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24 Month STEM Extension of OPT

​F-1 students who completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a STEM field and are currently engaged in Post-Completion OPT may apply for a 24 Month STEM Extension of their OPT if they have a job or job offer from an e-verify employer.

Eligibility requirements

In order to qualify for a STEM extension, you must meet the following requirements:


  • Be currently participating in a 12-month period of approved, Post-Completion OPT and apply in advance of the current OPT’s expiration date.
  • Submit your materials to USCIS before the expiration of your current OPT, but no sooner than 90 days before your expiration date.
  • Complete Form I-983 STEM Training Plan with your employer (more details provided in the "Application Procedures" section below).
  • Be otherwise properly maintaining F-1 status:
    • No than 90 days of accrued unemployment during current OPT period.
    • Met all reporting obligations within the required 10-day reporting window, including reporting changes in employment and changes in address.


  • Have completed a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) as identified by the Department of Homeland Security. See the list of STEM-designated majors here on the Study in the States website.
  • NOTE: A qualifying degree that you have earned prior to your most recent degree may be considered for the STEM extension.

Employer and employment requirements

  • Be employed at the time of your application.
  • Work for, or have accepted employment with, an employer enrolled in the E- Verify Program (view more information about E-Verify here). Please check with the employer’s HR department to confirm if the company is enrolled.
  • Have a "bona-fide" relationship with your employer. This means that your employer holds the primary responsibility to ensure that you carry out the details outlined in your I-983 training plan. While you are permitted to work at a client site location, your employer's client should not be the entity providing direct supervision of your work. Read more about the employer eligibility requirements on the USCIS website (visit here) or on the Study in the States website (visit here).

If you are still unsure of your eligibility, please contact an OGE advisor for additional guidance.

Application procedure

If you are eligible for STEM based on the criteria above, follow these steps to begin the STEM extension request process:

Step 1: Plan ahead

You can request your STEM OPT Extension I-20 from ISSS as early as 90 days before your current 12-month OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card expiration date. USCIS must receive your STEM OPT extension application before your current 12-month OPT EAD Card expiration date. 

Please review the USCIS- Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT) site to prepare.

Step 2: Complete form I-983 with current employer

To apply for STEM OPT extension, you are required to submit a STEM training plan using Form I-983:

Step 3: Complete STEM OPT extension request with CMU

The STEM Extension request is available on under tab 3 once you are eligible to apply. Fill out the request completely and upload your I-983 in this request. Make sure to click submit at the end of the request. An advisor will then review this request. 

If there are any employment updates, you may submit them at this time. 

Once all steps are complete we will notify you that your I-20 is ready for pick up or download. 

Step 4: Complete the I-765 on USCIS's portal

To access the I-765 form, visit  USCIS's portal. 

Please note that the OPT application must be received by USCIS within 60 days of the OPT I-20 being issued (on page 1 of the I-20 by the Designated School Official's signature.

Once an application has been received by USCIS, it may take 90 or more days to complete processing. Premium processing is available for STEM OPT applications and can be filed at any time for an additional fee. If you timely filed your STEM OPT application before your OPT end date, you can continue working for 180 days past your Post-Completion OPT EAD end date while you wait for a response from USCIS. During that time you must meet the job requirements for STEM OPT, such as working for an E-Verify employer.

Frequently asked questions

What do I need to do if I change employers while on STEM OPT?

  1. Complete a new Form I-983 with your employer (download blank copy here). Keep in mind that any and all new employment you undertake on STEM OPT must meet the STEM OPT employer requirements. You can read about those requirements above.
  2. Submit a new employer report just like you did during your initial period of OPT (see reporting page here). The only difference is that you will answer "Yes" for question 1 and attach your completed I-983 to question 2.
  3. Complete and submit the final evaluation on student progress for your old employer using the Form I-983 you completed with them. This is the bottom box on page 5. Instructions on how to submit this are located on the bottom of this page under the "Submitting Final Evaluation When Changing Employers" heading. This final evaluation is in addition to the ongoing 6-month participation reports you must complete (see FAQ below).

Please note that all changes must be reported to the ISSS portal within 10 days of the change. Your deadline for each requirement may be different depending on when the change happened (i.e. if you left your old employer on a Friday and started your new employer on a Monday, your deadline to submit your final evaluation is 3 days earlier than your deadline to submit your new I-983).

What else am I required to report while on STEM OPT?

