EFFECTIVE May 10, 2016, F-1 students with STEM degrees may be eligible to apply for a 24-ß month extension of their post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Prior to May 10, the extended OPT period was 17 months. This means that qualifying STEM students could have a total of 36 months of OPT.
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Qualifying requirements:

The Student must:

  • Have received the initial 12 month OPT and must apply within the OPT validity period
  • Have earned a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctoral degree from a qualifying school at the time the STEM OPT application is filed
    • An F-1 student currently within the initial 12 month OPT period based on a non-STEM degree can use a previously obtained STEM degree to qualify for the extended STEM OPT. That previous STEM degree must have been obtained from a qualifying school and the job training must be directly related to such STEM degree.
    • OPT and extended STEM OPT is available for future degrees too as long as they are at a higher educational level. For example, an F-1 student may qualify for STEM OPT based on a Bachelor’s degree and subsequent Master’s and Doctoral degrees.
  • Work for an employer who meets all the requirements listed below
  • File Form I-765 up to 90 days before his/her current OPT employment authorization expires, and within 60 days of the date the DSO enters the recommendation for OPT into the SEVIS system.
  • Provide the OPT opportunity that is commensurate with those of similarly situated U.S. workers in terms od job duties, hours and compensation
  • Complete Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. In the form the employer will be attesting that:
    • It has enough resources and trained personnel to train the student
    • The student won’t replace a full-time or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. Worker
    • Working for the employer will help the student attain his/her training objectives

The Employer must:

  • Be enrolled in E-Verify and remain in good standing
  • Report material changes to the STEM OPT student’s employment to the DSO within 5 business days of the change occurring
  • Implement a formal training program to increase the student’s academic learning through practical experience

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may visit the employer’s worksite to verify that it is meeting the STEM OPT program requirements.

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