STEM OPT Extension

The STEM OPT 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 post-completion OPT.


You are eligible for the STEM OPT Extension if you:

  • Have maintained F-1 status during your post-completion OPT period
  • Have a degree CIP code on page 1 of your current OPT I-20 that is on the UCSC STEM OPT Eligible Majors 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 major/field of study as indicated on your STEM OPT I-20. 
  • During the STEM OPT Extension, you can only work for an employer enrolled in E-Verify
  • Your employment must be PAID and you must work full-time for more than 20 hours per week. 
  • You may have multiple employers while on STEM OPT Extension, as long as each position meets all requirements, including reporting requirements
  • 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 post-completion OPT and OPT STEM Extension.

Students are required by immigration regulations to report their STEM OPT information to ISSP within 10 days of any change. Students must do so via the iGlobal, from the menu on the left (choose F-1 employment and then select STEM Extension Reporting). Students on STEM OPT Extension are also required to resubmit their employment and personal information to ISSP every 6 months starting from the date the extension starts, even if there are no changes. For more information on reporting requirements, please visit the Maintaining Status on OPT page.

Note: Federal regulations require significant responsibility for the employer to provide a training plan related to the major 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 STEM OPT Extension application before the expiration date of your post-completion EAD and within 60 days of the STEM OPT recommendation. You can apply up to 90 days before your post-completion OPT EAD expiration date. You may continue to work for up to 180 days after your post-completion OPT EAD expires while your STEM OPT Extension application is pending with USCIS, as long as you filed your application on time.

How to Apply

  1. Pay the $100 (non-refundable) STEM OPT Extension fee.
  2. Complete ICE Form I-983 Training Plan with your employer.
    • For Section 1 on the I-983 all information can be found on your current I-20
  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 STEM OPT 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 ISSP 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. Submit your complete STEM OPT e-file application to USCIS online (or file by mail).
    • You must be in the US to apply for STEM OPT extension, and you must remain in the U.S. until USCIS has received your application

Prepare and mail or submit online your STEM OPT application. Read the rules for the application above.

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Last modified: Mar 19, 2024