24 Month STEM extension
Frequently Asked Questions
What degree qualifies for the STEM OPT extension?
To qualify for the STEM OPT extension, your degree program, as listed on your I-20 form, must be included on the list of eligible CIP codes published by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). If your degree program’s CIP code is not included on this list, you are not eligible for the STEM OPT extension.
Does employment on the 24-month STEM OPT extension have to be paid, and if so, how much?
Yes. “DHS has determined that as a result of the rule's general requirements, a student seeking a STEM OPT extension will not be allowed to use a volunteer opportunity as a basis for a STEM OPT extension.” According to the DHS, "The terms and conditions of a STEM practical training opportunity during the period of the 24-month OPT extension, including duties, hours, and compensation, must be commensurate with terms and conditions applicable to the employer's similarly situated U.S. workers in the area of employment.”
How many hours per week must I work?
You must work a minimum of twenty hours per week to be considered employed.
Does my employer have to use E-Verify?
What is Form I-983, and is it a requirement for the 24-month STEM OPT extension?
Before applying to USCIS for a STEM OPT extension, a STEM OPT student must download, complete, sign and submit the Form I-983 to the Director of International Student Services at firstname.lastname@example.org. The STEM OPT student and their prospective employer must work together to complete this form. STEM OPT students and their employers are subject to the terms of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations and Form I-983 instructions, effective as of the start date requested for STEM OPT, as indicated on the form.” (“Students and the Form I-983”)
How early can I apply for the 24-Month STEM OPT extension?
You may apply no earlier than 90 days before your post-completion OPT expires.
Can I apply for the 24-month STEM OPT extension during my 60-day grace period (following my post-completion OPT end date)?
What is the application process?
2. Office of International Student Services will issue you a new Form I-20 if you qualify for the STEM OPT extension. Please send a self addressed prepaid fed ex envelope to our Office.
3. You will receive your new STEM OPT extension I-20s from Office of International Student Services, sign them, and mail your application to USCIS according to the instructions on the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension Application Checklist.
4. The 24 month extension can take 90 days for USCIS to adjudicate. If USCIS has any questions, they will send you a request for information/evidence.
5. 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.
How long after receiving my Form I-20 must I mail my application to USCIS?
USCIS must receive your application within 60 days of the date your OPT was recommended in SEVIS. Since this date is not listed on your I-20, please make sure USCIS receives your application within 50 days of the date the I-20 was issued (the date next to the Office of International Student Services member’s name on the first page of your new I- 20).
Can I apply for a second STEM OPT extension to immediately follow my first STEM OPT extension?
No. Two periods of STEM OPT cannot immediately follow each other. There must be an intervening degree and a period of 12-month OPT between the STEM OPT extensions.
Can I travel while my STEM OPT application is pending and my EAD card has expired?
While your STEM OPT application is pending, your employment authorization is automatically extended for 180 days and your original EAD is considered unexpired when combined with the I-20 recommending the extension. DHS clarifies this in the preamble to the 24-month rule.
At the port of entry to the U.S. you will need to have:
- Receipt Notice from USCIS that your STEM OPT application is being processed
- EAD issued for your post-completion OPT (even if expired)
- Passport (valid for at least 6 months into the future)
- Valid F-1 visa
- Most recent I-20 with the STEM OPT recommendation signed by Jennifer Marks-Gold or Reshma Ajayan
- Proof of employment (e.g. a job offer)
That said, international travel while an OPT application is pending should be undertaken with caution. We cannot guarantee that you will have no problems at the port of entry when trying to reenter the U.S. The decision on readmission will be made by a CBP Officer.
I still have questions. Who can I contact?
Many questions regarding the 24-month STEM OPT extension can be answered by visiting the SEVP STEM OPT HUB website or reading their Frequently Asked Questions. If you still have questions after reading through this information, feel free to contact Jennifer Marks-Gold, Director of International Student Services at email@example.com.