STEM OPT Extension

OPT STEM Extension Information

F-1 students who are currently authorized for OPT employment based on completion of a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Ph.D. degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) field from an SEVP-certified school, as defined by DHS, may be eligible for a 24-month extension of OPT.

In order to be eligible for this extension, students applying for this benefit must:

  • already be on valid post-completion OPT
  • have completed a STEM-eligible degree: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/eligible-cip-codes-for-the-stem-opt-extension (either the current OPT degree, or a prior one for which no STEM extension has been given)
  • have had fewer than 90 days of unemployment while on the current post-completion OPT
  • apply before the end of the year of post-completion OPT
  • be employed or have a qualifying job offer:
    • from an employer who is registered in the E-Verify employment verification system
    • that offers paid employment directly related to the STEM degree, of at least 20 hours per week
    • that will provide formal training and learning objectives directly related to the qualifying STEM degree
    • that constitutes a bona-fide employer-employee relationship
  • The training plan is the responsibility of the employer where the work experience is to take place, and the training experience must take place on-site at the employer’s place of business or worksite and be supervised by an employee of the employer.
  • Employment through a staffing agency is possible, but the ‘employer’ should be the onsite employment client of the agency in most cases, and must be signed off on by the actual supervising employer
  • Any new staffing agency assignments require a new completed I-983, completed and signed with the supervising employer for the new assignment
  • Employment must not be online or at a distance, i.e. ‘working from home.’

See more eligibility information, and employer responsibilities, here: https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/students-and-exchange-visitors/students-and-employment/stem-opt.

There is a lifetime limit of two periods of 24-month STEM OPT; each occurring after a higher degree level has been obtained.  A STEM degree obtained at a U.S. university prior to your current degree may be the basis for a STEM extension under certain circumstances. OPT STEM employment must be with only one employer, with a direct employer-employee relationship, and volunteering and self-employment are not permissible.

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