Certain F-1 students engaged in post-completion OPT are eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of their OPT authorization. The extension is only available to F-1 students who are currently working in a period of post-completion OPT and who have a conferred Bachelor, Masters, or Doctoral degree in an eligible stem field. 

List of eligible STEM fields

Your degree must match the specific CIP Code in the list. You can find your degree CIP Code on the front page of your I-20. If your CIP Code is not on the list, you are not eligible for the STEM Extension. The STEM Designated Degree Program List is issued and updates by the Department of Homeland Security and there is no flexibility to grant an OPT extension for a major that does not meet the CIP Code guidelines. 

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.

Applying for a STEM Extension 

Your application must be received by the appropriate USCIS Service Center before the end date of your current OPT authorization. It is recommended that your apply for the STEM Extension 90 days before your current OPT ends. 

To Apply:
  1. Complete the STEM Extension OPT Request Form
  2. Complete the Form I-765 
  3. Complete the Form I-983 
  4. Make an appointment with the IPO to review these forms and be recommended for a STEM Extension.
  5. Prepare required documents and submit your application by mail or online. 

The average processing time for OPT is currently 90 days. 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.

Reporting Requirements while on a STEM Extension 

While on OPT you are still legally required to report certain information to USCIS, either through the SEVP Portal or by emailing the IPO directly. 

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
STEM Extension Self-Evaluations 

SEVP will send you reminders every 6 months to report your STEM participation to your DSO. To do this, email the IPO with the following information:

  • Legal name 
  • Residential or mailing address
  • Employer name and address
  • Status of current employment 

You will submit the Form I-983 during the STEM Extension application process. If your STEM Extension is approved by USCIS, you must complete a 12-month and 24-month evaluation. 

  • 12-Month Self-evaluation: complete the 1st self-evaluation on page 5 of the Form I-983 within the first 12 months of your STEM Extension and resubmit the form to the IPO. 
  • 24-Month Self-evaluation: complete the 2nd self-evaluation on page 5 of the Form I-983 at the end of the 24-month STEM Extension period and resubmit the form to the IPO. 

Failure to submit 6-month check-ins and both self-evaluations promptly can result in F-1 status termination and loss of OPT.

Students are responsible for adhering to these deadlines.

Unemployment on STEM Extension 

Students who find themselves unemployed should report their last date of employment to the International Programs Office immediately. Complete a final evaluation on page 5 of Form I-983 and submit it to the IPO. 

Accrued Unemployment

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.

New Employer

Once you find a new job, make sure to submit a new Form I-983. Before accepting the new position, please make sure that the employer is enrolled in the E-Verify program. Continue to fulfil reporting requirements.