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STEM Extension

 Beginning May 10, 2016 students in STEM fields are eligible for  an additional 24 months of OPT. You can find your CIP code on your I-20.

STEM OPT extensions are not allowed for sole proprietorships, employment through “temp” agencies, employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, and other relationships that do not constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship. STEM OPT rule states that "students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Training Plan, and the employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience".


The F-1 student must:

  • Be on a period of standard Post-Completion OPT
  • Hold a STEM eligible degree (indicated on the I-20)
  • Have a job offer from an employer enrolled in E-Verify
  • Demonstrate the job is directly related to a STEM field
  • Be employed for at least 20 hours a week per employer
  • Apply before your current Post-Completion period of OPT expires.

Reporting Requirements

Students and Employers must fulfill critical reporting requirements during the STEM employment period.

Find Student Employment Requirements here.

Employer’s Responsibilities

  1. Report to the Bechtel International Center within 5 business days if the student has been terminated from, or otherwise leaves employment prior to the end of the authorized period of OPT. This information should be emailed to
  2. Participate in the E-verify program
  3. Have a Federal Employer Identification Number
  4. Agree to the terms of STEM OPT by completing the employer sections of the Training Plan (I-983)

Application Process:

Instructions for students requesting a 24 month STEM Extension:

  1. Use the calculator to determine the STEM OPT application timeframe.
  2. Pay Bechtel STEM OPT I-20 Processing Fee
  3. Submit the on-line application in Bechtel Connect no earlier than 100 days before the end date of your Post OPT.
       Please upload your Form I-983 and a copy of your current OPT I-20 in your request.
            Instructions for Completing Form I-983
  4. After obtaining your STEM OPT I-20 from our office, begin your application to USCIS.
       -  Always use the most updated version of the I-765
            ***** Tips for filling out I-765 can be found here.*****

The new USCIS fee due to go into effect on Oct 2, 2020 has been put on hold.  For now, please continue to pay the fee of $410.

  4. Review your completed application packet using the Final Review checklist (pdf) and mail to USCIS
      * Make copies of all documents in your application before mailing to USCIS

You may request a 24-month STEM extension 90 days before the current post-OPT permit  expires.  The application must be received by  USCIS prior to expiration date of the post-OPT.

You may continue working for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of the post-completion OPT EAD while the STEM extension application is pending.

Qualifying for a Second Period of STEM OPT after a Higher Degree

Beginning May 10, 2016, you are permitted to have 2 STEM extensions in your lifetime based on two separate STEM eligible degrees. The STEM extensions cannot be consectutive or stacked together.

For example, if you graduated with a STEM Bachelors degree and completed OPT and STEM OPT based on that degree and later complete a higher degree in a STEM field, you will qualify for another OPT and STEM extension. However, if you graduate with a STEM Bachelors degree and a STEM Masters degree at the same time, you will only be eligible for 1 OPT period and 1 STEM OPT period.

Qualifying for a  STEM extension based on a prior STEM degree

If you had never applied for the STEM extension for the lower STEM based degree, you can qualify for a STEM extension  as long as you are eligible for post-completion OPT for the new non-STEM based degree.

Example: If you are currently participating in Post-Completion OPT based on a master’s degree in Business and Management, 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 in Mathematics as long as you meet the other criteria below.

You may be eligible to apply for a STEM OPT extension under the following conditions:

  • You  have received both degrees from currently accredited and SEVP-certified institutions
  • Your previous degree can not have been conferred more than 10 years ago at the time of application
  • Your previous degree is assigned a STEM eligible code found on the STEM Designated Degree Program List  at the time of application
  • You have not already received a STEM OPT extension based on this previous degree
  • Your practical training opportunity is directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree
  • Your employer meets the criteria for STEM extensions