STEM Extension Detailed Information
Certain F-1 status students engaged in post-completion OPT are eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of their OPT authorization. The extension is available only to F-1 students currently working in a period of post-completion OPT.
STEM Extension Eligibility
Student must have a conferred Bachelors, Masters or Doctoral degree in an eligible
List of currently eligible STEM fields
Please note that your degree must match the specific CIP Code in the list (the CIP
Code will print on the front page of your I-20). If your CIP Code does not match,
then you are not eligible for an OPT extension. The STEM Designated Degree Program
List is issued and updated by the federal Department of Homeland Security; there is
no flexibility to grant an OPT extension for a major that does not meet the CIP Code
Students may be eligible to use a previously earned STEM degree for a STEM extension if they meet the following requirements:
- Most recent degree (which does not need to be STEM-related) must be from a currently accredited SEVP-certified school in the U.S.
- Prior STEM degree must have been earned in the U.S. within 10 years of applying for the STEM OPT extension.
- Prior STEM degree CIP Code must be on the STEM Designated Degree Program List.
- Student must be employed with an employer who is enrolled in the E-Verify program.
- Students must be directly employed with the employer. Employment through a temp or staffing agency is NOT eligible for STEM extension.
- Student must have worked with their employer to create and submit a formal training plan Form I-983 to their International Student Advisor.
- Student must work over 20 hours per week at their STEM eligible job.
Your application must be received by the appropriate USCIS Service Center before the end date of your current OPT authorization. We recommend applying for your OPT extension 90 days before your current OPT ends.
The average processing time for OPT is around 90 days; it could happen faster or could take longer in individual cases. In the very unlikely event that your application cannot be granted, you will receive an explanation for the denial. Likewise, if USCIS wants you to send additional or supporting documentation before they will proceed with your application, they will send a letter to you with a Request for Evidence. Your STEM application will be put on hold while USCIS processes this Request For Evidence. Due to this fact, we highly recommend responding to a USCIS Request for Evidence as soon as possible.
Please refer to the complete application instructions for detailed processes and a list of documents.
You will need to complete the paperwork listed in the application instructions, including the online OPT Reporting Form. Please scan and email the Form I-765 and Form I-983 to an International Student Advisor. Your International Student Advisor will verify both forms are complete and issue a new I-20 for you, recommending the STEM extension and return it to you. You will then be responsible for mailing the full application packet to the appropriate USCIS Service Center in accordance with the instructions.
About 2-3 weeks after you mail your application, you should get a special receipt letter from the USCIS called a Notice of Action. Remember to keep this letter, since it will contain a special number beginning with the letters “LIN, WAC, EAC or SRC...” that refers to your specific application. If you do not receive the Notice of Action after 5 weeks, please notify the International Center.
The average processing time for OPT is currently 90 days; it could happen faster or could take longer in individual cases. In the very unlikely event that your application cannot be granted, you will receive an explanation for the denial. Likewise, if USCIS wants you to send additional or supporting documentation before they will proceed with your application, they will send a letter to you with a Request For Evidence. Your STEM application will be put on hold while USCIS processes this Request For Evidence. Due to this fact, we highly recommend responding to a USCIS Request for Evidence as soon as possible.
Students who file an application for a STEM OPT Extension to USCIS before their current OPT expires will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending until a final decision is made by USCIS or for 180 days, whichever comes first. Ensure you continue to report using the OPT Reporting Form on the Employment Page of the International Center’s website.
Students who find themselves unemployed should report their last date of employment to the International Center as soon as possible. During post-completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT carried out under the initial 12-month post-completion OPT authorization. Students granted a 24-month STEM OPT extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during the total 36-month OPT period. If you are unemployed for more than the permitted lengths of time you must consider your OPT to be automatically cancelled and your F-1 status ended. Note that volunteer positions do not qualify for a STEM extension.
Once the extension is approved, you may change to work for another employer who is also enrolled in E-Verify. You must notify the International Center when this occurs. However, the International Center does not recommend you change employers while the extension is pending.
During the extension period, you may not work for any employer who is not enrolled in E-Verify.
Yes. Even before your OPT STEM extension I-20 can be issued, you must submit (to an International Student Advisor) a copy of the I-983 form, with pages 1-4 fully completed. If your OPT STEM extension application is approved by USCIS, you must:
- Complete the 1st self-evaluation on page 5 of the Form I-983 within the first 12 months of your STEM Extension and promptly resubmit the form to an International Student Advisor.
- Complete the 2nd self-evaluation on page 5 of the form I-983 at the end of the 24-month STEM Extension period and promptly resubmit the form to an International Student Advisor.
Failure to submit both self-evaluations promptly can result in F-1 status termination and loss of OPT.
The International Center will try to let you know when these documents are due, but due the large number of students we may not always be able to. Students are responsible for adhering to these deadlines.
Yes. If a student completes all course requirements for another qualifying STEM degree at a higher degree level (Example: Masters to PhD) than the first STEM qualifying degree, the student may apply for a second 24-month STEM OPT extension while in a valid period of standard post-completion OPT. A student may not be authorized for more than two lifetime STEM OPT extensions.
Not necessarily. Duration of status and work authorization will be automatically extended for a student on OPT who meets the following criteria:
- Your employer filed your H-1B application on April 1 requesting an employment start date of October 1 of the same year
- Your employer requests a “change of status” to H-1B and NOT “consular processing”
- You have otherwise followed the F-1 regulations
This automatic “H-1B gap coverage” applies to all students on OPT. This means that even if your OPT ends before October 1, you will be able to remain in the U.S. and continue working for the same employer who filed the H-1B for you until your H-1B becomes effective on October 1. If you have dependents in F-2 status, their ability to remain in the U.S. is automatically extended as well.
However, be aware that the extension of duration of status (ability to stay in the U.S.) and work authorization will automatically terminate if your H-1B application is rejected, denied, or revoked. In this case you will have 60 days to leave the U.S., change to another status, or begin a new degree program. This same applies if – between the time your OPT ends and the start of the H-1B - your employment ends with the company that sponsored you for the H-1B. The ability to remain in the U.S. and continue working with the same employer does not apply to students with H-1B petitions to work in higher education or nonprofits, as they are not currently restricted by an H-1B “cap” nor are they limited in when they must apply for the H-1B. They also have the option of applying for expedited H-1B processing.
Reporting Information to the International Center
While on OPT you are still legally required to report certain information to USCIS, either through the SEVP Portal or by using the OPT Reporting Form found on the Employment page of International Center Website.
You must report any of the following within 10 days of the event:
- Changes in name or residential/mailing address
- Report your employer name, address, and supervisor’s email within 10 days of any changes or new employment
- Report changes to another immigration status
- If you will leave your OPT employment before your OPT end date
- Notify the International Center if your email address changes