STEM OPT Eligibility for 24-Month Work Authorization

F-1 students with degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) may be eligible for a 24-month extension of their Post-Completion OPT work permission.

The OPT extension benefit changed substantially on May 10, 2016. To learn more about the changes to the STEM OPT Extension benefit, review the STEM OPT Hub. This resource is provided by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Study in the States website.

To be eligible for STEM OPT Extension, the F-1 student must:

  • Be on a period of standard Post-Completion OPT.
  • Hold a degree in a field of study (indicated on the I-20) that is on the official STEM Designated Degree Program List.
  • Have a job offer from an employer enrolled in E-Verify and that has a Federal Employer Identification Number.
  • Demonstrate the job is directly related to a STEM field.
  • Prepare and sign the Training Plan (Form I-983).
  • Submit an application to USCIS before their current Post-Completion period of OPT expires.

Eligibility for a second period of STEM OPT after higher degree:

  • If you enroll in a new academic program in the U.S. in the future and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level, you may be eligible for a second period of 24-month STEM OPT.
  • Example: You earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science. You apply for Post-Completion OPT and then a 24-month STEM OPT Extension. You then earn a master’s degree in computer science. You are eligible to again apply for Post-Completion OPT and another 24-month STEM OPT Extension based on your earned master’s degree.  

Eligibility based on a previously obtained STEM degree

If you are currently in a degree field (or on Post-Completion OPT) that is not STEM eligible, but you 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:

  • You must have received both degrees from currently accredited and SEVP-certified institutions.
  • Your previous degree cannot have been earned more than 10 years ago.
  • Your previous degree is on the official STEM Designated Degree Program List.
  • You did not receive STEM OPT extension based on the previous degree.
  • Your employment is directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree.
  • Your employer is enrolled in E-Verify and has a Federal Employer Identification Number.

Last Updated: 9/8/16