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STEM Post Completion Practical Training

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

The 12 month limit on F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) may be extended by 24 months, for a total of 36 months, for certain STEM degree holders (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in the following fields: Click  Here. Regulations for the new STEM program are effective on May 10, 2016

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For Students

For Employers

For the University

Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT)

On March 11, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security published a final rule allowing certain F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees, and who meet other specified requirements, to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT. The 24-month extension will replace the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to STEM students. Eligible students may begin applying for a 24-month STEM OPT extension on May 10, 2016.

Find on this page

  • Eligibility for the STEM OPT Extension
  • Applying for a STEM OPT Extension
  • After Receiving an STEM OPT Extension
  • STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities
  • OPT Students Who Currently Have (or Have an Application Pending on May 10, 2016 for) a 17-Month Extension

Eligibility for the STEM OPT Extension

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

  • Have been granted OPT and currently be in a valid period of OPT;
  • Have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, 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.Work for an employer who meets all the requirements listed below in the STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities section.
    • Previously obtained STEM degrees: If you are an F-1 student participating in a 12-month period of post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree, you may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree earned from a U.S. institution of higher education to apply for a STEM OPT extension. You must have received both degrees from currently accredited and SEVP-certified institutions, and cannot have already received a STEM OPT extension based on this prior degree. The practical training opportunity also must be directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree.
      • For example: If you are currently participating in OPT based on a master’s degree in business administration 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 as long as it is from an accredited U.S. college or university and the OPT employment opportunity is directly related to your bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
    • STEM degrees you obtain in the future: If you enroll in a new academic program in the future and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level, you may be eligible for one additional 24-month STEM OPT extension.
      • For example: If you receive a 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor’s degree in engineering and you later earn a master’s degree in engineering, you may apply for an additional 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your master’s degree.
  • Submit the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization up to 90 days before your current OPT employment authorization expires, and within 60 days of the date your designated school official (DSO) enters the recommendation for OPT into your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.
Applying for a STEM OPT Extension

To apply for an extension, you must properly file:

  • Form I-765 with the application fee on or after May 10, 2016,
  • Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, endorsed by your DSO on or after May 10, 2016, and
  • A copy of your STEM degree.

If you file your extension application on time and your OPT period expires while your extension application is pending, USCIS will extend your employment authorization for 180 days.

Note: If you are currently participating in STEM OPT based on a 17-month extension or you have a pending application for a 17-month STEM OPT extension, please go to the “OPT Students Who Currently Have (or Have an Application Pending on May 10, 2016 for) a 17-Month Extension” section below for more information.

After Receiving a STEM OPT Extension

Reporting responsibilities

If you receive a STEM OPT extension, you must:

  • Report changes to your DSO within 10 days of the change. You must report changes to:Report to your DSO every 6 months to confirm the information listed above, even if none of your information has changed.
    • Your legal name
    • Your residential or mailing address
    • Your email address
    • Your employer’s name
    • Your employer’s address

Unemployment during the OPT period

The law allows you to be unemployed during your OPT period for a limited number of days.

If you received…

You may be unemployed for…

For a total of…

(during the OPT period)

Initial post-completion OPT only

Up to 90 days

90 days

17-month extension

An additional 30 days

120 days*

24-month extension

An additional 60 days

150 days*


*If you are granted an additional 7-month extension in addition to your 17-month STEM-OPT (for a total of 24-month STEM OPT extension) then you may be unemployed for a total of 150-days during the OPT period.

STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities

If you are an employer who wants to provide a practical training opportunity to a STEM OPT student during his or her extension, you must:

  • 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,  you 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.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may visit your worksite(s) to verify whether you are meeting the STEM OPT program requirements, including whether you are maintaining the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences for the STEM OPT student.

OPT Students Who Currently Have (or Have an Application Pending on May 10, 2016 for) a 17-Month Extension

The new rule authorizing the 24-month STEM OPT extension will go into effect on May 10, 2016. If you currently have a 17-month STEM OPT extension, you may apply to add 7 months to your STEM OPT period on or after May 10, 2016 as long as you have at least 150 days of valid employment authorization remaining on the date you properly file your new Form I-765. Please note that you must properly file your Form I-765, with fee, on or before August 8, 2016.  Applications with less than 150 days of validity remaining and/or applications filed after August 8, 2016 will be denied.

Until May 9, 2016, we will continue to adjudicate STEM OPT applications under the 2008 interim final rule. Any STEM OPT extension applications filed and approved before May 10, 2016 will be granted a 17-month extension.

