STEM OPT Extension for F-1 Students

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Are you an international student on an F-1 visa who wants to gain work experience in your field of study? The Alcorn Immigration Law team can help.

Students holding an F-1 visa who graduate with a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) degree and are approved for a post-graduation OPT period may apply for a 24-month extension.


Eligibility Requirements

To apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension, F-1 students must:

  • Be currently in OPT
  • Have received a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in the field of science, technology, engineering or mathematics from a school certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). A list of qualified STEM degrees is here.
  • Work for an employer that:
    • Is enrolled and remains in good standing in the E-Verify program.
    • Reports material changes to the STEM OPT student’s employment to the student’s DSO within five business days.
    • Has a formal training program.
    • Provides an OPT opportunity in the student’s field of study and commensurate with other U.S. workers in duties, hours, and compensation.
    • Completes Form I-983 (Training Plan for STEM OPT Students), which requires an employer to show enough resources and trained workers to train the student, the student will not replace a full- or part-time temporary or permanent U.S. worker, and the work will help the student meet her or his objectives.


Application Process

To apply for a STEM OPT extension, an F-1 visa holder must:

  • Ask her/his educational institution’s Designated School Official (DSO) to sign a new Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status) and update the student’s record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) as authorized for the STEM OPT extension.
  • Submit Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) and the filing fee to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 60 days from the date the DSO enters the recommendation for the STEM OPT extension and up to 90 days before your current OPT employment authorization expires.
  • Submit a copy of her/his STEM degree and the updated and signed Form I-20 to USCIS.
  • Submit her/his employer’s name as listed in E-Verify and the employer’s E-Verify company identification number or a valid E-Verify client company identification number.

If the STEM OPT extension application was filed on time, but the OPT period expires while the extension is pending, USCIS will extend the employment authorization for 180 days.


Another Extension?

If an F-1 student enrolls in a new academic program in the future and earns another STEM degree at a higher educational level, the student may be eligible for one additional 24-month STEM OPT extension.

An F-1 student may continue to work on her or his expired EAD for OPT up to 180 days while a 240-month extension petition is pending if:

  • The student is currently in a period of post-completion OPT
  • The student files the application for the 24-month extension with USCIS in a timely manner.


Services for Students and Graduates

At Alcorn Immigration Law, we help international students obtain and extend visas, gain work experience, and figure out next steps once you graduate. If you have questions about your options, do not hesitate to contact us.


  • Fees
    • Form I-765 application fee: $410
  • Related Forms
    • Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status)
    • Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization Document)
  • Steps
    • Obtain endorsement for OPT from your educational institution’s Designated School Official.
    • File form I-765 with USCIS.
    • Petition up to one year at each educational level (undergraduate, graduate or post-graduate).
    • Extension of 24 months available to STEM graduates.
  • Immigrant Intent
    • None. You must plan to return to your home country. At the airport, border, or other port of entry, you will need to satisfy the U.S. government officer that you have a residence in your home country and do not intend to abandon it. You must demonstrate that your visit to the U.S. will end after a specific amount of time.
  • Who Qualifies
    • STEM students on an F-1 visa
  • Period of Stay
    • 2 years with no further extension unless the F-1 student earns another STEM degree.