24-month STEM Optional Practical Training

The 24-month STEM OPT extension allows certain F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees, and who meet other specified requirements, to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT. 

For more detailed information about the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension, visit these resources:

You must meet the following criteria to apply for the 24-Month STEM OPT extension:

  • You are currently on active, regular F-1 post-completion OPT.
  • You have completed a degree, or have a prior degree at the bachelor’s level or higher, in a field that is currently included on DHS’s STEM Designated Degree Program List.
  • The STEM degree is from a school that is accredited by a recognized U.S. Department of Education accrediting agency and is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) at the time of submitting your STEM OPT extension application. Visit the Database of Accredited
    Postsecondary Institutions and Programs
     for the full list of recognized accrediting agencies.
  • You have not received a STEM OPT extension before for the same degree level. The degree that serves as the basis for a second lifetime STEM OPT extension, however, must be at a higher educational level than the degree that served as the basis for the first STEM OPT extension.
  • Your employer must be in good standing with the E-Verify program as determined by USCIS.
  • You and your employer agree to submit Form I-983.

Previous STEM degrees:  If you are currently active in the 12-month post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree, you may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree from a U.S. institution of higher education to apply for a STEM OPT extension IF:

  1. Both degrees are from currently accredited and SEVP-certified institutions; 
  2. You have not already received a STEM OPT extension based on this prior degree;
  3. The employment is directly related to the previous STEM degree.

Reminders:

  • Third-party or staffing agencies do not qualify as eligible employers for the 24-month STEM OPT extension. 
  • Students on approved 17-month STEM OPT are not required to apply for the seven-month extension. They can choose to complete the rest of their approved STEM OPT under the STEM OPT rules in effect prior to May 10, 2016.

When to Apply

You can submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and all required documents to ISS up to 90 days before your current post-completion OPT employment authorization expires.  Your application will be denied if you do not file your application with USCIS within 60 days of the date that your STEM OPT I-20 is issued. 

You may not apply for STEM OPT extensions during the 60-day grace period of post-completion OPT.

Use the following tools to help you calculate your specific application period:

Continuation of Employment
USCIS may take up to 90 days to process your application. If you file your OPT STEM extension application in a timely manner, you will receive an extension of employment authorization while your application is pending for up to 180 days, or the date of the decision over your request, whichever date is earlier.

How to Apply

Step 1
Review the STEM OPT Workshop Tutorial: 


Step 2
Prepare your 24-MONTH STEM OPT Extension Application Materials:

  • Completed 24-Month STEM OPT Calculator [XLSX] 
  • Completed 24-MONTH STEM OPT Extension Request [PDF]. Scanned forms will not be accepted. Forms filled out by hand will not be accepted.
  • Job offer letter from an employer that is registered with the E-Verify Program and has an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Completed Form I-983 pages 1-4 only. The STEM OPT student and their E-Verified employer must work together to complete this form before applying for the STEM OPT extension. Only Verified, electronic signatures & written signatures will be acceptable in this form. Refer to Step 1 for additional help in filling out Form I-983. 
  • Completed Employer Attestation Form [PDF]. Only Verified, electronic signatures & written signatures will be acceptable in this form. 
  • Personal check or money order for $410 Made payable to: U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Get instructions for How to fill out a check or money order [PDF].
  • Two identical ID Photos no more than 30 days old— U.S. passport style. Visit the U.S. Department of State Photo Guidelines.
  • Form G-1145 E-Notification of Application 
  • Form I-765 (Original, non-scanned) with supporting documents listed below. Scanned versions of this form are acceptable. Only written signatures are accepted in this form. Review Tips to fill out Form I-765.
    • Copy of Passport information/photo page (valid for at least 6 months)
    • Copy of your F-1 Visa
    • Copy of all previously issued EAD cards (front and back)
    • I-94 Card (front & back of paper card or electronic print out)
    • Copy of your qualifying U.S. Degree
    • Copy of your official transcripts (for your qualifying U.S. Degree)

Step 3
Submit evidence of eligibility to the DSO to obtain your STEM OPT I-20. Use the 24-Month STEM OPT Online Submission Tool.

Step 4
File the complete Application for Work Authorization an all supporting documents to USCIS in a timely manner. Your application will be denied if you do not file with USCIS within 60 days of the date that your STEM OPT I-20 is issued. Use the STEM OPT Coversheet you will receive with your new I-20 to complete this step.

Step 5
USCIS reviews the application and makes a decision. You should expect your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to arrive within 90 days of your receipt date.

  • Within three weeks from filing, you will receive a Receipt Notice of Action (Form I-797) in the mail with your case number.
  • Use the case number to check the status of your application online at CASE STATUS ONLINE
  • If you have any issues while your application is pending make sure you contact an International Student Advisor.

