Update: In March 2016, DHS published a new rule effective May 10, 2016 extending the length of STEM OPT to 24 months along with other requirements that must now be met.
F-1 students whose OPT is based on a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctorate degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) field, as defined by DHS, may be eligible for a 24- month extension of OPT.
- Currently on post completion OPT
- Hold an appropriate degree in one of the DHS-approved STEM fields (can be degree most recently received or a STEM degree that was received within the past ten years from an accredited institution).
- Must not have exceeded 90 days of unemployment in the 12 month regular OPT period
- Must submit STEM OPT application to USCIS prior to the expiration date of your current OPT*
- Needs to be registered as an E-verified employer
- Must provide the student with formal training and learning objectives by completing the FORM I-983 which must indicate how the training opportunity directly relates to the qualifying STEM degree
- That signs the FORM I-983 must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience
- Check or money order for $410, payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”
- Completed and signed FORM I-983 (see here for Instructions for I-983)
- Example Form I-983 (can provide to your employer as an example of what to fill out for Section 5)
- Completed and signed Form I-765(typed)
- Part 2. Question 5.Your U.S. Mailing Address: use an address that you may receive mail for the next 4 months.
- Question 27: Eligibility Category: please list (c) (3) (C)
- Two NEW color, passport-style photographs - print your name and I-94 number on the back of each photo.
- Copies of passport, visa, I-94
- Copy of the front and back of your current and previous EAD’s
- Copy of previous OPT I-20’s
- Evidence that your degree meets the STEM degree/major requirements (include both)
- Official transcript from Registrar's office
- Copy of the diploma that shows your degree level and program of study
- Job offer letter (printed on letterhead) with a registered E-verify organization
- For the option of receiving an email and/or text message information that USCIS has accepted your application or petition, please complete G-1145
You must report changes through the SEVP Portal within 10 days if any of the following changes occur:
- Legal Name
- Residential address (post office box not acceptable)
- New employer name and address
- Ending OPT early due to change of status (H-1B) or leaving the U.S.
In Addition to the above requirements, if you are approved for the 24 month STEM Extension you must also notify OISS of the following changes:
- Change in Employer EIN
- Reduction in student compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked
- Significant decrease in hours/week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity
- Changes to the employers' commitments or student's learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983.
Students on the 24 month extension must also submit an annual self evaluation about the progress of the training experience. More information regarding the self evaluation can be found here: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students-and-the-form-i-983
Bring the following documents with you when traveling outside the U.S. while on STEM OPT
- Valid passport
- Valid U.S. F-1 visa to re-enter the U.S.*
- STEM OPT I-20 with a travel signature by an OISS advisor within the last 6 months
- EAD and letter of employment
*A valid U.S. F-1 visa is not required to re-enter the U.S. if you travel to Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands for 30 days or less (excluding Cuba). Citizens of Syria, Sudan and Iran must always have a valid visa. Canadian citizens do not require a visa.
Time spent outside of the U.S. while employed does not count towards the unemployment limits below.
- If you are on the 17- month STEM extension you are allowed a total of 120 days of unemployment between your 12- month OPT and 17- month extension.
- If you are on the 24- month STEM extension you are allowed a total of 150 days of unemployment between your 12- month OPT and 24- month extension.
You can take courses while on STEM OPT as long as you are part-time and are not seeking a degree. If you are seeking a new degree, you will need to cancel your STEM OPT and receive a new I-20 to pursue full-time study in the new degree program. In order to start a new degree, you will need to receive admission and contact OISS to transfer out your SEVIS record if the degree is at a new school. On the transfer release date (new school) or the date a new I-20 is created (St. Thomas only), your STEM OPT will end regardless of if your EAD is valid into the future. Students on STEM OPT who intend to continue in F-1 status must be admitted to a new academic program and obtain an I-20 before the 60th day following the end of your STEM OPT. Please note that if you transfer to a new school, you are allowed to remain in the U.S. for up to 5 months between the time your STEM OPT ends and the new program of studies is to begin as long as you have already received your new I-20; if the time period is greater than 5 months, you will be required to leave the U.S. and can only re-enter within 30 days of the start of your new program of study.