If you currently have an application for a 17-month STEM OPT extension that remains pending on May 10, 2016, USCIS will send you a request for evidence (RFE) to allow you to demonstrate that you are eligible for a 24-month STEM OPT extension.

The chart below outlines your options.

If You…

And…

Then…

Currently have a 17-month STEM OPT extension

You do NOT want to add any additional time to your STEM OPT extension

You do not need to file any new forms or pay any new fees. You are authorized to keep working until your 17-month STEM OPT period expires, or is terminated or revoked.

You want to request to add 7 months to your STEM OPT extension

You may submit a Form I-765, with fee, on or after May 10, 2016. If you do so, you must:

  • Properly file on or before August 8, 2016;
  • File your Form I‑765 within 60 days of your DSO’s recommendation;
  • Have at least 150 days of valid work authorization remaining on the date you properly file your new Form I-765;
  • Include a Form I-20, endorsed by your DSO on or after May 10, 2016; and
  • Show that you, your DSO, and your employer meet all the 24-month STEM OPT extension requirements, including submitting the Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.

Have an application for a 17-month STEM OPT extension

You do not withdraw your Form I-765 application

Until May 9, 2016, we will continue to adjudicate your application under the 2008 interim final rule.

If your application is still pending on May 10, 2016, we will send you a request for evidence to allow you to demonstrate that you are eligible for a 24-month STEM OPT extension.

You must then submit a Form I‑20 endorsed on or after May 10, 2016, indicating that your DSO recommends you for a 24-month OPT extension and that you, your DSO, and your employer meet the requirements for a 24-month extension.

You will not need to pay an additional fee or refile the Form I-765.

Are a STEM student

You want to apply for a STEM OPT extension on or after May 10, 2016.

You must file:

  • Form I-765
  • Form I-20, endorsed by your DSO within the past 60 days, and endorsed on or after May 10, 2016
  • A copy of your degree
  • Your employer’s name as listed in E-Verify
  • Your employer’s E-Verify Company Identification Number or valid E-Verify Client Company Identification Number

(This section requires further updating) General Requirements for the 24-month extension include:

  • Student must be currently participating in a 12-month period of OPT, working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study.
  • Student must have successfully completed a bachelor's, masters, or doctoral degree in a field on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List, from a SEVIS-certified college or university.
  • Student must have a job offer from an employer registered with the E-Verify employment verification system.
  • The student has not previously received a 24-month OPT extension after earning a STEM degree.
  • The PDSO must recommend the 24-month OPT extension in SEVIS, after verifying the student's eligibility, certifying that the student's degree is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, and ensuring that the student is aware of his or her responsibilities for maintaining status while on OPT.
  • Students will have to apply for the 24-month extension on Form I-765 with fee and may apply up to 90 dyas prior to the end of their initial 12 month OPT end date.
  • Students who timely file an application for the 24-month OPT extension will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending, until a final decision on the I-765 or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
  • The employer must agree to report the termination or departure of the student to the PDSO or through "any other means or process identified by DHS." An employer must consider a worker to have departed when the employer knows the student has left employment, or if the student has not reported for work for a period of 5 consecutive business days without the employer's consent.
  • H-1B cap-gap extension of D/S and work authorization until October 1. Duration of status and work authorization will be extended for a student on OPT, who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. This would apply to all students on OPT, not just STEM students. The extension of duration of status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf.
  • I-765 filing window. Under the current rule, the I-765 must be filed no later than the student's program end date, and it is not specified how soon before the program end date the application can be filed. Under the new rule, a student will be able to file his or her I-765 up to 90 days prior to his or her program end date, and up to 60 days after his or her program end date.
  • Duration of employment authorization: Employment authorization will begin on the date requested or the date the employment authorization is adjudicated, whichever is later. Exception: The employment authorization period for the24 -month OPT extension begins on the day after the expiration of the initial post-completion OPT employment authorization, and ends months later, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved.

Reporting Requirements while on OPT

All students on OPT STEM are required to report to the PDSO within 10 days any of the below changes:

  • any change of your name or address

  • any interruption of such employment

  • any change to employer name, employer address
  • loss of employment.
  • Must make a validation report to the PDSO every six months starting from the date the extension begins and ending when the student's F-1 status ends, the student changes educational levels at the same school, the student transfers to another school, or the -month OPT extension ends, whichever is first. The validation is a confirmation that the student's name and address, employer name and address, and/or loss of employment is current and accurate. The report is due to the PDSO within 10 business days of each reporting date.

 Limited Periods of Unemployment to Maintain Status

  • 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 post-completion OPT authorization.
  • Students granted a 24 -month OPT extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during the total 36 month OPT period.