Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined in the regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." F-1 students must have completed one full academic year of full-time study before being eligible to apply.
There are three general types of Optional Practical Training:
- Pre-completion OPT - only available during the degree program
- Post-completion OPT - F-1 students must apply within 90 days prior to the date all degree requirements are met, or during the 60-days grace period.
- STEM OPT Extensions - available for certain Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) students. F-1 students must apply within 90 days prior to the ending date of current Post-Completion OPT.
More information on OPT: 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)
24-Month STEM Extension:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made the following changes to the OPT-STEM Extension effective on May 10, 2016. The rule does not make any changes of the current Pre-Completion OPT and Post-completion OPT.
1) Time increased from 17 months to 24 months
2) New Required Training Plan (Form I-983)
3) Under certain conditions, prior U.S. eligible degree (within 10 years) can be used for STEM-Extension unless a STEM-Extension was already used for this prior degree.
4) Increased unemployment time on OPT STEM Extension from 30 to 60 days(total of 150 days when counting regular period of OPT)
5) Two STEM extensions allowed instead of one per lifetime. The second can only be used at a higher degree level.
6) Increased filing timeframe for OPT STEM Extensions from 30 to 60 days (based on the print date of the I-20).
7) Has to be in a non-volunteer based capacity
ISSS has been offering webinars to provide the detailed information and also has created this chart to Determine Eligibility for STEM OPT Extension