24-Month Stem Extension
DHS grants STEM OPT extensions to eligible F-1 students who are currently in a period of post-completion OPT once per degree level (i.e., bachelor's, master's or doctorate). A student may participate twice in the STEM OPT extension over the course of their academic career. Students may not apply for STEM OPT extensions during the 60-day grace period following an initial (usually 12-month) period of post-completion OPT.
To participate twice in the STEM OPT extension, a student must earn a second qualifying degree at a higher education level and must be participating in an initial period of OPT at the time they apply to USCIS for their second STEM OPT extension. In some cases, students may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree to qualify for their second STEM OPT extension.
- The student must have successfully completed a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a field on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List
- The F-1 student must be currently participating in a 12-month period of OPT, working for a US employer in a job directly related to the student’s STEM major area of study.
- The student must have a job offer from an employer registered with the E-Verify employment verification system at the time of application for the 24-month OPT extension. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that his/her employer is registered with E-Verify.
- The Designated School Official (DSO) at CGE 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.
- The student who timely files a non-frivolous 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.
Before applying to USCIS for a STEM OPT extension, a STEM OPT student must download, complete, sign and submit the Form I-983 to their DSO. The STEM OPT student and their prospective employer must work together to complete this form. STEM OPT students and their employers are subject to the terms of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations and Form I-983 instructions, effective as of the start date requested for STEM OPT, as indicated on the form.
Students are responsible for facilitating the completion of this form, submitting it with their STEM OPT application and returning it to their DSO, who will keep it in the student’s record. DHS maintains the discretion to request and review all documentation for eligibility concerns.
The STEM OPT student must complete Section 1 of the Form I-983 and work with their prospective employer to complete Sections 2-6. For more information about these sections, please visit the Employers and the Form I-983 resource page
Reporting Requirements While on OPT
STEM degree holders on the 24-month OPT extension are required to report to CGE within 10 days of any change of:
- Employer Name
- Change or Loss of Employment
- Your change of address should be reported via your SEVP Student Portal (contact Maria Chaqra at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information)
Students are also required to make a validation report to CGE 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 24-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 are current and accurate. This six-month validation report is due to CGE within 10 business days of each reporting date. Students will receive an email reminder to their ISU Sycamore account when the validation reports are due.
Limited Periods of Unemployment to Maintain Status
During post-completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment. STEM degree holders granted a 24-month OPT extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 120 days of unemployment during the total of 36-month OPT period.
OPT Filing Window
A qualifying STEM degree holder will be able to file the OPT application up to 90 days before the current OPT end date. However, the OPT application must be submitted to the USCIS within 60 days of the date on which CGE issues an OPT I-20. In general, expect that the OPT application will take three to five months to be approved.
Duration of OPT Employment Authorization
The employment authorization period for the 24-month OPT extension begins on the day after the expiration of the initial post-completion OPT employment authorization, and ends 24 months later, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved. For the 24-month STEM extension, employment must be traditional paid employment.
STEM OPT eligible students will receive an email to their ISU Sycamore account when they can start the process to apply for the extension.
Please contact Maria Chaqra at email@example.com to request the STEM OPT Extension Request application.
Upon verifying the student’s eligibility and determining whether the student’s degree is on the STEM Designated Degree Program list, a DSO will prepare an I-20 recommending OPT on the employment page of the student’s SEVIS record.
We will contact you when your STEM OPT I-20 is ready for pickup. You will have the option to pick it up in person in our office or request express mail at eshipGlobal
Mail the following STEM OPT application and documents to the Service Center which has jurisdiction over the mailing address listed on Form I-765:
- Completed Form I-765 including your employer’s E-Verify information
- For extension of OPT, enter "c 3 C" under Item 27.
- I-765 Application Fee, payable to the US Department of Homeland Security ($410)
- Photocopy of the qualifying STEM degree transcripts or diploma (if it states the major)
- Photocopy of all previous and current I-20s, including a copy of the new OPT I-20
- Form I-94 (can be printed here http://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home )
- Photocopy of passport (biographical data, photo, and expiration date)
- Two US passport-style photos
Check all documents for completeness and accuracy. Be sure sign Forms I-20 and I-765. Make a complete copy of your application for your records.
We recommend that you mail your application by express mail or by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you will have a record of its delivery. Please don’t hesitate to contact a DSO at CGE if you have any questions about your STEM OPT application.