STEM OPT

The 24-month STEM OPT extension allows certain F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees, and who meet other specified requirements, to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT. View the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension Timeline below:

You must meet the following criteria to apply for the 24-Month STEM OPT extension:
  • You are currently on active, regular F-1 post-completion OPT.
  • You have completed a degree, or have a prior degree at the bachelor’s level or higher, in a field that is currently included on DHS’s STEM Designated Degree Program List.
  • The STEM degree is from a school that is accredited by a recognized U.S. Department of Education accrediting agency and is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) at the time of submitting your STEM OPT extension application.  Click here for the full list of recognized accrediting agencies.
  • You have not received a STEM OPT extension before for the same degree level. The degree that serves as the basis for a second lifetime STEM OPT extension, however, must be at a higher educational level than the degree that served as the basis for the first STEM OPT extension.
  • Your employer must be in good standing with the E-Verify program as determined by USCIS.
  • You and your employer agree to submit a Form I-983.
Previous STEM degrees:  If you are currently active in the 12-month post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree, you may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree from a U.S. institution of higher education to apply for a STEM OPT extension IF:
  1. Both degrees are from currently accredited and SEVP-certified institutions; 
  2. You have not already received a STEM OPT extension based on this prior degree;
  3. The employment is directly related to the previous STEM degree.
Reminders:
  • Third-party or staffing agencies do not qualify as eligible employers for the 24-month STEM OPT extension.  Click here for more information about Staffing agencies and Consulting Firms.
  • Students on approved 17-month STEM OPT are not required to apply for the seven-month extension. They can choose to complete the rest of their approved STEM OPT under the STEM OPT rules in effect prior to May 10, 2016.

Employment Requirements:

  • The job must be directly related to the degree that qualified you for the STEM OPT extension. The job must be a paid job, for at least 20 hours per week per each employer.
  • Employer must be enrolled in the E-Verify program and have an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN); there must be a 'bona fide employer-employee' relationship, and you may not be self-employed. Finally the employer must have sufficient resources and personnel available to provide the training specified in the Form I-983.
  • The job's compensation and working conditions must be 'commensurate with terms and conditions applicable to the employer's similarly situated U.S. workers in the area of employment.'
  • Do not exceed the unemployment cap.

Reporting Requirements:

You will be required to submit several mandatory requirements throughout your time in STEM OPT. Follow the steps below to report on time. Remember that you will be out of status if you fail to report as required.

  1. Understand the Mandatory requirements
  2. Use the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension Calculator to calculate the due dates for each specific reporting requirements
    Notice that reporting dates will vary for every student depending on the start date of the 24-Month STEM OPT extension EAD.
  3. Complete the STEM OPT employment and address update form and submit it to ISS within 10 business days from the deadline. Make sure you also submit all applicable supporting documents as indicated in the form i.e. Form I-983.

For additional help understanding your mandatory reporting requirements for student and employers click in the link below:
STEM OPT reporting requirements handout from Study in the States

Ending STEM OPT
Report the end your OPT at any time by completing the OPT Employment and Address Update Form.

Grace Period
F-1 students who complete their OPT period successfully until the end of their Employment Authorization Card (EAD) have a 60-day grace period. During the grace period, students must prepare to depart the U.S., gain a new F-1 status, or change to another immigration status.

Transfer
A Transfer out Request Form must be submitted to CIE within the grace period if you plan to start a new academic program at a school other than CSULB.

H1-B Cap Gap Extension