OPT Extension for STEM F-1 Students
Degree holders in certain STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) may apply for a one-time, seventeen (17) month extension of post-completion OPT, for a total of twenty-nine (29) months of OPT.
Who is eligible to apply?
How long is the STEM extension valid, and when does it begin?
What are the regulations during the STEM OPT extension?
How and when do I apply, and how am I notified of the outcome?
In order to qualify, the student must meet all of the requirements listed below:
- Have studied on an F-1 visa and completed a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree at HPU in a qualified STEM field;
- Be currently participating in a period of post-completion OPT, working for or having a job offer from an E-Verify approved employer in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study;
- Must not have previously received a 17-month OPT extension after earning a STEM degree;
- Meet all other requirements of student pursuing standard post-completion OPT.
Students approved for the OPT STEM extension are eligible for an additional seventeen (17) months of OPT following their initial twelve (12) months of post-completion OPT, for a total of twenty-nine (29) months of OPT. The employment authorization period for the 17-month OPT extension begins on the day after the expiration of the initial post-completion OPT employment authorization, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved.
If the student's Employment Authorization Document (EAD) expires while a STEM extension is pending, the student may continue to work. Per filing for the STEM extension, the student's work authorization is automatically extended until a final decision or for 180 days, whichever comes first. Should the extension be denied, the student will have the standard sixty (60) days to leave the U.S.
Should a student have their application for extension approved, procedures and timelines for departing the United States will be identical to those of students without the extension: departure by sixty (60) days after completing OPT.
In addition to the regulations for standard OPT, additional requirements apply for students working on the OPT STEM extension.
The student must be employed by an E-Verify approved employer by the first day of the student's OPT STEM extension. If the student is employed by a non-E-Verify employer for the initial post-completion OPT, the employer must either register and be approved via the E-Verify system prior to the student's first day of employment or the student must find employment with an E-Verify employer. Should the student switch employers, this information must be reported to International Student Services.
Due to the increased length of employment for students working on the OPT STEM extension, these students are eligible for an additional thirty (30) days of unemployment on top of the ninety (90) days for standard OPT recipients, for a total of 120 days of unemployment during the course of OPT (including the extension).
If a student has departed from an employer while on the OPT STEM extension, both the student and the employer must agree to report this information to International Student Services and "any other means or process identified by DHS." An employer must consider a worker to have departed when the employer knows the student has left employment, or if the student has not reported for work for a period of five (5) consecutive business days without the employer’s consent. The employer should provide the student’s name, SEVIS ID number (if available), and the date that the student’s employment ended.
Students with an approved 17-month OPT extension must report any changes to the following:
- Job title or position;
- Supervisor name and contact information;
- Employment start-date;
- Employment end-date.
The student must also submit a validation report to International Student Services every six (6) months until the conclusion of the 17-month extension confirming the following information:
- Student's name and address;
- Employer's name and address;
- Loss of employment (if applicable).
This report is due to International Student Services within ten (10) days of each pre-determined reporting date.
If a student's OPT STEM extension request is pending and their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is expired, the student may not travel outside of the United States prior to receipt of the new EAD.
Similar to the initial application for OPT, the student must file Form I-765 (along with the associated fee) with the USCIS Service Center serving the area of the student’s current residence, along with a copy of the student's degree. This copy can be met by submitting official transcripts, unofficial transcripts, or a copy of the student's diploma showing the level and program of study. These materials must be received by USCIS between 3-4 months prior to the expiration of the student's current EAD.
As with regular OPT, an HPU International Student Advisor will need to make a recommendation for extension in SEVIS and print an I-20 form to be submitted along with the student's application. Attendance at an HPU provided OPT Workshop, while required for initial OPT approval, is not required for approval of an extension.
Notification of a student's outcome is conducted identifically to that when applying for initial post-completion OPT.
- For Item #16, enter (c)(3)(c).
- For Item #17, enter:
- Your degree name as shown on your I-20, along with the associated CIP Code. The USCIS adjudicator will verify that the student’s degree is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List by using the CIP Code. If you have a secondary major indicated in SEVIS, the associated CIP Code should also be provided on the form and the second major annotated on the I-20 by the International Student Advisor.
- Your employer's name as listed in E-Verify, and the employer's E-Verify company identification number or valid E-Verify client company identification number.
For more information about OPT provided directly from the U.S Citizenship & Immigration Service, click here.