Optional Practical Training Extension F-1 STEM Students

STEM StudentsBy choosing to study a STEM major in the USA, you have the opportunity to take full advantage of the benefits of an Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. Under normal circumstances, international students who have earned a degree can stay and participate in an OPT program for one year. STEM students have the flexibility to extend their stay in the U.S. for an additional 24 months with an OPT extension. Now that students are prioritizing work-study opportunities, you can make the most of those opportunities with the additional time provided to you after graduating with your degree.

Your OPT program in the U.S. has the added benefit of being listed as a major accomplishment on your resume. Gaining experience through internships and real-world opportunities in U.S. companies gives you global marketability. This can translate into better jobs, higher salaries and a brighter outlook when you return to your home country.

Certain F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees may apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion optional practical training (OPT).

Eligibility for the STEM OPT Extension

Source: US Citizenship and Immigration Services

To qualify for the 24-month extension, you must:

  • Have been granted OPT and currently be in a valid period of post-completion OPT;
  • Have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a school that is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency and is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) at the time you submit your STEM OPT extension application.
    • Previously obtained STEM degrees: 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 previous STEM degree 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 previous degree. The practical training opportunity also must be directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree.
      • For 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.
    • STEM degrees you obtain in the future: 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.
    • Work for an employer who meets all the requirements listed below in the STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities section.
    • Submit the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, up to 90 days before your current OPT employment authorization expires, and within 60 days of the date your designated school official (DSO) enters the recommendation for OPT into your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.

Applying for a STEM OPT Extension

To apply for an extension, you must properly file:

  • Form I-765 with
    • The correct application fee,
    • Your employer’s name as listed in E-Verify, and
    • Your employer’s E-Verify Company Identification Number or valid E-Verify Client Company Identification Number
  • Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, endorsed by your DSO within the last 60 days; and
  • A copy of your STEM degree.

If you file your STEM OPT extension application on time and your OPT period expires while your extension application is pending, we will automatically extend your employment authorization for 180 days. This automatic 180-day extension ceases once USCIS adjudicates your STEM OPT extension application. F-1 students who have a pending STEM OPT extension application are not eligible for the temporary increase of the automatic extension period under the temporary final rule published on May 4, 2022. That temporary increase of the automatic extension period under 8 CFR 274a.13(d) only applies to the categories listed in the chart on the Automatic Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Extension page.

After Receiving a STEM OPT Extension

Student Reporting Responsibilities

If you receive a STEM OPT extension, you must:

  • Report changes to the following information to your DSO within 10 days of the change:
    • Your legal name
    • Your residential or mailing address
    • Your email address
    • Your employer’s name
    • Your employer’s address
  • Report to your DSO every 6 months to confirm the information listed above, even if none of your information has changed.

For more information, please refer to the DHS STEM OPT Hub.


A STEM degree will place you in a high-demand job market that is projected to grow in the coming years. Given that the U.S. invests heavily in STEM students, particularly in diverse communities, there are unique options to explore if you choose to earn your STEM degree in the U.S.

Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students