OPT STEM Extension

F-1 students with degrees in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) may be eligible for an extension of their Post-Completion OPT work permission. On March 11, 2016 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published new expanded regulations which took effect on May 10, 2016. The new regulations change the 17-month extension to 24-months of STEM extension eligibility.

Eligibility

To qualify for the 24-month extension, you must:

  • Have earned a bachelor’s, masters, 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 you submit your STEM OPT extension application.
  • Have been granted OPT and currently be in a valid period of OPT
  • STEM degree has been obtained
  • Work for an employer who meets all the requirements listed and will agree to the following:
    • 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, employer must attest that:
      • You have 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 you will help the student attain his or her training objectives.

24-Month OPT STEM Application Instructions

Application Instructions for those who are applying for their first 24 OPT STEM extension:

  • Review the 24-Month OPT STEM Extension Tutorial (updated 12.19.2016)
  • Complete OPT STEM Extension Checklist
  • Meet with your employer to complete the Form I-983
    • The I-983 will not be returned to you and does not need to be mailed to USCIS. The I-983 is retained by the International Center for SEVIS reporting purposes.
  • You may attend the Employment Hand-In Sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9am to 11am. If you cannot make the session, please make arrangements to mail your application to the International Center, or schedule an appointment with an advisor by calling 949.824.7249.

Please Note: The form I-765 to apply for OPT STEM has changed. Please use the latest version as listed on the USCIS website.

OPT STEM Employment Reporting

The OPT STEM requires you to submit several updates during the 24-month duration to maintain valid F-1 status. Please see requirements here.

Understanding 24-Month STEM OPT

  • May be as long as 24 months beyond the initial post-completion OPT period
  • Students may be eligible to have two STEM OPT extensions during their time in the U.S. 
  • Students currently in a non-STEM degree can be eligible for a STEM OPT extension based on a previous STEM degree obtained in the U.S. from an accredited institution.
  • There is a new expanded list of STEM eligible CIP codes.
  • The student and employer will be required to use the new Form I-983
  • Additional reporting requirements (evaluation, exit survey, etc)
  • Employers must provide a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN).
  • DHS is permitted to conduct employer site visits to confirm that training plan goals are being met.
  • Non-paid is not permitted on the STEM OPT extension.
  • Students' compensation must be commensurate to similarly situated U.S. workers.
  • Self-employment is not permitted.
  • Most temporary agency and contract work will not be eligible
  • During the STEM OPT extension you could have up to 150 days of unemployment time

Additional Resources

Study in the States

Study in the States Overview and Tutorial for Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students

Study in the States web site: STEM OPT Help Hub

SEVP STEM Extension Overview (including list of eligible fields of study)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students

Instructions for Completing Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students

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