the OPT period
The law allows a student to be unemployed during the OPT period for
a limited number of days.
If a student received…
the student may be unemployed for…
For a total of…
(during the OPT period)
Initial post-completion OPT only
Up to 90 days
An additional 30 days
An additional 60 days
*If a student is granted an additional 7-month extension in
addition to the 17-month STEM-OPT (for a total of 24-month STEM OPT
extension) then that individual may be unemployed for a total of 150-days during
the OPT period.
An employer who wants to provide a practical
training opportunity to a STEM OPT student during his or her extension must:
- Be enrolled in E-Verify
and remain in good standing.
- Report material changes to the STEM OPT student’s
employment to the DSO within 5 business days.
- Implement a formal training program to augment the
student’s academic learning through practical experience.
- Provide an OPT opportunity that is commensurate with those
of similarly situated U.S. workers in duties, hours, and compensation.
- Complete the Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT
Students. In this form, the employer must attest that:
- It has enough resources and trained personnel
available to appropriately train the student;
- The student will not replace a full- or part-time,
temporary or permanent U.S. worker; and
- Working for the employer will help the student attain his or her
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may visit the employer's worksite(s) to verify whether an employer is meeting the STEM OPT program requirements, including whether the employer is maintaining the ability and
resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning
experiences for the STEM OPT student.
More information can be found at the DHS
STEM OPT Hub.
OPT Students Who
Currently Have (or Have an Application Pending on May 10, 2016 for) a
The new rule authorizing the 24-month STEM OPT extension will
go into effect on May 10, 2016. A student who currently has a 17-month STEM
OPT extension may apply to add 7 months to the STEM OPT period on
or after May 10, 2016 as long as he/she has at least 150 days of valid
employment authorization remaining on the date that the student properly files a
new Form I-765. The Form
I-765 must be filed, with fee, on or before August 8, 2016. Applications
with less than 150 days of validity remaining and/or applications filed
after August 8, 2016 will be denied.
Until May 9, 2016, USCIS will continue to adjudicate STEM OPT
applications under the 2008 interim final rule (see 73 FR 18944). Any
STEM OPT extension applications filed and approved before May 10, 2016
will be granted a 17-month extension.
A student who currently has an application for a 17-month STEM OPT
extension that remains pending on May 10, 2016 will receive a
request for evidence (RFE) to allow the student to demonstrate eligibility for a 24-month STEM OPT extension.
The chart below outlines the options in that scenario.
If the student…
Currently has a 17-month STEM OPT extension
does NOT want to add any additional time to the STEM
The student need not file any new forms or pay any new
fees. The student is authorized to keep working until the 17-month STEM OPT
period expires, or is terminated or revoked.
The student wants to request to add 7 months to the STEM OPT
The student may submit a Form I-765, with fee, on or after May
10, 2016. To do so, the student must:
- Properly file on or before August 8, 2016;
- File Form I‑765 within 60 days of the DSO’s
- Has at least 150 days of valid work authorization
remaining on the date that the new Form I-765 is filed;
- Include a Form I-20, endorsed by the DSO on or after
May 10, 2016; and
- Show that the student, the DSO, and the employer meet all
the 24-month STEM OPT extension requirements, including submitting the
Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.
Has an application for a 17-month STEM OPT extension
The student does not withdraw the Form I-765 application
Until May 9, 2016, USCIS will continue to adjudicate the
application under the 2008 interim final rule.
If the student's application is still pending on May 10, 2016, USCIS
will send the student a request for evidence to allow him/her to demonstrate eligibility for a 24-month STEM OPT extension.
The student must then submit a Form I‑20 endorsed on or
after May 10, 2016, indicating that the DSO recommends a
24-month OPT extension and that the student, the DSO, and the employer meet
the requirements for a 24-month extension.
The student need not pay an additional fee or refile the
Is a STEM student
Wants to apply for a STEM OPT extension on or after
May 10, 2016.
The student must file:
- Form I-765
- Form I-20, endorsed by the DSO within the past 60
days, and endorsed on or after May 10, 2016
- A copy of the degree
- The employer's name as listed in E-Verify
- The employer's E-Verify Company Identification
Number or valid E-Verify Client Company Identification Number
Source: USCIS Website
| Last accessed: January 5, 2017.
Information on this website is provided for information purposes only, and its presentation herein neither creates an attorney-client privilege nor constitutes legal advice.