STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) | Current International Students
Students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields may qualify to apply for an additional 24 months of work authorization beyond their initial 12 months of standard post-completion OPT. Students are limited to one STEM extension per level of study, but may be eligible for a second STEM extension after completing an additional STEM degree at a higher level. Not all STEM fields are designated for this extension. The list of eligible STEM fields is available on the Department of Homeland Security website. More details about the STEM extension are explained at https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub.
STEM OPT Eligibility
To be eligible for STEM OPT, you must:
- Be in a valid period of post-completion OPT authorization.
- Have earned a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a designated STEM field. (To determine if your major is a STEM designated field, refer to the primary major listed on your Form I-20.)
- Under certain circumstances, a student may use a prior STEM degree to be eligible for a STEM extension. This means a degree earned before your most recent Carroll degree. To use a prior degree, the student must:
- Have received their most recent degree from an accredited U.S. university
- Have received their prior, qualifying STEM degree (at the bachelor's level or higher) within 10 years of applying for the STEM OPT extension
- Have not used the prior STEM degree as the basis for a previous STEM extension
- Work for an employer that must:
- Be registered in the E-Verify Program
- Work with the student to complete the Form I-983 Training Plan and sign the I-983 to certify it is true and correct
- Agree to review the student's annual self-evaluation and report the termination or departure of an OPT employee to the DSO at the student’s school if the termination is prior to the end of the OPT period.
Please note that unpaid positions, self-employment, and working for a staffing company or temporary agency generally do not qualify as employment for a STEM extension.
STEM OPT Application
CU STEM OPT Information and Extension Request Form can be found through the International Student Support Canvas course or through directly emailing a DSO.
Reporting Requirements While on STEM OPT
Because your F-1 status continues during STEM OPT, you are required by law to report changes to certain information within 10 days. You can report these changes using the OPT Verification Form so the International Student Advisor can record them in SEVIS. These changes include:
- Residence or mailing address in the United States
- Legal name
- United States legal status (i.e. inform us if you change your status to H1-B, J-1, H-4, etc.)
- Employer name or worksite address
- Changes to your I-983 Training Plan (such as job title, company name, responsibilities, supervisor name, worksite address). Please send a new Form I-983 signed by you and your employer
- Information about any disruption of your employment such as job termination
Every six (6) months from the start date of your STEM OPT authorization, you must complete an OPT Verification Form about your employment. Reporting is necessary even if nothing has changed with your employer. OGE will reach out to you to provide a reminder prior to the 6 month date, but it is your responsibility to submit this form in a timely way. Please make sure that you provide your current email address to OGE so that they can easily contact you.
While on approved STEM OPT, you must write an annual self-evaluation and must report to the International Student Advisor about the progress of your training experience. Complete the evaluation section of Form I-983 (page 6 or 7) and send an electronic copy to your international student advisor, who will include it with your record.
Periods of Unemployment during STEM OPT
During STEM OPT maintaining your F-1 status is dependent upon employment. You may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during the total OPT period comprising your initial post-completion OPT and the subsequent 24-month STEM extension. Each day during the authorized OPT period that you do not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment.
Contact an OGE Advisor for more information.