STEM OPT 24 Month Extension - Overview
Recipients of Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral degrees in certain STEM fields may be eligible for a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 36 months). The 24-month STEM OPT extension is adjudicated (approved) by USCIS. The end result of filing for the STEM OPT extension is an EAD which shows the dates students are able to work legally in the United States.
- STEM OPT extension authorization begins the day after the expiration of the 12-month EAD card and ends 24-months later, no matter the date of adjudication
- STEM OPT extension will be granted in one EAD period and cannot be split into smaller periods
- It is possible to change employers during the 24 months as long as the new employment meets the STEM OPT extension requirements, all reporting requirements must be met after change of employer
- Students whose applications are received before the EAD expires will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending until they receive the final decision from USCIS on the application or for 180 days, whichever comes first
- To avoid any complications or delays with the STEM OPT Extension application, OISSS recommends that students do not travel or change employers while STEM OPT Extension application is pending
- After completing another qualifying degree at a higher degree level and receiving another period of standard post-completion OPT based on that degree, a student would be eligible for one more 24-month STEM OPT extension. A student is limited to two STEM OPT extensions during his or her lifetime
- Volunteer/Unpaid position is not eligible for the 24-month STEM OPT extension
- Self-employment is not eligible for the 24-month STEM OPT extension
- If STEM OPT Extension application is denied, please contact OISS
- 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.
- Verified completion of a degree on the STEM Designated Degree Programs List. The CIP code is found on the I-20, under "Major."
- Must currently be on post-completion 12-month OPT and working for the E-verified company
- Must complete the form I-983
- Employment Requirements:
- Must be a paid position
- At least 20 hours per week
- Directly related to field of study and appropriate to degree level obtained
- Meet all other employment requirements of the STEM OPT extension including being a bona fide employee of the employer signing the training plan who provides the practical training AND will oversee, supervise and regulate the training.
- Employer Requirements:
- Enrolled in U.S. Government E-Verify employment verification system
- Complete the Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. On this form, employer 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;
- Agrees to report any termination of employment within 48 hours to OISS
- 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
Limits of Unemployment
A student is eligible for a 90-day maximum period of unemployment during the initial period of post-completion OPT, and an additional 60 days (for an aggregate of 150 days) for students who obtain a 24-month STEM OPT extension.
What are the reporting requirements for the 24-month STEM OPT?
- Six-month validity reports. A student in a period of 24-month STEM OPT must confirm the validity of the following information with OISS every six months:
- Legal name
- Residential or mailing address
- Employer name and address
- Status of current employment/practical training experience
- STEM OPT students must also separately report changes to this information within 10 days of the change, including any loss of employment.
- A new Form I-983 Mentoring and Training Plan must be executed and submitted to OISS within 10 days of:
- Beginning a new practical training opportunity with a new employer during the 24-month extension
- Any time there is a "material change" in the terms and conditions of the original I-983. Material changes or deviations from the original Form I-983 may include, but are not limited to:
- Any change of the employer's EIN.
- Any reduction in student compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked.
- Any significant decrease in hours per week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity.
- Changes to the employer's commitments or student's learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983.
All information must be updated online using the OISS OPT Employment Reporting Form.
Can I travel during the 24-month STEM OPT?
Students on STEM OPT extensions (including those whose application for a STEM OPT extension is pending) may travel abroad and seek reentry to the U.S. in F-1 status during the STEM OPT extension period if they possess the following documents:
- A valid passport
- A valid F-1 visa that permits multiple entries
- A current Form I-20 that has been signed for travel by OISS within the last six months
- Valid EAD
Where can my employer get information about the 24-month STEM extension?
Employers can learn more about the reporting requirements by visiting the Study in the States website.
A student may participate twice in the STEM OPT extension over the course of their academic career. To participate twice in the STEM OPT extension, a student must earn a second qualifying degree, at a higher education level, and be participating in an initial period of OPT at the time they apply to USCIS for their second STEM OPT extension.
What are the eligibility requirements?
- An F-1 student must currently be working in a period of post-completion 12-month OPT granted on the basis of either:
- Having completed the degree, or
- Having completed all course requirements but still completing his or her thesis or dissertation
- The F-1 student must hold a bachelor's degree or higher degree in an eligible STEM field from an SEVP-certified school that is accredited at the time the student submits the STEM OPT extension application to USCIS
- An employer:
- Must be enrolled in USCIS' E-Verify employment eligibility verification program
- Must guarantee the student will complete a minimum of 20 hours of work per week
- Must provide the student with formal training and learning objectives by completing the Form I-983, which must include how the training opportunity has a direct relationship to the student's qualifying STEM degree
- That signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience
- Can be a start-up business so long as all regulatory requirements are met.
- Note: a student's post-completion OPT employer does not need to be the same as the student's STEM OPT extension employer
- Note 2: Volunteer/Unpaid position is not eligible for the 24-month STEM OPT extension
- Note 3: Self-employment is not eligible for the 24-month STEM OPT extension
- F-1 student must mail the form I-765 and all required documents to USCIS within 60 days from the date OISS recommended the STEM OPT in SEVIS.
What are the CIP categories for the STEM OPT Extension?
A new list will govern STEM OPT applications adjudicated on and after May 10 under the new 24-month STEM OPT rule. We will refer to this as the May 10, 2016 STEM OPT Degree Program List.
How do I get the 24-month STEM OPT Extension I-20?
Mail the following documents to OISS at firstname.lastname@example.org:
- Completed 24-month STEM OPT Extension I-20 application
- A photocopy of the completed Form I-983
Incomplete applications will be rejected.
Once the student receives the new I-20, all application materials must be mailed to USCIS within 60 days from the date OISS recommended the STEM OPT in SEVIS.
Can I work while my 24-month application is pending with USCIS?
Yes, a student who files a timely STEM OPT extension application can continue working while the STEM OPT application is pending, for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of the student's standard post-completion OPT. All work done during this 180-day time period is considered STEM OPT extension time that counts towards the 24-month total.
Will I get a new EAD?
USCIS will issue a new EAD with a validity period that starts on the day after the expiration date of the 12-month OPT EAD.
Can I apply for the 24-month STEM OPT on a previously obtained STEM degree?
The 24-month rule permits students to use a previously obtained STEM degree from an accredited U.S. educational institution as a basis to apply for a STEM OPT extension, even if it does not serve as the basis for the student's standard 12-month post-completion OPT, under the following conditions:
- The prior degree was conferred no more than 10 years before the student's DSO recommends a STEM OPT extension in SEVIS based on that degree;
- The prior degree was conferred by a U.S. educational institution that is accredited and SEVP-certified at the time the student's DSO recommends the student for the 24-month OPT extension;
- The prior degree is in a degree program category included on the current STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time of the DSO recommendation;
- The practical training opportunity that is the basis for the 24-month STEM OPT extension must directly relate to the prior degree;
- The prior degree was actually conferred (i.e., a student who uses a prior degree cannot take advantage of the "all but thesis or dissertation" exception).
For example, a Bachelors Electrical Engineering degree student who pursues OPT on an MBA will be eligible to apply for the 24-month STEM OPT based on the Bachelors Electrical Engineering degree if they meet the above requirements.