OPT STEM Extension (OPTX)
You can read about OPT STEM Extension from from Study in the States
The STEM OPT extension is a 24-month period of temporary training that directly relates to an F-1 student's program of study in an approved STEM field.
Eligible F-1 students with STEM degrees who finish their program of study and participate in an initial period of regular, post-completion OPT (often for 12 months) have the option to apply for a STEM OPT extension. A student may do a STEM Extension no more than twice in their lifetime, but it cannot be for the same degree level for both.
STEM OPT Extension Qualifications
To qualify for a 24-month STEM OPT extension, an F-1 student participating in an initial period of regular post-completion OPT must:
- Have a degree in an eligible STEM field. You may verify this code on your I-20 (Program information under your primary major) and compare it to the official government STEM LIST.
- Pursue their STEM OPT extension through an employer that is enrolled in USCIS's E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.
- Select a STEM OPT employer that provides the student with formal training and learning objectives and can help fill out and sign the I-983 training plan.
- Work a minimum of 20 hours per week for the employer.
More information about STEM OPT extension eligibility requirements and how to apply for STEM OPT, please visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
Below are the reporting requirements associated with STEM OPT extensions.
- Employers must report to the relevant Designated School Official (DSO) indicated on the Form I-983 when an F-1 student on a STEM OPT extension terminates or otherwise leaves their employment before the end of the authorized period of OPT. The employer must report this change to the appropriate DSO no later than five business days after the student leaves employment.
- STEM OPT students must report to their DSOs every six months. As part of such reporting, STEM OPT students must confirm the validity of their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System information, including, but not limited to:
- Personal Address.
- Employer name and address.
- Status of current employment/practical training experience.
Updates are done through our OPT self-report.
- STEM OPT students must do an annual self-evaluation and must report to their DSO about the progress of the training experience through the I-983 training plan, page 5. Employers must sign the self-evaluation prior to submitting it to our office for records keeping.
- Both the student and employer are obligated to report to the student's DSO any material changes to, or material deviations from, the student's formal I-983 training plan.
STEM Designated Degree Program List
DHS's STEM designated degree program list includes all STEM fields qualifying an F-1 student for a STEM OPT extension. DHS determined a “STEM field” is a field included in the U.S. Department of Education's Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) taxonomy within the two-digit series containing engineering (CIP code 14), biological sciences (CIP code 26), mathematics (CIP code 27), and physical sciences (CIP code 40), or a related field.
The best way to verify your eligibility is to look at your I-20 primary major code and compare it to the codes on the list in the link above.
60-day Grace Period
Students may not apply for STEM OPT extensions during the 60-day grace period following an initial 12-month period of post-completion OPT.
As per the completion of your degree program, you will still be able to do the following when completing your Post-Completion OPT or OPT-STEM Extension periods.
- Transfer to another school or change your degree level at UH. You have to receive the new I-20 in your grace period and classes have to begin within five months from the end of your OPT.
- Apply for a change of status.
- Make arrangements to leave the U.S.
The 180 days extension
If you have properly filed for OPT-STEM Extension within the 90 day period prior to the end of your OPT, your application will be pending with USCIS as you wait for a decision on your case. In most instances, you may not be approved prior to the end date of your Post-Completion OPT. When this happens, USCIS will automatically extend your OPT period for up to 180 days until a decision on your case has been made.
That is, you can continue working on your expired Post-Completion OPT EAD card with proof of your pending case with USCIS for OPT-STEM Extension.
More information can be found on the USCIS website.
DHS allows STEM OPT students an additional 60 days of unemployment during the 24-month STEM OPT extension period. You may combine this time with whatever is left on your 90 days of unemployment from Post-Completion OPT.
Students with a timely filed H-1B petition and a request for a change of status may apply to receive a "Cap-Gap" extension of their F-1 status and, if applicable, their post-completion OPT employment authorization.
Information on how to apply for a H-1B Cap-Gap extension with our office.
Entrepreneurship and Employer-Employee Relationships
F-1 students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Form I-983 because F-1 students may not provide employer attestations on their own behalf. However, STEM OPT applicants can participate in a start-up or small business so long as all regulatory requirements are met. The employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.
These requirements mandate that the company remains in good standing with E-Verify and has the resources to comply with the proposed training plan.
You may explore Study in the States website to find more information and additional STEM OPT resources for students, school officials, and employers.