Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for STEM OPT Extension, students must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a school that is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency and is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) at the time student submits the STEM OPT Extension application to USCIS
  • Verified completion of a degree on the STEM Designated Degree Programs List.  The CIP code is found on the I-20, under “Major”
  • Must currently be on post-completion 12-month OPT granted on the basis of either:
    • Having completed the degree, or
    • Having completed all course requirements but still completing his or her thesis or dissertation
  • Must be working for the E-verified STEM company
  • Must complete the Form I-983 (Form I-983 Instructions)
  • Employment Requirements*:
    • Must be paid
    • Must work more than 20 hours per week
    • Directly related to field of study
    • Must be appropriate to degree level obtained
  • Employer Requirements:
    • Enrolled in U.S. Government E-Verify employment verification system
    • Report material changes to the STEM OPT student’s employment to the DSO within 5 business days
    • Implement a formal training program to augment the student’s academic learning through practical experience
    • Provide an OPT opportunity that is commensurate with those of similarly situated U.S. workers in duties, hours, and compensation
    • Complete the Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. On this form, employer must attest that:
      • You have enough resources and trained personnel available to appropriately train the student;
      • The student will not replace a full- or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker; and
      • Working for you will help the student attain his or her training objectives;
      • Agrees to report any termination of employment within 48 hours to OIS

*The following types of employment are not permitted:

  • Volunteer/Unpaid position
  • Self-employment

Requirements for STEM OPT Extension Based on a Previously Obtained STEM Degree

The 24-month rule permits students to use a previously obtained STEM degree from an accredited U.S. educational institution as a basis to apply for a STEM OPT extension, even if it did not serve as the basis for the student’s standard 12-month post-completion OPT, under the following conditions:

  • The prior degree was conferred no more than 10 years before the student’s DSO recommends a STEM OPT extension in SEVIS based on that degree;
  • The prior degree was conferred by a U.S. educational institution that is accredited and SEVP-certified at the time the student’s DSO recommends the student for the 24-month OPT extension;
  • The prior degree is in a degree program category included on the current STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time of the DSO recommendation;
  • The practical training opportunity that is the basis for the 24-month STEM OPT extension must directly relate to the prior degree;
  • The prior degree was actually conferred (i.e., a student who uses a prior degree cannot take advantage of the “all but thesis or dissertation” exception).

For example, a Bachelors Electrical Engineering degree student who pursues OPT on an MBA will be eligible to apply for the 24-month STEM OPT based on the Bachelors Electrical Engineering degree if they meet the above requirements.