The OPT STEM extension allows students who have completed a degree in an eligible STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field to extend their OPT work authorization for an additional 24 months, for a total of 36 months, and gain further practical experience in their field of study, complementing the academic work. While on a STEM extension you remain in F-1 status and need to comply with F-1 regulations.
STEM Extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Students in eligible STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields can apply for a two-year extension of OPT.
In order to be eligible for the STEM Extension, F-1 students must:
- Have successfully completed a Bachelor's (A.B. or Sc.B.), Master's, or Doctoral degree in a field on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List (last updated in Jan 2022).
- Be lawfully participating in a period of Post-Completion OPT at the time of application.
- Have a job offer from or be continuing paid employment with an employer registered with the E-Verify employment verification system. Students cannot be self-employed.
- Must not have previously received a STEM Extension at a higher degree level.
Types of Employment Allowed
All employment while on STEM must be directly related to student's field of study and appropriate for someone at student's degree level. ALL employers during STEM must be enrolled in E-Verify.
- Graduate: directly related to academic program
- Undergraduate: directly related to concentration(s)
Length of OPT Available and Hours
STEM applications are automatically issued for an additional 24 months of OPT. You cannot request more or less time.
The STEM extension work authorization is authorized for full-time employment only. Any STEM employment must be full-time with at least 21 or more hours per week.
Limit to Unemployment
When on STEM OPT, your F-1 status continues to be dependent upon employment. You may not accrue a total of more than 150 days of unemployment during the entire period (post-completion + STEM extension) of OPT.
Change of Employer
While on the STEM OPT, you are permitted to change employers provided the new job is directly related to your academic field of study and commensurate with your level of education, and the employer is enrolled in E-Verify. You need to submit a new I-983 Form to OISSS and update your employer information using the online OISSS form each time you change employers (see more info here).
Travel While on OPT
Students can travel in and out of the U.S. while on STEM OPT. If a student travels outside the U.S., the student must have an approved EAD card to enter, and must re-enter in F-1 status; otherwise the STEM OPT authorization will automatically end.
Students must present the following to the inspecting officer at the U.S. port of entry:
- Valid passport
- Valid F-1 visa (unless Canadian or eligible for automatic revalidation of an expired visa)
- Form I-20, endorsed for travel by an OISSS Advisor within the last 6 months
- Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
- Letter from your employer with either a job offer or confirmation of current employment
For more information, refer to the Travel page on this website for details about travel while on OPT.
Status Changes During OPT
You must inform OISSS as soon as possible of any changes in your status, so that the F-1 record can be appropriately updated.
- Change of immigration status: If approved for a change of immigration status (i.e. F-1 to H-1B) your F-1 status and OPT will end upon the start date of the new immigration status.
- Leave the U.S. permanently: If you decide to leave the U.S. for longer than 5 months, your post-completion OPT is no longer valid.
- Start a new full-time academic program: If you are admitted into a new full-time academic program, your SEVIS record must be updated with the new program’s information or transferred to your new school. Your OPT is officially ended when the SEVIS record is transferred.
Students on the STEM Extension of OPT must submit a final self-evaluation (page 5 of the I-983 Form) when completing their OPT.
STEM Extension Application Instructions
After reading the above information, please follow the STEM Extension Application Instructions to apply.