STEM Extension

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) can be extended for STEM majors for an additional 24 months after the initial 12 month OPT for a total of 36 months.  The applicant must be in a currently approved 12-month OPT period.


Eligibility

  • STEM extension is usually based on the student’s major, not the student’s degree concentration

  • May be based on a STEM degree earned at a prior university.

  • Be in a current period of initial, approved, post-completion OPT (1st 12 month approval)

  • Have current employment or an offer of employment from an employer participating in the E-Verify program.

  • Have a degree with an eligible STEM CIP code.

  • To determine your CIP code, look on your I-20 for the 6-digit numerical code listed directly beside your major

Application Timeline

Students must apply for the STEM extension before the expiration date listed on their current EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) issued by USCIS. USCIS recommends that students apply 90-120 days prior to their EAD expiration date. the SEVIS Compliance Office recommends eligible students apply no later than one month prior to the EAD expiration date, to allow time for formal receipt processing at USCIS.


Procedure

The SEVIS Compliance Office strongly recommends you make copies of all documents you send USCIS for your records.


Dates of Approval

Upon approval by USCIS, the STEM extension period will begin the day after the expiration of the first OPT period (as listed on the EAD card), and will end 24 months after that. For example, if the current EAD expires on October 1, the STEM period will begin on October 2 of the same year.


Working BEFORE STEM Approval

If your current EAD has expired and a STEM extension is pending with USCIS, you may continue to work for up to 180 days while the extension is pending. Upon approval, USCIS will issue and mail you a new EAD card showing the extended dates.


Working DURING STEM Approval

Students on STEM OPT employment must:

  • Work in a paid position for an E-Verify employer at least 20 hours per week
  • Work in a position related to the STEM degree
  • Report within 10 days of the following:
    • Legal name change
    • Change in residential or mailing address
    • Change in employer (provide the employer name, address, and start date). A new I-983 Form is required.
    • Loss of employment
  • Report every 6 months from the start date of the STEM period with the following:
    • Full legal name
    • Current mailing and residential address
    • Name and address of current employer
    • Date the student began working for current employer
    • Job position
    • Proof of insurance coverage
    • E-verify employer number
  • Annual Evaluation every 12 months from the start of the STEM period using pages 6 and 7 of the I-983

Students on STEM OPT must NOT:

  • Work for any employer who is not enrolled in E-Verify
  • Accrue more than 150 days of unemployment during the entire 36-month OPT period
  • Be self-employed or work for a staffing agency as a contractor

H1-B CAP GAP

H1-B: a temporary work visa.

CAP: the annual limit on the number of H1-B visas that are granted.

GAP remaining in-status with work authorization during the change of status period (the gap).

All F-1 students who are currently on OPT, have timely filed for an H-1B, and have a USCIS issued I-797C receipt from immigration will automatically have their status and OPT work permission extended until the effective H1-B start date. No application is required. Contact an advisor at the SEVIS Compliance Office for more information.


Frequently Asked Questions About OPT Extension Rules

  • No, you can only apply for the 24-month extension within the last 90 days of your current OPT.

  • An F-1 student may change their major and request a new I-20 from the SEVIS Compliance Office. However, please be aware this may cause delays in completing your degree. An F-1 student currently on OPT cannot change their major in order to be eligible for the extension.

  • E-Verify is a free internet-based system operated by United States Immigration and Citizenship Services in partnership with the Social Security Administration, which determines new employees' eligibility to work. Understand very few companies are currently participating in the E-Verify program.
  • Speak with your employer about enrolling in E-verify and direct them to the USCIS website for more information.
  • Students will have a 60 day grace period from the notification date of the denial to depart the United States, obtain admission to a new F-1 SEVIS-approved school, or file an application for a change of status.
  • Students will have 60 days after their OPT end date to either depart the United States, obtain admission to a new F-1 SEVIS-approved school, or file an application for a change of status.
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