STEM OPT Extension

Commonly Used Terminology

DSO = Designated School Official
DHS = Department of Homeland Security
EAD = Employment Authorization Document
OPT = Optional Practical Training
RFE = Request for Evidence
SEVIS = Student and Exchange Visitor Information System
SEVP = Student and Exchange Visitor Program
STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
USCIS = United States Citizenship and Immigration Services


Recipients of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in certain STEM fields may be eligible for a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 36 months). The 24-month STEM OPT extension is adjudicated (approved) by USCIS. The end result of filing for the STEM OPT extension is an EAD which shows the dates students are able to work legally in the United States.

  • STEM OPT extension authorization begins the day after the expiration of the 12-month EAD card and ends 24-months later, no matter the date of adjudication
  • STEM OPT extension will be granted in one EAD period and cannot be split into smaller periods
  • USCIS must receive your application before your 12 month OPT EAD expires
  • USCIS accepts STEM OPT applications as early as 90 days prior to the EAD expiration date. Applications received prior to the 90 days will be denied
  • Students whose applications are received before the EAD 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.
  • To avoid any complications or delays with the STEM OPT Extension application, OIS recommends that students do not travel or change employers while STEM OPT Extension application is pending
  • After completing another qualifying degree at a higher degree level and receiving another period of standard post-completion OPT based on that degree, a student would be eligible for one more 24-month STEM OPT extension. A student is limited to two STEM OPT extensions during his or her lifetime
  • Volunteer/Unpaid position is not eligible for the 24-month STEM OPT extension
  • Self-employment is not eligible for the 24-month STEM OPT extension
  • If STEM OPT Extension application is denied, please contact OIS