STEM OPT Extension

STEM OPT Extension

If you are an F-1 student whose OPT is based on a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a STEM field (as defined by the Department of Homeland Security [DHS]), you may be eligible for an extension of post-completion OPT authorization. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) provides a list of qualifying STEM majors on its website.

Download the list of qualifying STEM majors

Applying for the STEM OPT extension

Please note that you may be granted a STEM OPT extension only once per degree level and the second STEM OPT request (even for previous degrees) will need to be for a higher degree level than the first.

In order to be eligible for this extension, you are required to:

  • Be on post-completion OPT and hold an appropriate degree in one of the DHS-approved STEM fields (see list above).
  • Be employed in a paying job by, or have a paying job offer from, an employer who is registered with the E-Verify employment verification system. (E-Verify is an Internet-based system operated by DHS in partnership with the Social Security Administration. Note: E-Verify is not a searchable system, you will need to ask your employer if they are enrolled in E-Verify.)
    • Employment relationships such as work for hire, self-employment, employment agencies (unless working as an employee of the agency itself), and owning a business as a sole proprietor are not eligible for STEM extension.
  • Have had fewer than 90 days of unemployment during your 12-month period of post-completion OPT.
  • Demonstrate that the job is directly related to your STEM field of study.
  • Work with your employer to prepare and sign the I-983 Training Plan.
  • Ensure that the appropriate USCIS Service Center receives your completed application before the expiration date on your current post-completion OPT card.

The employer needs to:

  • Be enrolled in E-Verify
  • Have a Federal Employer Identification Number
  • Agree to the terms of STEM OPT and complete the employer-specific sections of the I-983 Training Plan.

DHS regulations permit two periods of STEM OPT in an individual’s lifetime. You may be eligible for a second period of 24 months of STEM OPT after you complete a second qualifying STEM degree at a higher level. If you are eligible based on these criteria and would like to apply, please call OIS at 812-855-9086, option 2 to set up an appointment with an international student advisor.

If you are currently in a degree field (or on Post-Completion OPT from that degree) that is not identified as STEM-eligible, but have previously earned a STEM-eligible degree from an accredited U.S. higher education institution, you may be eligible to apply for a STEM OPT extension under certain conditions:

  • Your previous and current degrees will need to have been issued by schools in the U.S. that are currently both accredited and SEVP-certified.
  • Your previous degree needs to be conferred within 10 years of the time you submit your application to USCIS.
  • Your previous degree is assigned a STEM-eligible code found on the STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time of application.
  • You haven’t already received a STEM OPT extension based on this previous degree.
  • Your practical training opportunity is directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree.
  • Your employer meets the criteria listed in the "Am I Eligible?" section.

Please note that you may be granted a STEM OPT extension only once per degree level, and the second STEM OPT request (even for previous degrees) will need to be a higher degree level than the first.

To discuss a STEM OPT application for a previous degree, please call OIS at 812-855-9086, option 2 to make an appointment with an international student advisor.

We recommend that you begin the application process for the extension three to four months before your current OPT expires. Your application should be submitted no later than 45 days before your current OPT expires, and can be submitted up to 90 days in advance of when your current OPT expires.

If you file a timely application for an extension, you will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending with USCIS, until it is approved or denied, or for 180 days—whichever comes first.

To start the process to apply for the STEM extension, please log in to iStart and begin the 24 Month STEM OPT Extension e-form group.

We charge a $150 fee for processing your STEM extension application. We will charge your IU Bursar account after we create your new I-20. Make sure you pay attention to your Bursar bill afterward to pay your bill on time.