OPT STEM Extension

The OPT STEM Extension is a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT that can be requested by students who have received a U.S. Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees in certain STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This application may be based on a previously earned STEM degree. Current regulations allow a total of 2 lifetime STEM extensions, the second AFTER earning a new STEM-eligible degree at a higher level and obtaining a new, higher level of 12-month initial OPT.


You are eligible for the OPT STEM Extension if you:

  • Have maintained F-1 status during your initial OPT
  • Have a degree CIP code on page 1 of your current OPT I-20 is on the STEM List
  • Have a paid, full-time job or job offer from an employer enrolled in E-Verify
  • Are or will be a bona fide employee of the employer signing the Training Plan. The employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.

Employment Restrictions & Unemployment

  • Employment must be directly related to your field of study as indicated on your OPT I-20. 
  • During the OPT STEM Extension you can only work for employers enrolled in E-Verify and the employment must be PAID and for at least 20 hours per week. 
  • Volunteering, unpaid, self-employment, and employment through employment agencies is not allowed. 
  • DHS has confirmed that students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Training Plan, and the employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.
  • Students can have no more than 150 days of unemployment for the entire 36 months of OPT and OPT STEM Extension.
  • Students are required by immigration regulations to report their OPT information to ISSS within 10 days of any change. Students must do so via the iGlobal, from the menu on the left choose F1 employment and then select STEM Extension Reporting.   Students on STEM OPT Extension are also required to resubmit their employment and personal information to ISSS every 6 months starting from the date the extension starts, even if there are no changes. For more information on reporting requirements, please visit our page on Maintaining Status on OPT.

Note: New rules require significant responsibility of the employer to provide a training plan related to the field of study, and attestations to wages and compensation being commensurate with "similarly situated U.S. workers" by completing the required Training Plan and Form I-983.

Rules for application

USCIS must receive your OPT STEM Extension application before the expiration date of your post-completion EAD and within 60 days of the OPT STEM recommendation. You can apply up to 90 days before your post-completion EAD expiration date. Students may continue to work for up to 180 days after their current EAD expires while your OPT Extension application is pending with USCIS, as long as they have filed your application on time.

How to Apply

  1. Pay the $100 (non-refundable) STEM OPT maintenance fee to ISSS using the Online Payment Portal.
  2. Complete ICE Form I-983 Training Plan with your employer.
  3. Log into iGlobal, select "F-1 Employment" on the left navigation, and complete the STEM OPT Request.
  4. You will be notified once the new OPT STEM I-20 is ready within 7-10 business days of all items being approved.
  5. Prepare all other documents for STEM Application including USCIS Form I-765. You may upload this with the eform if you would like ISSS to review it. (see guidelines for completion).
  6. If you have previously had a STEM extension or if your extension is based on a previously obtained STEM degree, start gathering proof of your degree or previous STEM usage.
  7. Prepare and mail or submit online your STEM OPT application. Read the rules for the application above.