1. Who is eligible for the STEM Extension?
- Students must be in F-1 status.
- Students must be currently working in a period of post-completion OPT
- Students must have a bachelor's degree or higher degree in an eligible STEM field. You may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree earned in the U.S. for this requirement; to use a prior STEM degree, you must:
Have received your most recent degree (which does not need to be STEM-related) from a currently accredited Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school in the U.S.
Have received your prior, qualifying STEM degree in the U.S. within 10 years of applying for the STEM OPT extension.
The qualifying STEM degree must be on the Department of Homeland Security's STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time you submit your STEM OPT extension application (rather than at the time you received the degree).
- Students must have a job offer that meets the following requirements:
The job is with an employer enrolled in the USCIS E-Verify program
The job offers at least 20 hours of work per week
The job is paid
The job will provide formal training and learning objectives directly related to your qualifying STEM degree
- Students must be able to complete the I-983 Training Plan with their employer
2. When must I apply for the STEM extension?
All documents must be submitted BEFORE your current OPT employment authorization expires and within 60 days of the date your designated school official (DSO) enters the recommendation for OPT into your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record. You may submit your application for STEM Extension up to 90 days before your current OPT employment authorization expires.
3. Where can I find additional government resources about the STEM OPT extension?
You will want to carefully review information on the Department of Homeland Security’s website: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub
4. Where can I find my CIP code?
I-20s from June 2015 or earlier: the CIP code is printed at the top of page three of your I-20. The code is 6 digits long (xx.xxxx). Once you find your code, you can consult the entire list of individual eligible CIP codes for the STEM extension available on the SEVP website. I-20s from July 2015 to present: the CIP code is printed next to your major on page one of your I-20.
5. If I have a dual major, can I qualify for the 24-month extension based on one of the degree programs?
Yes, if one of the degrees is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List and any job worked while on the extension is related to your STEM degree
6. Can I qualify for the 24-month extension based on my minor or certificate program?
7. When does my 24-month extension of OPT start?
If you have properly filed for a 24-month STEM extension, the period of extension starts the day after the expiration of your original OPT period.
8. Can I work with an expired EAD while my 24-month extension is pending?
Yes. Your work authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 days while the 24-month STEM extension application is pending. There is no interim documentation of the extended authorization. If your employer needs information about what documents to collect as proof of extended work authorization, please refer to them to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services I-9 Central.
9. Can I travel outside of the U.S. if my original EAD expires and my 24-month extension is still pending?
No. You must wait to receive your new EAD prior to traveling. You may travel if your current EAD card is still valid.
10. What address do I use on the I-765?
Use your personal address; however, be sure to provide an accurate and valid address for at least 4 months into the future so you can receive your EAD card. The post office will NOT forward OPT mail. If you might change your address while your OPT application is pending, consider renting a post office P.O. Box or using a friend's address or the Office of Global Citizenship address.
11. Can I change employers while the 24-month extension is pending?
Changing employers while your 24 month STEM OPT Extension is pending can be risky because the regulations do not contemplate such situations. If you must change employers, submit a new I-983 and provide the E-verify number to firstname.lastname@example.org. Then complete a new OPT Reporting Form. Regulations state that employment changes must be reported within 10 days.
Note: The new employer information will not match the employer information in the STEM OPT Extension application you submitted to the USCIS. There is currently no immigration guidance about how to resolve this conflict. Some students have mailed an additional updated application with a letter explaining their situation. However, errors may occur with additional updated applications to USCIS. USCIS has rejected a few of such applications because they simply think it’s a new application missing a filing fee. Another option is to provide the updated I-983 Training Plan, E-Verify number, and OPT employment reporting to ISS, but not mail any additional documents to USCIS unless they send you a "Request for Evidence" (RFE). We hope to receive new guidance soon from USCIS about how to proceed in these situations.
12. What is the application process for the STEM Extension?
Download the STEM OPT Extension Packet for more information.