Employment Requirements:

  • The job must be directly related to the degree that qualified you for the STEM OPT extension. The job must be a paid job, for at least 20 hours per week per employer.
  • The employer must be enrolled in the E-Verify program and have an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN); there must be a 'bona fide employer-employee relationship, and you may not be self-employed. Finally, the employer must have sufficient resources and personnel available to provide the training specified in Form I-983.
  • The job's compensation and working conditions must be 'commensurate with terms and conditions applicable to the employer are similarly situated U.S. workers in the area of employment.
  • Do not exceed the unemployment cap.

Reporting Requirements:

You will be required to submit several mandatory requirements throughout your time in STEM OPT. Follow the steps below to report on time. Remember that you will be out of status if you fail to report as required.

  1. Understand the Mandatory Requirements [JPG]
  2. Use the 24-Month STEM OPT Calculator [XLSX]  to calculate the due dates for each specific reporting requirements
    Notice that reporting dates will vary for every student depending on the start date of the 24-Month STEM OPT extension EAD.
  3. Complete the STEM OPT updates required and submit to ISS within 10 business days from the deadline. 

For additional help understanding your mandatory reporting requirements for students and employers, visit 
Study in the States.

F-1 Students on OPT must carry the following documents:

  1. I-20, signed for travel by an International Student Advisor within the last 6 months.
  2. Passport, valid for at least 6 months beyond your expected date of entry into the United States.
  3. Valid F-1 student visa in passport (except students from Canada)
  4. Unexpired EAD or a copy of the OPT Receipt/Approval Notice, if the EAD has not yet arrived.
  5. Letter from your current or prospective employer verifying that you are returning to the United States to continue or to accept new employment.
  6. Contact information of your DSO.
  7. Make sure you have not exceeded unemployment time and that you continue to maintain F-1 status by fulfilling all mandatory reporting requirements.

Ending STEM OPT
Report the end of your OPT period at any time by submitting OPT end date information as a student request

Grace Period
F-1 students who complete their OPT period successfully until the end of their Employment Authorization Card (EAD) have a 60-day grace period. During the grace period, students must prepare to depart the U.S., gain a new F-1 status, or change to another immigration status.

Transfer
A Transfer out Request must be submitted to ISS within the grace period if you plan to start a new academic program at a school other than CSULB.

H-1B Cap Gap Extension
Current regulations allow certain students with pending or approved H-1B petitions to remain in F-1 status during the Cap-Gap period. This is referred to as filling the "Cap- Gap," a way of filling the "gap" between the end of F-1 status and the beginning of H-1B status.

Complete this form and submit it online along with any applicable supporting documents to request an update Form I-20:  H1-B Cap Gap Extension

Can I still work while my application is pending but my current card has expired?
As long as you file your OPT STEM extension application in a timely manner, you will automatically receive an extension of employment authorization for up to 180 days while your application is pending. There is no other confirmation for this extension except STEM OPT I-20, which will indicate the authorization to continue.

How do I complete page 1 of Form I-983?  
Look at Form I-983_CSULB pre-filled document or Students and the Form I-983 in the STEM OPT Hub.

What is the current fee of the 24-Month STEM OPT application?
$410 U.S. Dollars

What if I change employers while my application is pending?
You can update the employer. Please follow these steps:

  • Submit a new form I-983 signed by new employer to CIE.
  • Submit an employment and address update form to CIE. You can access the STEM OPT Employment & Address Update Form from our website and receive an updated I-20.
  • Sign and make a copy of the updated I-20.
  • Write a Cover Letter addressed to USCIS explaining the change of employer and asking them to update your application. The memo should include among other things: your full name, SEVIS ID number, and receipt number.
  • Mail the following documents to the Service Center currently processing your request. The correct address will be listed in your Receipt Notice (Form I-797 Notice of Action):
    • Cover letter
    • Copy of your receipt notice.
    • Copy of updated I-20
    • Updated form I-765
    • Offer letter from new employer with E-verify number

How do I report any of the mandatory reporting requirements?
Submit the STEM OPT Employment and address update form to CIE to report:

  • Change of Address
  • Change of Employer or termination of employment  
  • Validation Report   
  • Annual self-evaluation     
  • Material changes to Form I-983
  • End of STEM OPT

What is the difference between the filing deadline of my application and the request deadline for the STEM OPT extension?
The filing deadline is the date when USCIS must receive your application. On the other hand, when you request your extension, it means that you are submitting your STEM OPT request to CIE to input the STEM OPT recommendation in your SEVIS record.

Am I still accountable to fulfill the mandatory requirements, even if my application is pending?
Yes, you will be expected to follow all 24-Month STEM OPT regulations from the day you file your application to USCIS including all mandatory reporting requirements.