Recipients of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields may be eligible for a one-time 17-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 29 months). The 17-month Stem Extension OPT is adjudicated (approved) by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
STEM Extension Overview
The earliest that students can apply is 120 days before the end of the 12-month OPT.
- Only one 17-month STEM extension is granted per student regardless of additional degrees awarded or level of degrees.
- New STEM extension EAD card begins the day after the expiration of the 12 month EAD card and ends 17 months later, no matter the date of adjudication.
- It is possible to change employers during the 17 months. The new employment must meet the STEM extension requirements.
- Students whose applications are received before the EAD card expires will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending until they receive the final decision from USCIS on the application or for 180 days, whichever comes first. It is possible to change employment while application is pending, as long as the new employment meets STEM extension requirements.
- If extension application is denied, student will still have the 60 day grace period after expiration of the 12-month EAD card.
STEM Extension Requirements
- Must currently be on post-completion 12-month OPT
- Verified completion of a degree on the STEM Designated Degree Programs List. The CIP code is found on top of page 3 of the I-20, next to "Primary Major."
- Employment Requirements:
- Paid or Unpaid
- At least 20 hours per week
- Directly related to field of study and appropriate to degree level obtained
- Employer Requirements:
- Registered with the U.S. Government E-Verify employment verification system
- Agrees to report any termination of employment to OIP.
Limited Period of Unemployment to Maintain Status
- An additional 30 days of unemployment time will be available during the extension, combined with the 90 days granted during initial 12-month. The aggregate total allowed is 120 days during the possible 29 months.
- Students must report immediately to OIP any changes in employment through the OPT Information Update form.
- OIP and DHS strongly recommends that students keep evidence for each job regarding the position held, dates of position, the job title, supervisor name and contact information and a description of the job.