- Visa Categories
- F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) 24-Month STEM Extension
F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) 24-Month STEM Extension
Degree recipients in certain STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) can apply for a 24-month STEM extension of OPT if specific criteria is met.
Requirements for the 24-Month STEM Extension
Under the Preamble to the STEM extension final rule [81 FR 13079], please note:
“There are several aspects of the STEM OPT extension that do not make it apt for certain types of arrangements, including multiple employer arrangements, sole proprietorships, employment through ‘‘temp’’ agencies, employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, and other relationships that do not constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship… Accordingly, DHS clarifies that students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Training Plan, and the employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience. DHS recognizes that this outcome is a departure from SEVP's April 23, 2010 Policy Guidance (1004-03)."
Terms and Conditions for Employer Participation
DHS has recently provided additional guidance regarding the employer-employee relationship during the F-1 STEM extension.
This information can be found on the Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT) article from USCIS.
- The employment must be directly related to the student’s field of study.
- Students must be currently engage in post-completion OPT.
- Students must have graduated with one of the qualified STEM degrees with a qualifying CIP code. See question #2 in the FAQ section below for more details.
- The employment must be with an employer who is in the E-Verify system.
- The employer must agree to report the termination or departure of an OPT employee to the DVS.
- The request for the 24-month extension must be submitted to USCIS before the current OPT EAD expires. Students may apply for the OPT STEM extension up to 90 days before the end of the post-completion OPT period. USCIS must receive the student's STEM OPT application package before the expiration of the student's current post-completion OPT (standard, 24-month STEM, or cap-gap), and no later than 60 days from the date the DSO recommended the benefit in SEVIS. The DSO recommends the STEM extension benefit in SEVIS by issuing and signing a NEW I-20 and submitting the I-20 with the STEM extension I-765 application. DO NOT mail the I-765 application without the new I-20 recommending the STEM extension.
Application Process for the 24-Month STEM Extension
Students can mail the STEM extension requests to DVS for processing. You will need to send the following:
- Completed original signed I-765. Use the code (c)(3)(C) in item 16 of the I-765. Remember to complete the degree and employer information in item 17. Your employer must provide the E-Verify information.
- Two (2) original Passport-style photographs (see Passport Photo Requirements).
- Copies of all I-20s issued for each academic program.
- Copies of passport info page(s) including expiration date.
- Copy of visa stamp/foil.
- Copy of electronic I-94 page denoting F-1 duration of status (d/s).
- Copy of OPT EAD.
- Copy of your Duke degree and Duke transcripts reflecting your field of study and graduation date.
- Check or money order for $410 made payable to the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security.
- Completed I-983.
- A FedEx account number or complete waybill slip or prepaid US mail envelope in order to return the new I-20 to you. Along with the address of where to send the new Form I-20. Our office can no longer accept cash, checks or credit card numbers.
- Please review our SEVIS Reporting Requirements For Students On Optional Practical Training webpage for additional requirements.
- Students must make a validation report every 6 months starting from the date the STEM extension began, ending when the student's F-1 OPT ends or the STEM extension ends, whichever is first. The validation report must include the student's:
- Full legal name.
- SEVIS identification number.
- Current residential address.
- Current employer's name and address.
- Date the student began working for the current employer.
Example: If your 12 months of OPT ends May 15 and your additional 2 months begins on May 16, then your first 6-month validation period ends November 15 and your validation report is due. Your second 6-month period would end May 15, with the validation report and your first 12-month I-983 evaluation due.
Employers must report your termination to Duke within 48 hours, and Duke must report that termination in SEVIS.
Students requesting updated I-20s reflecting employer information should use our New I-20 STEM Request Form.
If you have questions regarding the application process, please email the appropriate advisor listed below:
Frequently Asked Questions
To receive this benefit ALL of the following must be true:
- You must already have and be in the initial 12-month OPT status. You cannot get the full 36 months approved up front.
- Your degree must be in specific Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) fields as defined in the regulation per a Department of Education (DoEd) CIP code list.
- Your employer must be participating in the E-Verify electronic employment verification program.
- You must submit to DVS a completed I-983 form which verifies your employment meets the STEM criteria.
CIP codes are a U.S. Department of Education (DoEd) categorization of educational programs in the U.S. Universities assign CIP codes to degrees according to the DoEd list. The federal government and educational programs use the CIP codes for a wide array of reporting and record-keeping purposes. A current listing can be found at ICE STEM Designated Degree Programs webpage.
If your degree field is not listed, then you are not eligible. For example business and law and many other fields are not on the list. If you have had a Form I-20 issued recently, you should find your CIP code printed on page 3. At Duke, the Office of the Registrar, the SISS Office, and academic departments determine which CIP codes are assigned to degree programs. Completed courses in science or math will not make you eligible if your degree is not on the eligible CIP code list.
3. I currently hold OPT and my degree is in one of the eligible CIP codes. Now, how do I know if my employer participates in E-Verify? If it does not participate, how do I get my employer to sign up quickly so that I can qualify for the additional 24 months to continue work? If I need to look for an employer that participates in E-Verify, how do I do that? If my employer will not adopt E-Verify, what can I do?
The easiest way to know if your employer is in E-Verify is to ask someone in the Human Resources or Payroll department of your employer. E-Verify employers will know if they participate. E-Verify affects all new hires for an employer, not just OPT students. If your employer does not participate, it may or may not be willing to adopt E-Verify to accommodate a few OPT employees. For more information on E-Verify that you can read and share with your employer see the DHS web site at the USCIS E-Verify webpage.
You can look up employers that participate in E-Verify with the USCIS E-Verify Employers Search Tool.
If your employer is not in E-Verify and is unwilling to participate, then you cannot get the extra 24 months to work for that employer; you will have to look for another employer or end your OPT at 12 months.
For the STEM 24 extension, the rule sets the aggregate unemployment time at 150 days which includes the standard 12 months and 24 month STEM extension. Aggregate means that you add up individual days, even if they are spaced apart. The rule is not clear on who will be counting this time and what action the DHS will take when it is reached, but you must report these interruptions in employment. (See Q5 below regarding reporting.) DHS could deny future benefits or take other action. Students should be mindful of the rule for the future, keep records of self-employment and volunteer activities, and manage their employment carefully.
You are already required to report changes of address within 10 days of any move. We have instructions for that on our Change of Residential Address webpage. You may make all of the following reports easily and electronically through the "Address Update" portal.
After you report to Duke, Duke must report key information to DHS through SEVIS in order to keep your SEVIS file open and your employment authorization valid. Your employer must also report to the school within 48 hours of termination of your employment, and the school must report that termination in SEVIS. While there is no established process, an employer can send an email to your DVS advisor to report the termination.
Please review the Department of Homeland Security's Form I-983 Overview webpage for detailed instructions on how to complete this form.
If you are an F-1 student participating in a 12-month period of post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree, you may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree earned from a U.S. institution of higher education to apply for a STEM OPT extension. You must have received both degrees from currently accredited and SEVP-certified institutions, and cannot have already received a STEM OPT extension based on this prior degree. The practical training opportunity also must be directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree.
Example: If you are currently participating in OPT based on a master’s degree in business administration but you previously received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, you may be able to apply for a STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor’s degree as long as it is from an accredited U.S. college or university and the OPT employment opportunity is directly related to your bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
If you enroll in a new academic program in the future and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level, you may be eligible for one additional 24-month STEM OPT extension.
For example: If you receive a 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor’s degree in engineering and you later earn a master’s degree in engineering, you may apply for an additional 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your master’s degree.