STEM OPT Extension

The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM): Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension is a 24-month extension of work authorization available to international students who are currently engaged in OPT and who have earned a qualifying degree in a STEM field. The STEM OPT extension is recommended by advisers at Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), but final approval is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


All four of the following conditions must be met to be eligible for the 24-month OPT extension:

  1. Students who have already been approved for 12 months of post-completion OPT; and
  2. Who have earned a bachelor’s or higher degree in a field included on the U.S. Government's list of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields within the last 10 years; and
  3. Who are employed in a paid job directly related to his/her field of study; and
  4. Who are working for an employer that is enrolled in the U.S. Government's E-Verify program.

See if your major is eligible. Look at the “Primary Major” on your I-20 then look for that code in the CIP code column of the STEM Designated Degree Programs list.


Students must apply for the extension prior to the expiration of the first 12 months of “standard” OPT. The application must be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of the first EAD. USCIS will not accept I-765 applications for STEM extensions any earlier than 90 days before the current EAD expiration date. Accordingly, ISSS will only issue STEM OPT I-20s in that time frame.


If you timely file the application for the extension prior, you may continue working even if your EAD card has expired and until your OPT extension is processed or until 180 days has passed, whichever is sooner.

How to Apply for STEM OPT Extension

  1. Submit electronic Request for STEM OPT I-20. Email a completed I-983 to This is a new form that requires information from both the student and the employer. For assistance in completing this form, please view our Guide to Completing the I-983.
  2. ISSS will prepare a new I-20 for you. In most cases your I-20 will be ready in 1 week. We will notify you via email once it is ready.
  3. After receiving your new I-20, you will need to submit an application packet to USCIS. Download this guide to prepare the items for your application. 

Sending your application: We recommend using mail service tracking such as FedEx or United Parcel Service (UPS). The address you use on the I-765 determines where you should send your application (see I-765 instructions).

If your OPT extension is approved, you must send a photocopy of your new EAD card to the ISSS at

Requirements During STEM OPT Period


Students approved for the extension have additional reporting requirements in order to maintain their status. There are more reporting requirements during the extension. Take special care to comply with these obligations:

  1. Report any change of address within 10 days of moving to your new residence.
  2. Report any change to the name or address of your employer within 10 days of the change.
  3. Report any interruption in employment. You are allowed a maximum of 150 days of unemployment time, which includes any unemployment during 12 month OPT.
  4. Report your status every six months starting from the date your 24-month OPT extension is approved. The report is due within 10 days of the required reporting date. 

All of these changes can be reported through our OPT reporting form.


A student authorized for a 24-month extension must work at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify employer in a paid position directly related to his or her major. This employment may include:

  • Work for one or more employer. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to each individual student's degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
  • Multiple employers. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to each individual student's degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
  • Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. The company for whom the student is providing services must be registered with E-Verify. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
  • Self-employed business owner. Students on a STEM extension can start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must register his or her business with E-Verify and work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program. HOWEVER, under the new STEM regulations, students may not fill out their own Form I-983, Sections 3 to 6, nor act as their own employer for the purposes of the form. This might result in the student NOT being eligible for a STEM extension if self-employed.

The 24-month extension of OPT is available to each student at two non-consecutive periods of time. This rule is different from the application rules for the standard 12-month OPT, under which students could be approved for multiple OPT periods for each higher degree earned in the U.S. Each STEM extension must meet the same eligibility requirements.


The start date of the 24-month OPT extension will be automatically set to the day after the expiration of the current 12-month OPT authorization. The end date will be 24 months later. (It is not possible to request smaller increments of time for the OPT extension.