STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT)

F-1 students participating in post-completion OPT who have earned or are currently earning a bachelor’s, master’s or PhD may be eligible to apply for the 24-month STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension. A qualifying degree program will have its field of study/major listed on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) list of STEM-designated degree programs.

Eligibility for 24-Month STEM OPT Extension

You must:

  • Be maintaining valid F-1 status.
  • Be on a period of standard Post-Completion OPT.
  • Have not exceeded 90 days of unemployment during the post-completion OPT period and will not exceed that limit prior to the STEM OPT extension start date.
  • Hold a degree in a field of study (indicated on the I-20) which qualifies as STEM eligible according to the official STEM Designated Degree Program List.
  • Have previously earned (in the past ten years) or are currently earning (in thesis/dissertation status at Montclair State University only) a bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. which has its field of study/major listed on the Department of Homeland Security’s list of STEM-designated degree programs
  • Have not previously used the STEM OPT extension for this degree level
  • Have not previously used the STEM OPT extension more than once
  • Have a job offer from an employer enrolled in E-Verify. You cannot be self-employed.
  • Demonstrate the job is directly related to a STEM field.
  • Must be employed FULL TIME at more than 20 hours per week.
  • Confirm the job is paid.
  • Prepare and sign the Training Plan (Form I-983) together with your employer.
  • Apply before your current Post-Completion OPT expires.

Your employer must:

When to Apply to USCIS

  • No earlier than 90 days before your post-completion OPT expires
  • USCIS must receive your application while your post-completion OPT is still valid (unexpired), so you should submit your application to the Office of Global Engagement no later than 15 days before the end date of your post-completion OPT (listed on your EAD)

Note: Once your application is pending with USCIS, by law your OPT is automatically extended for up to 180 days or until USCIS adjudicates your application, whichever comes first.

How to Apply

STEP ONE:

Apply for STEM OPT Extension
  • Submit pages 1-4 of Form I-983 completed and signed. For instructions visit the Study in the States OPT Hub. You should also keep a copy for your own records. This form will ask you for your Designated School Official’s (DSO) name and contact information. You can find the name and contact information of your DSO/International Student Adviser under our Contact Us page.  You will also need the “SEVIS School Code of School Recommending STEM OPT” (including 3- digit suffix): NEW214F01039000 (can be found on your I-20). The I-983 must have original ink signatures (signed with a pen) OR  a “reproduced original signature” (an original ink signature that has been reproduced). It is fine for your employer to sign the I-983 form and email it to you.

STEP TWO:

The Office of Global Engagement will provide you with a new I-20 with STEM OPT recommended, if eligible.

Once you receive your new I-20, please review it and make sure all information is accurate.  If everything looks correct, you must sign your new I-20.  If there is an error, we highly recommend notifying the office and returning the I-20 as quickly as possible, so as to not delay your STEM OPT application process.

STEP THREE:

When submitting your I-765 application to USCIS, please be sure you have your documents on hand. If your application is approved, USCIS will mail you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for the STEM OPT extension, which will list the start and end dates you are authorized to work on the STEM OPT extension.