STEM OPT Extension

OPT Extensions for STEM Students

The 12-month limit on F-1 OPT may be extended by 24 months, for a total of 36 months, for certain STEM degree holders (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). Students may receive the stem extension twice in a lifetime, once at the undergraduate level and once at the graduate level. Students who file for the extension may continue employment while the application is pending, up to 180 days.

Additional requirements for the 24-month extension include:

  • Student must be currently participating in a standard period of OPT, working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study.
  • Student must have successfully completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a field on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List, from a SEVIS-certified college or university.
  • Student must have a job offer or currently work for an employer that is enrolled in E-Verify and has met all of the STEM OPT Reporting Requirement
  • Student must have less than 90 days of unemployment while on OPT
  • Student must be able to submit the I-765 Form up to 90 days before the current OPT authorization expires, and within 60 days of being recommended by your DSO in SEVIS.
    • The DSO 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 employer must work with the student to complete a Training Plan Form I-983 and agree to report the termination or departure of the student to the DSO or through “any other means or process identified by DHS.” An employer must consider a worker to have departed when the employer knows the student has left employment, or if the student has not reported for work for a period of 5 consecutive business days without the employer’s consent.

    Additional documentation needed for application

    • A Training Plan Form I-983 completed by both the student and employer
    • A copy of the front and back of the student’s current OPT card
    • A copy of the student’s diploma or official transcript

    H-1B cap-gap extension of D/S and work authorization until October 1.

    Duration of status and work authorization will be extended for a student on OPT, who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. This would apply to all students on OPT, not just STEM students. The extension of duration of status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student’s behalf.

    Notify the DSO if your employer files a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, requesting an extension. Provide proof of proper filing.