Services for International Students and Scholars

17 Month OPT STEM Extension

An F-1 student who has completed a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctoral degree in a STEM field and who has been granted authorization to work on Post-completion Optional Practical Training (Post-completion OPT) may apply for a STEM extension as long as s/he has a job or job offer that is related to a degree in a STEM designated field and has an employer that is registered with E-Verify.  As of May 10, 2016, new 24-month STEM OPT regulations took effect.  Students that have a 17-month STEM extension must continue to abide by the 17-month STEM OPT regulations for the duration of the approved time period on their EAD card.  Students that received an additional 7-month extension must abide by the 24-month STEM OPT regulations during this additional approved period.

Students with a STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension have additional federal reporting requirements. Failure to satisfy these requirements will automatically invalidate the student’s F-1 status. STEM OPT students are required to confirm to the OGS every 6 months the validity of the following information (regardless if there is a change or not):

  • Legal name
  • Residential address
  • Employer name and address
  • Status of current employment

Please use the 6 Month Validation Report Form on the OGS website to submit your report. In addition, you are required to report to the OGS within 10 days any changes in the following:

  • Legal name
  • Residential address
  • Employer name and address
  • Status of current employment, including loss of employment or change of employer.

Please use the Address Update and Employer Update Forms on the OGS website to submit your updates.

If you plan to depart the US and abandon your STEM extension, complete the Request to Complete OPT & SEVIS Record

If you travel outside the United States or U.S. possessions during the approved STEM OPT extension period, to re-enter the country, you must present the following documents at the border:

  • Your passport valid for at least six months into the future
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp
  • I-20 with a valid travel signature. While you are participating in OPT, travel signatures are valid for only 6 months.
  • Your EAD card for STEM OPT Extension*
  • Proof of employment

*If your STEM OPT application is pending and you plan to travel abroad, please make sure your Post-OPT EAD will still be valid upon your re-entry to the US.  If your Post-OPT EAD is already expired, or will expire while you are out of the country, traveling abroad is NOT recommended.

  • STEM OPT extension may now be as long as 24 months after initial post-completion OPT period
  • Students may be eligible for up to two STEM OPT extensions based on two STEM degrees at different degree levels in a student’s lifetime (instead of just one)
  • Students now have the ability to apply for a STEM OPT extension based on a previously earned STEM degree from an accredited U.S. institution within 10 years under which the student has not previously applied for STEM OPT Extension.
  • DHS published a new expanded list of DHS STEM Designated Degree Program CIP Codes
  • Student and employer are required to complete the new Form I-983 in order to begin the STEM OPT extension process
  • Student has additional reporting requirements to maintain the STEM OPT authorization
  • Volunteering/unpaid employment is not permitted during the STEM OPT extension
  • Self-employment is not permitted during the STEM OPT extension
  • Students on STEM OPT may not work for less than 20 hours per week, so working for more than one employer is only permitted if each job is at least 20 hours per week
  • Employment through consulting firms that provide labor for hire and other relationships that do not constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship is not permitted. In case of employment through a staffing or temporary agency, the agency cannot complete and sign Form I-983. Only the E-verified employer that provides the actual training is authorized to sign and complete Form I-983. Please see DHS web site for more information
  • Students are permitted an additional 60 days of unemployment (previous rule allowed an additional 30 days) under the STEM OPT period in addition to the current 90 days of unemployment allowed under the initial 12 month post-completion OPT period; up to 150 days of total unemployment
Restrictions on types of employment permitted during 17-month STEM OPT

  • Any job the student has on STEM OPT must be related to his/her program of study
  • Students on STEM OPT are only allowed to work for e-verified employers
  • Volunteering/unpaid employment is permitted during the 17-month STEM OPT extension, as long as the employer is e-verified
  • Self-employment is permitted during the 17-month STEM OPT extension
  • Students on STEM OPT may not work for less than 20 hours per week, and may work for more than one employer
  • Employment through consulting firms and self-employment is permitted

Unemployment time during 17-month STEM OPT

Students are permitted an additional 30 days of unemployment under the STEM OPT period in addition to the current 90 days of unemployment allowed under the initial 12 month post-completion OPT period; up to 120 days of total unemployment.

If a student applied for a 7-month extension to his/her 17-month STEM OPT extension between May and August of 2016 and it was approved, then he/she would have a second STEM OPT EAD card with this additional set of dates.  During the original 17-months of STEM OPT, the student must continue to abide by the 17-month rules.  Once the 7-month STEM OPT extension EAD is valid, then the student must abide by the 24-month extension regulations.  Please visit the 24-month OPT STEM Extension section of our website for more details.