A 24-month extension of post-completion Optional Practical Training in a student’s field of study may be available for students who meet eligibility criteria listed below:
- have earned a STEM-qualifying degree and
- are in a valid period of post-completion OPT and
- have a valid offer of employment for at least 20 hours a week from an employer enrolled in the E-Verify program.
Please Note: All of the above criteria must be met in order for a student to be eligible for the 24-month OPT extension.
How to Apply
- Student and employer complete a form I-983 Training Plan and the student submits it with form I-765, supporting documents and filing fee to the International Student Affairs.
- The start date of the 24-month OPT STEM Extension will be automatically set to the day after the expiration of the current 12-month OPT authorization. The end date will be 24 months later. It is not possible to request smaller increments of time for the OPT STEM Extension.
- Student must apply for the special STEM extension prior to the expiration of the first 12 months of “regular” OPT. The application must be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of the EAD card.
- If the application for the OPT STEM Extension is received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of the initial EAD card, students may continue employment until the application is processed or until 180 days have passed, whichever is sooner.
While you are on the 24-month OPT STEM Extension
During the 24-month OPT STEM Extension, you are still in F-1 student status. Following the 24-month OPT STEM Extension, you are eligible for a 60-day grace period from the end-date of your OPT STEM Extension EAD card. You must obtain a travel signature from International Student Affairs and have a valid F-1 entry visa in your passport should you desire to travel outside the US and re-enter to resume work. In order to maintain your F-1 status, you have routine reporting requirements, similar to those during the initial 12-months of OPT. Please see below for additional information.
Students must report OPT STEM participation to International Student Affairs within 10 days if there is any change in the following information:
- your name and physical address;
- your phone number and/or email address;
- your employer’s name and address;
- your employment status or loss of your employment; and
- any other pertinent information about your stay in the United States (i.e. change of status, transfer to a new degree program, etc.).
Students must report OPT participation to International Student Affairs every six months even if none of the above information has changed. As a courtesy, International Student Affairs will send reminders to the email address on file to request this information; however, you are responsible for reporting this information whether or not you have received a reminder. Failure to provide this information as directed will result in the termination of your F-1 status.
Limitations on Unemployment
Students approved for the 24-month OPT STEM Extension may not accrue more than 120 days of unemployment during the total 12-month initial + 24-month OPT STEM extension period of OPT. Employment must be paid and must be related to the field of study in order to qualify. Self-employment and volunteer positions will not qualify as valid employment during the OPT STEM extension.
24-Month OPT STEM Extension Available Once
The 24-month OPT STEM Extension is only available to each student twice per lifetime. A student who is approved for a 24-month OPT extension may apply for it only once again. Please note that this rule is different from the application rules for the “standard” 12-month OPT, under which students could be approved for multiple OPT periods for each higher degree earned in the U.S. (i.e. bachelor’s, then master’s, then doctoral).