In addition to employment changes outlined in the FAQ above, you must also:

  1. Report address changes and employer changes to the international student portal within 10 days. The process for reporting this is the same as it was for your initial period of OPT (see the OPT reporting information here).
  2. Complete STEM participations reports every 6 months and student evaluations every 12 months. Directions on how to complete those reports are below.

Are there different requirements for my STEM OPT extension?

Yes. Here are summary of differences between STEM and 12-month OPT:

  • While on STEM, you are required to work full time (20 hours each week or more) for an E-Verify employer. This means that you can no longer be self-employed or count volunteer work as employment.
  • You must submit Form I-983 each time you report a new employer.
  • You must report your STEM participation every six months and student evaluations every 12 months. Instructions are provided below.
  • You must submit a completed final evaluation on page 5 of Form I-983 whenever you leave an employer. Instructions are provided below.
  • Your allowable days of unemployment increases from 90 days to 150 days. Any days of unemployment that you may have had during your 12-month OPT period count against this 150-day allowance.

How many days of unemployment can I accrue while on STEM OPT?

You are permitted to have no more than 150 days of unemployment throughout your entire 36 month period of post completion OPT once your STEM extension is approved. Any unemployment that you may have accrued while on 12-month OPT counts against the 150-day maximum. Another way to look at this is that you are given 60 additional days of unemployment while on STEM, which are added to any remaining days of unemployment that you might still have from your 12-month OPT period.

When does my STEM extension start and end?

Your STEM extension starts one day after your 12-month OPT expires and ends 24 months after the start date. This is true regardless of your USCIS approval date. See the OPT STEM Extension start and end date calculator for additional guidance on your specific start and end dates.

Can I change employers while my I-765 is pending with USCIS?

We advice against changing employers while your I-765 is pending since your I-765 names a specific employer. If you must change employers, please follow the procedure outlined above for reporting employment changes with on STEM OPT. This includes submitting a new I-983 for your new employer and the final evaluation on student progress for your old employer. When you submit your employer update, there will be an option to select that your I-765 for STEM OPT is pending and that you are changing employers.

I've heard that work at a client site may not be allowed. Is this true?

In early 2018, USCIS updated its website to indicate that work at a third-party site may not be allowed. This specific language has since been removed from the website, but the basic premise of having a "bona-fine" employer/employee relationship remains. Therefore, you should keep the following in mind:

  1. The employer that signs Form I-983 STEM Training Plan must be the employer that provides the practical training experience.
  2. Employer clients or customers cannot supervise a student's training experience.
  3. A STEM OPT employer may not assign its training responsibility to a non-employer third party (e.g. a client or customer).

You may read more about the employer requirements on the USCIS website (visit here) or on the Study in the States website (visit here).

We will issue a STEM I-20 so long as your employer properly completes and signs Form I-983. However, USCIS may issue an RFE or deny your STEM extension request in the event your relationship with your employer is unclear. We bear no responsibility in the event of a denial.

Submitting STEM participation reports

While on STEM OPT, you are required to submit participation reports every six months. These reports are due within 10 days of the required reporting period (6 months, 12 month, 18 months, and 24 months after your start date). To complete your participation reports, please complete the following:

  1. Go to the international student portal and log in with your CMU Global ID and password.
  2. Click on STEM OPT Report Participation - 6, 12, 18, or 24 month reports This will be under tab 3, requests.
  3. Choose the correct report to submit depending on the reporting period (6, 12, 18, or 24 months) and complete the required questions.

Please note: the 12 and 24 month reports require completion of the appropriate self-evaluation located on page 5 of Form I-983. You will be asked to upload a copy of your evaluation when you complete the reports for these reporting periods. The 6-month and 18-month reports do not require this self-evaluation component.

Submitting final evaluation when changing employers

SEVP requires students to submit a final evaluation when leaving an employer, even if the student's period of STEM OPT has not yet expired. To complete and submit this:

  1. Download Form I-983 and complete the final evaluation section of page 5. This does require a signature from the employer you are leaving or have already left. You do not need to complete any other part of the I-983 for this submission.
  2. Go to the international student portal and log in with your CMU Global ID and password.
  3. Click on STEM OPT Submit Final Employer Evaluation This will be under tab 3, requests.
  4. Under Questionnaires, click on Submit Final Evaluation Here When Changing Employers. Complete the required questions, upload your Form I-983 where directed, and click Submit at the bottom. An advisor will be notified of this and indicate your completion accordingly.