Skip to content

24 Month STEM OPT Extension

Students with majors in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) who are currently approved for post-completion OPT may be eligible for a 24-month extension, for a total of 36 months of OPT work authorization.

It is very important that you read ALL of the following information, including Rules and Responsibilities.  You (not CGCE!) are responsible for maintaining your F-1 status while on OPT, which includes following all reporting requirements in a timely manner and following all the other rules of your F-1 OPT status.
 
To be eligible for STEM OPT, you must meet the following requirements:

1.) You must be in valid F-1 status.

2.) You are currently approved for Post-completion OPT.

3.) You completed a degree in a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) field.  Visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website for the STEM Designated Degree Program List.  Eligible degrees are listed by their Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code.  Your degree's CIP code is listed under Major 1 and Major 2 in the "Program of Study" section of your I-20.

4.) You have a job or a job offer from an E-Verify employer.

5.) Each job must be a paid position and must be at least 20 hours per week.

6.) Your employer must be willing to work with you to design formal training and learning objectives and must be willing to report employment termination to CGCE.

Please note the following types of employment are not allowed on the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension (this is not an exhaustive list):
1.) Self-employed business owner. A student may not serve as his/her own supervisor on the I-983 form.
2.) Employment through a "temp agency" or consulting firm.
To apply for STEM OPT, please click here to begin the request.
Determining when to apply for STEM OPT, and understanding the deadlines associated, are very important as you begin the application process.  Here are some reminders as you begin the STEM OPT application process:

1.) CGCE must receive your application materials at least 30 days before your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) expires in order to allow time for processing.

2.) USCIS must receive your application before your current Employment Authorization Document (EAD) has expired and within 30 days of when CGCE enters your STEM OPT Extension recommendation in SEVIS.

3.) The earliest students can apply for a 24-month STEM OPT Extension is 90 days before Employment Authorization Document (EAD) expires.

4.) The expected processing time for a STEM OPT Extension application is 3 - 5 months.

5.) If USCIS receives your correctly filed application on time and your Post-completion OPT EAD expires before your application is adjudicated, your work authorization and F-1 status are automatically extended for up to 180 days while the application is pending.

6.) Students with a 24-month STEM OPT Extension are limited to 150 days of unemployment during their entire 36-month OPT period.
Travel:
If you travel outside the U.S. while on OPT, be prepared to show the following documents upon reentry:

1.) Valid passport with an expiration date that is at least 6-months into the future
2.) Valid, unexpired F-1 visa
3.) Valid Travel Signature on I-20 (Travel signatures are only valid for 6-months while on OPT)
4.) Employment Authorization Document (EAD card)
5.) Proof of employment (e.g. initial offer letter, pay stubs, employment verification letter)

Only travel outside the U.S. while your STEM OPT Extension application is pending if you will return to the U.S. before your Post-completion OPT End Date. You will need to carry the I-797C receipt from your STEM application and an updated I-20.
 
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1.) Dual Major: You are eligible for a STEM OPT Extension if one of the degrees is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List and all jobs worked while on the extension are related to your STEM degree.

2.) Minor: Your job must be directly related to your major - you cannot qualify for the 24-month extension based on a minor.

3.) 24 Month STEM OPT Extension Start Date: The period of the 24-month STEM OPT Extension starts the day after your Post-completion OPT End Date.

4.) Expired EAD While 24 Month STEM OPT Extension Is Pending: If you have properly filed a STEM OPT Extension application, your work authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 days while the 24-month STEM OPT 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

5.) Prior STEM Degree: An F-1 student may use a prior STEM degree from a currently accredited SEVP-certified school to fulfill the STEM degree eligibility requirement.

To use a prior degree to qualify for the STEM OPT Extension, the F-1 student must:
     - Currently be approved for Post-completion OPT and have valid F-1 status.
     - Have received their most recent degree (which does not need to be STEM-related) from a currently accredited Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school.
     - Have received their prior, qualifying STEM degree (at the bachelor's level or higher) within 10 years of applying for the STEM OPT Extension.
     - Have a qualifying STEM degree that is on DHS's STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time the student submits their application for the STEM
       OPT Extension (rather than at the time that the student received the degree).