A 17-month extension of post-completion Optional Practical Training in a student’s field of study may be available for students who meet eligibility criteria listed below.
- Students who have already been approved for 12 months of post-completion OPT; and
- Students who have earned a degree with a CIP Code (found on the top of page 3 of the I-20) in a field included on the U.S. Government’s list of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields; and
- Students who are working for an employer that is enrolled in the U.S. Government’s E-Verify program. E-Verify is a database system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration.
Please Note: All of the above criteria must be met in order for a student to be eligible for the 17-month OPT extension.
How to Apply
If you believe you are eligible and would like to apply for an OPT extension, please see the OPT STEM Extension Take Away for more information.
Your application for the OPT STEM Extension I-20 will be submitted through the Limited Services section of My OIS.
Starting and Ending Dates
The start date of the 17-month OPT STEM Extension will be automatically set to the day after the expiration of the current 12-month OPT authorization. The end date will be 17 months later. It is not possible to request smaller increments of time for the OPT STEM Extension.
Application time frame for the 17-month OPT extension
Students must apply for the special 17-month OPT extension prior to the expiration of the first 12 months of “regular” OPT. The application must be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of the EAD card. USCIS will not accept I-765 applications for STEM extensions any earlier than 120 days before the expiration date of the EAD card.
While the OPT STEM Extension application is pending
If the application for the 17-month OPT STEM Extension is received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of the initial EAD card, students may continue employment until the application is processed or until 180 days have passed, whichever is sooner.
While you are on the 17-month OPT STEM Extension
During the 17-month OPT STEM Extension, you are still in F-1 student status. Following the 17-month OPT STEM Extension, you are eligible for a 60-day grace period from the end-date of your OPT STEM Extension EAD card. You must obtain a travel signature from an OIS advisor every six months. See recommendations about travel here. In order to maintain your F-1 status, you have routine reporting requirements, similar to those during the initial 12-months of OPT. Please see below for additional information.
Students must report OPT STEM participation to OIS via the Limited Services section of My OIS within 10 days if there is any change in the following information:
- your name and physical address;
- your phone number and/or email address;
- your employer’s name and address;
- your employment status or loss of your employment; and
- any other pertinent information about your stay in the United States (i.e. change of status, transfer to a new degree program, etc.).
Students must report OPT participation to OIS every six months even if none of the above information has changed. As a courtesy, OIS will send reminders to the email address on file to request this information. However, you are responsible for reporting this information whether or not you have received a reminder. Failure to provide this information as directed will result in the termination of your F-1 status.
Limitations on Unemployment
Students approved for the 17-month OPT STEM Extension may not accrue more than 120 days of unemployment during the total 12-month initial + 17-month OPT STEM extension period of OPT. Employment must be paid and must be related to the field of study in order to qualify. Self-employment and volunteer positions will not qualify as valid employment for OPT purposes during the 17-month OPT STEM extension.
17-Month OPT STEM Extension Available Once
The 17-month OPT STEM Extension is only available to each student one time per lifetime. A student who is approved for a 17-month OPT extension can never apply for it again. Please note that this rule is different from the application rules for the “standard” 12-month OPT, under which students could be approved for multiple OPT periods for each higher degree earned in the U.S. (i.e. bachelor’s, then master’s, then doctoral).