STEM Extension for OPT (STEM OPT)
The standard Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (post-OPT) period is 12 months. However, if your I-20 was issued for a specific degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (known as STEM), you may qualify to extend OPT by 24 months with a STEM OPT Extension. A total of 36 months of post-OPT is permitted with such an extension.
See Post-completion OPT for more general information on post-OPT.
To be eligible for a STEM OPT extension you must:
- Be a student with an F-1 visa.
- Be on a period of standard Post-Completion OPT.
- Hold a STEM-qualifying bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree (indicated on your I-20) from a U.S. institution within the last 10 years.
- Have a job offer from an employer enrolled in E-Verify.
- Demonstrate the job is directly related to your STEM field.
- Be employed for at least 20 hours a week per employer.
- Apply before your current post-OPT period expires.
- Employer has a Federal Employer Identification Number.
- Agree to the terms of STEM OPT by completing the employer sections of the Training Plan (I-983)
Additionally, when considering STEM OPT, be aware of these related policies:
- STEM OPT extensions are not allowed for self-employment, employment through “temp” agencies, employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, or other relationships that do not constitute a direct employer-employee relationship.
- The employer who signs the Training Plan must be the same one who employs the student and provides the practical training experience.
You and your employer must fulfill critical reporting requirements during the STEM OPT employment period.
Student and Employer Reporting Responsibilities
For your student and your employer reporting requirements, see Reporting Requirements for OPT.
Employer Reporting Responsibilities
Employers providing positions to STEM OPT students must:
- Report to the Bechtel International Center within five business days when the student has been terminated from — or otherwise leaves — employment prior to the end of the authorized period of STEM OPT. Email email@example.com.
OPT Premium Processing (form I-907)
USCIS is now accepting Premium Processing requests for form I-765 for OPT and OPT STEM Extensions. This means that instead of 90 days or more needed to process your application, your OPT request can be processed in 30 days, for a fee. USCIS will process your OPT/STEM I-765 request within 30 days of the completed I-907 form submission. Please note that after USCIS approval you may still have to wait a few weeks for your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card to arrive in the mail. You may file Form I-907 online via your USCIS account.
USCIS will accept Form I-907 requests for F-1 students when filed together with Form I-765 or when adding a premium processing request for a pending Form I-765 for OPT or OPT STEM Extension.
Premium processing for form I-765 requires an additional fee of $1500 for 30 days of processing time. In consequence, we recommend you review the current USCIS Processing times for “I-765” “Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student [(c)(3)]” with “Potomac Service Center” before submitting your premium processing request via the I-907 form.
For more information, see How Do I Request Premium Processing.
Following are instructions for requesting a 24-month STEM Extension:
- Update your address using the online USCIS AR-11 form prior to starting your STEM OPT I-20 application (even if your address is up-to-date on the SEVP Portal).
- Pay the Bechtel STEM OPT I-20 processing fee: Completing a Payment for STEM OPT I-20 Processing Fee.
- Submit your STEM OPT extension request in Bechtel Connect no earlier than 100 days before the end date of your EAD card.
- After obtaining your STEM OPT I-20 from Bechtel, begin your USCIS application using USCIS Online Filing Checklist (pdf).
For filing fee information, see Filing Fee at I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
- Review your completed application packet and submit online to USCIS
- Final Review checklist (pdf)
- Print out any confirmation pages before final submission 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 the expiration date of the current post-OPT.
You may continue working for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of the post-completion OPT EAD while your STEM extension application is pending.
Qualifying for a Second Period of STEM OPT after a Higher Degree
You are permitted to have up to two STEM extensions if you have two separate STEM-eligible degrees. Your STEM extensions cannot be consecutive.
For example, if you graduated with a STEM Bachelor’s 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 Bachelor’s degree and a STEM Master's degree at the same time, you are only eligible for one OPT period and one STEM OPT period.
Qualifying for a STEM extension based on a prior STEM degree
If you have never applied for the STEM OPT extension for your lower STEM-based degree, you can qualify for a STEM OPT extension as long as you are eligible for post-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 these conditions:
- You have received both degrees from currently accredited and SEVP-certified institutions.
- Your previous degree was not conferred more than ten years ago at the time you submit your STEM OPT extension 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.