STEM Extension

Students whose primary degree is in a qualified STEM field are qualified to receive an extension of the Standard OPT period. The STEM extension extends the period of OPT for an additional 24 months beyond the initial post-completion OPT period, for a total of 36 months.

Students should refer to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Study In The States website for much more information, including eligibility, instructions on completing Form I-983, and reporting requirements for both students and employers.

  • Eligibility Requirements
    • Students currently in a non-STEM degree can be eligible for a STEM OPT extension based on a previous STEM degree obtained in the U.S. from an accredited institution.
    • There is a new expanded list of STEM eligible CIP codes.
    • The student and employer will be required to complete Form I-983; more information about this form and how to fill it out can be found here.
    • There are additional reporting requirements (complete employer evaluations, exit survey, and more).
    • DHS is permitted to conduct employer site visits to confirm that training plan goals are being met.
    • Volunteering is no longer permitted on the STEM OPT extension.
      Students’ compensation must be commensurate to similarly situated U.S. workers.
    • Self-employment is not permitted.
    • Small start-up companies: May be possible, as long as the employer has an FEIN,  student is considered an “employee” and a supervisor can complete the I-983.
    • Most temporary agency and contract work will not be eligible
    • Up to 150 days of unemployment time (90 days from initial 12-month period of OPT, plus 60 additional days of unemployment time during the STEM extension); Any unused days from the initial period of OPT roll over into the STEM extension period.
  • Eligibility for Second Period of STEM OPT

    If you enroll in a new academic program in the U.S. in the future and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level, you may be eligible for a second period of 24-month STEM OPT  (i.e. two 24 month STEM OPT extensions may be permitted).

    Example: If you receive a 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your bachelor’s degree in computer science, and you later earn a master’s degree in computer science or another STEM eligible field, you may apply for Post-Completion OPT and then the additional 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your master’s degree.

  • Basic Steps for Applying for the STEM Extension
    • Apply before the expiration of your current post-completion OPT (standard or cap-gap), but no sooner than 90 days before that date; and no later than 60 days from the date the DSO recommended the STEM OPT in SEVIS.
    • Prepare the Form I-983 with your employer
    • Submit completed Form I-983 to iss@wfu.edu
    • Complete the eShip Global mail instructions so that ISSS can mail your new I-20 to you
    • ISSS will mail you a Form I-20 recommending you for the STEM extension with your employment details noted on Page 2.
    • Please refer to the STEM OPT Checklist on this webpage for instructions on how to assemble and mail your application to USCIS.
    • USCIS can take 90 days or more to adjudicate the STEM extension application.
  • Reporting Requirements After STEM extension approved

    Students on an approved STEM extension have various reporting responsibilities:

    1. 6-month Reporting Requirement: Students on an approved STEM extension are required to report details of their employment every 6 months, even if there is no change to their employment details. To report employment, complete the online form here: http://global.wfu.edu/iss/employment/opt/reporting-form/
    2. Annual Self-Evaluation: Students on an approved STEM extension are required to complete the first “Evaluation of Student Progress” portion of the Form I-983 within 12 months of the listed STEM OPT start date. (This is the top portion of page 5 on Form I-983.) At the end of the STEM OPT extension, a student must conduct a second, final assessment. (This is the bottom portion of page 5 on your I-983.) Once the evaluations are complete, the student must collect signatures from their employer and return the form to the ISSS office, which will keep it in the student’s student record. To submit a completed evaluation(s), please email iss@wfu.edu.
    3. Change of Employment: Remember that you may NOT report a change of employment or begin working for a new employer before submitting a new Form I-983 training plan to iss@wfu.edu. For more information, please visit: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students-stem-opt-reporting-requirements
  • STEM OPT FAQ's

    WHAT IF I HAVE HAD MORE THAN ONE EMPLOYER DURING MY PERIOD OF STEM OPT?

    You MUST complete a pre-and post-evaluation for each employer you have during your period of STEM OPT. If you are no longer working for an employer, and did not obtain a pre- and/or post-evaluation, you must contact the employer to obtain the necessary evaluation(s) and signature retroactively.

    WHAT IF I FAIL TO SUBMIT AN ANNUAL SELF-EVALUATION?

    An F-1 student who fails to submit an annual self-evaluation is not abiding by the reporting requirements of STEM OPT. While there are no immediate repercussions, failure to maintain proper reporting status can jeopardize a student’s future eligibility to remain in the U.S.

    WHAT IF I FORGOT TO UPDATE WFU ISSS REGARDING MY EMPLOYMENT OR ADDRESS INFORMATION? HOW DO I UPDATE THIS?

    For students currently using the STEM extension, remember that you may NOT report a change of employment or begin working for a new employer before submitting a new I-983 training plan to iss@wfu.edu.

    Please fill out the OPT Reporting Form on our website ONLY if you are reporting no change in employment (required to report every 6 months on STEM OPT):
    global.wfu.edu/iss/employment/opt/reporting-form

    STEM OPT & UNEMPLOYMENT REMINDER

    F-1 visa holders pursuing the STEM extension of OPT may not be unemployed for more than 150 days, applied to the entire period of standard post-completion and STEM OPT. In addition, any employment conducted while on the STEM extension must be with an employer registered with E-Verify.

    For more detailed information on student reporting responsibilities on STEM OPT, please visit: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students-stem-opt-reporting-requirements