What is a STEM extension?
It is an extension of post-completion OPT available to students who graduate with a qualifying science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) degree and who meet other, additional requirements. Qualifying students may apply to extend their 12-month post-completion OPT for an additional 24 months.
How do I know if my program is considered STEM?
If you earned a degree in a field that that appears on the US government's official list of STEM fields, you may be eligible for the 24-month OPT extension. To check if your degree is on the list, look at the "Program of Study" field on page 1 of your I-20 to find the 6-digit code listed under "Major 1" and then look for that code in the CIP code column of the DHS STEM OPT Designated Programs List.
Currently, Animation (BFA), Comics (BFA), Graphic Design (BFA), Interaction Design (BFA), MBA in Design Strategy (DMBA), MFA Comics (full residency model only), Master of Design in Interaction Design (MDes) and Architecture (B'Arch, M'Arch and MAAD) are the STEM-designated degrees at CCA.
Who is eligible to apply?
To qualify for the 24 month STEM eligibility extension, you must:
- Be in F-1 status
- Be currently working in a period of post-completion OPT, and not exceeded the 90 days of unemployment
- Must be inside the United States at the time of application for the STEM OPT extension
- Have completed a bachelors degree or masters degree from a US school in an eligible STEM field
- Have a job offer that meets the following requirements:
- The job is with an employer enrolled in the USCIS E-Verify program. Check with your employer for this information if necessary.
- The job offers at least 20 hours per week (this cannot be split up between employers, the requirement is that each employer constitutes at least 20 hours)
- The job will provide documented formal training and learning objectives directly related to your qualifying STEM degree
- Be able to complete the I-983 training plan with your employer and submit it to ISAP at the time of STEM OPT application. Please review the I-983 form instructions for assistance.
- Be able to meet all reporting requirements during the STEM OPT period. See the Reporting Requirements section below.
*** Please note that self-employment, freelance projects, and unpaid / volunteer work is not allowed during the STEM OPT period.
When to Apply
- USCIS must receive your STEM OPT extension application before your current 12-month OPT EAD card expiration date.
- You may apply as early as 90 days before your current 12-month OPT EAD card expiration date.
Documents required to apply for the STEM OPT Extension:
- STEM OPT Extension Request Form
- Scan of 1 recent U.S. passport-sized photos
- Completed Form I-765 *STEM eligibility category: (C) (3) (C)
- Scan of the new I-20 with ISAP’s STEM OPT recommendation on page 2.
- Scan of any previously issued EAD (front and back)
- PDF most recent I-94.
- Scan of your passport ID page(s)
- Proof of your STEM degree: electronic final transcript and/or scan of your CCA diploma (or proof of your former schools degree if applying based on a previous degree completed)
- Pages 1 - 4 of Form I-983 training plan (Save page 5 to use for your 12 month and final evaluations)
- Credit card for $410 filing fee
In order to get your new I-20 with the STEM OPT Recommendation on it, you will need to submit your completed STEM OPT Extension request form, I-765, I-983, and proof of degree to a member of the ISAP team.
You can apply for the STEM Extension online at USCIS.GOV
Can I change employers while on STEM OPT?
Yes, you can, as long as you meet the requirements listed below.
- You must complete the final evaluation section of the I-983 training plan to close out your previous employer information within 10 days of leaving that job.
- Your new employer must be enrolled in the USCIS E-Verify program before you begin working.
- You will need to submit a new completed I-983 training plan to ISAP within 10 days starting the new job, including all required signatures from the employer.
Use the Report STEM OPT I-983 Update form on the right hand side of the page under "Resources" to submit the required forms to ISAP.
Reporting Requirements on STEM OPT
You must meet the following reporting requirements during your STEM OPT period using the reporting forms under the "resources" section on the right hand side of this portal page. Failure to meet these requirements could have a negative impact on your F-1 status and on any future application for benefits from USCIS (change of status to H-1, etc)
Reporting requirements are outlined on the Study in the States website here and are :
- 6 months : validate that current employment information and local address in SEVP portal account are correct
- 12 months : complete and submit self evaluation of training progress by completing the "Evaluation on Student Progress" section at the top of page 5 on the I-983 form and have employer sign. Submit completed evaluation to ISAP within 10 days of your 12 month STEM OPT period.
- 18 months : validate that current employment information and local address in SEVP portal account are correct
- 24 months : complete and submit "Final Evaluation on Student Progress" section on page 5 of the I-983 form to ISAP within 10 days of your last day of employment.
- Ending employment with current STEM OPT employer : you must submit the "Final Evaluation on Student Progress" section of page 5 of the I-983 form to ISAP within 10 days of your last day of employment.
Use the STEM OPT update and STEM OPT validation forms in the Resources section of this page to report your changes.
Applying for STEM OPT based on a previous degree
The new rule allows F-1 students to use a prior degree earned in the United States to qualify for the STEM extension. To be eligible based on a previously earned degree:
- You must have received your prior, qualifying STEM degree (bachelor's or higher) from an SEVP-approved US institution within 10 years of the date that you apply for the STEM extension with USCIS.
- The work being done on STEM OPT is directly related to the previously earned STEM degree program.
- You must have received your most recent degree (which does not need to be STEM) in the US and currently be on post-completion OPT
- The prior degree must be on the DHS STEM OPT Designated Programs List at the time you submit your STEM extension application. Note: You may need to contact the International Office at your previous school to determine if the CIP code used for that program is STEM-eligible.