The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) OPT extension allows students in certain degree programs to extend the initial 12 month OPT period. If approved, STEM would extend the OPT period by 17 months, to a total of 29 months on post-completion OPT. It is recommended that you utilize the STEM Extension before changing to H-1B status. However, please consult your employer first. Some employers may prefer you to change to H-1B status.
Benefits of STEM
Before proceeding, contact your IO advisor to ensure that your degree program is eligible for STEM.
|Materials to be reviewed by the IO
||Materials to be submitted to USCIS|
Employment verification letter
|Employment verification letter|
|Completed form I-765 (for sample click here)||Completed form I-765 (for sample click here)|
|Check or Money Order made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (check USCIS for current fee)||Check or Money Order made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (check USCIS for current fee)|
|Copy of current EAD Card (front and back)||Copy of current EAD Card (front and back)|
|Copy of I-20 issued for first period (12 months or less) of Optional Practical Training||Copy of I-20 issued for first period (12 months or less) of Optional Practical Training|
|Copy of I-94 Card (front and back)||Copy of I-94 Card (front and back)|
|Copy of Passport Bio Page||Copy of Passport Bio Page|
|Copy of F-1 visa stamp||Copy of F-1 visa stamp|
|Two identical passport style (2" x 2") color photographs taken within the last 30 days||Two identical passport style (2" x 2") color photographs taken within the last 30 days|
Copy of transcript or diploma reflecting conferred degree/major.
Copy of transcript or diploma reflecting conferred degree/major
|Employer Verification of Compliance form||Extension OPT Recommended I-20 signed by International Advisor (will receive after review of all documents)|
|Optional Practical Training 17 Month STEM Extension form|
Reporting requirements are very strict during the 17-month OPT extension. Failure to meet these reporting requirements will result in the termination of your F-1 status and EAD card.
You must report your change of residential address, legal name, employer name, employer address, and/or loss of employment to the International Office within 10 days of the change by submitting the Post Completion OPT Reporting Survey.
You are required to submit the above survey, every 6 months, even if there has been no change.
Your employer is required to report to the International Office within 48 hours in the event of your termination or departure from your job by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
While you are on STEM OPT, your status is F1 and it is your responsibility to maintain this status.
Change in employer is possible as long as the new employer is enrolled in E-Verify and you report this change via the OPT Reporting Survey within 10 days of the change.
Multiple employers, contract work or work through an employment agency are all permitted so long as the employers are enrolled in E-Verify.
Self-employment is permitted as long as your business is enrolled in E-Verify, you have the proper required business licenses, and your business is related to your degree program.
Employment must be paid and must be at least 20 hours per week.
Employment authorization is automatically extended while a timely-filed 17-month extension application is pending. While the application is pending, international travel is not recommended since you will not have a valid EAD card in your possession.
Students approved for the 17-month OPT extension may not accrue more than 120 days of unemployment during the total 29-month period of OPT. Employment during the 17-month extended period 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 for OPT purposes during the special 17-month OPT extension.
The special 17-month extension of OPT is only available to each student one time. A student who is approved for a 17-month OPT extension can never apply for it again. Example: If you use your STEM extension after your MS degree, but then complete a PhD, you would only be eligible for post-completion OPT, even if your PhD is in a STEM eligible field. However, you would be eligible for regular post-completion OPT (12 months)
You will have a 60 day grace period after your STEM Extension during which you may prepare for your departure or change to another status.
You may be eligible for the Cap-Gap if you are changing to an H-1B visa with an October 1st start date.