A STEM Extension is an extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization available to F-1 students who graduated with degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). As of May 10, 2016, the STEM OPT Extension is expanded to 24 months. Previously, the STEM Extension was only for 17 months.
To be eligible for the 24-month extension:
- You must have a degree in a certain science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field. If you have a double major, you will qualify if one of the degrees is a STEM major. You can verify your degree eligibility by comparing your CIP code to this list of approved codes. *In some cases, you may be able to use a previously earned degree on this list. If you think you may be eligible based on a previously earned degree, consult with your international student advisor.
- You must be working in a job or have a job offer related to your field of study. This job must employ you at least 20 hours per week and provide you with formal training and learning objectives which are outlined by the employer in the Training Plan Form I-983.
- At the time of application for the OPT extension, your employer (or prospective employer) must be registered with and participating in the USCIS’ E-Verify employment verification program.
- You must not have exceeded 90 days of unemployment in the initial 12-month period of OPT.
- You must submit your application before the expiration of your initial OPT period.
- You may apply for the extension up to 120 days before expiration of your initial OPT period.
- Once the application is receipted by USCIS, you may continue employment up to 180 days beyond expiration of your current EAD
- STEM extension applications can take as much as 6 months
What is E-Verify?
E-Verify is an Internet based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA) that allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees. An employer's participation in E-Verify is voluntary and is currently free to employers. USCIS has created an online E-Verify Employer Search Tool.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has developed a comprehensive, easy-to-follow website which spells out the rules and regulations of OPT, as well as detailed eligibility information, background, and clear instructions for students and employers: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub. If you believe you may be eligible for the STEM extension, or if you have any questions, please schedule an appointment with the International Student Adviser at ISSO.