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F-1 OPT: STEM Extensions


This benefit for F-1 students was originally introduced in 2008 under previous guidance. On May 10, 2016, new Federal regulations took effect governing the STEM Extension OPT option. In summary:

  • STEM Extension OPT is granted for 24 months, following an approved and unexpired 12-month OPT period, for students who have completed a US degree program in a STEM-designated field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.
  • Eligible students can apply for this benefit based on a previous STEM degree earned in the US, provided it was completed within 10 years of the school’s recommendation for the new STEM Extension.
  • The STEM Extension is available twice during a student’s lifetime, provided the second authorization period follows completion of a higher-level STEM degree than the first approved extension.
  • During the authorized 24-month STEM Extension, a 150-day unemployment limit is available as an aggregate total over the three years of OPT and STEM Extension periods combined.
  • The Form I-983 Training Plan must be maintained between the student and their employer, describing specific goals and achievement methods of the training opportunity, a performance evaluation process, and supervisory structure throughout the STEM Extension period. Form I-983 will need to be updated for any change(s) and submitted to ISO promptly.
  • Employers must agree to certain employer responsibilities and criteria in order to host a STEM Extension trainee, including enrollment in E-Verify, verification of annual evaluations; protections for US workers under comparable duties, hours, and compensation; and reporting to ISO. Employers may also be subject to site visits from the US Department of Homeland Security to evaluate the training resources and structure.

Please contact ISO to discuss your plans with an ISO Advisor. Additionally, government guidance and resources for STEM Extensions can be found on the Department of Homeland Security’s Study in the States website


Eligible F-1 students may apply for the OPT STEM Extension with a recommendation from their current sponsoring academic institution.

You must meet the following eligibility criteria before preparing the application:

  • Maintaining valid F-1 status and currently pursuing authorized post-completion OPT employment directly related to your field of study at the University of Rochester
  • Completed a qualified bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a STEM field within the past 10 years, as designated by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Submit a completed and signed Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students to the International Services Office (ISO) when requesting the STEM Extension recommendation
  • Employed, or will be employed, during the STEM Extension period, by a qualified and responsible employer
  • Not previously authorized for two periods of STEM Extension OPT
  • Current Post-Completion OPT

    The STEM Extension will only apply to current OPT authorizations that were originally approved as post-completion, either after completion of all degree requirements or all requirements excluding the thesis. The initial 12-month OPT authorization period must also be unexpired and the unemployment limit should not have been exceeded.

  • Qualified Degree Program

    Students must have completed requirements for a degree-bearing program, or have completed all requirements excluding the thesis if the current University of Rochester degree is the basis of the STEM application.

    At the time the STEM Extension is recommended in SEVIS, the awarding US institution must maintain valid accreditation with the Department of Education and current certification under the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). For a previously earned degree, it must have been conferred no more than 10 years prior to the STEM recommendation.

  • ICE-Designated STEM Fields

    The major or program of study associated with the qualified STEM degree must appear on the government's STEM Designated Degree Programs List, which is maintained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

    Check the major and related CIP Code by referencing the Form I-20 that was issued for that program of study. If you did not maintain F-1 status during that degree or cannot locate your I-20, you may need to contact the institution to confirm STEM eligibility.

  • I-983 Training Plan

    The Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Student (more info) must be fully executed and signed by both the student and authorized officials from the employer. Both student and employer must also agree to submit an updated training plan any time there is a change or regular evaluations are due. A new Form I-983 Training Plan is required for EVERY employer and/or job throughout the entire STEM Extension authorization period.

Authorization Period and Documentation

A STEM Extension begins immediately following the current 12-month OPT period end date. There is no option to delay the start of the extension period, unlike the initial OPT authorization. Additionally, the STEM Extension is granted for the full 24 months and cannot be granted in shorter pieces to save time for a future request.

Once approved, your extended employment authorization is granted as full-time. While students are eligible for up to two STEM OPT authorization periods, these cannot be stacked back to back (for 48 months of continuous work permission). Instead, the subsequent STEM period must follow completion of a higher degree level and a new 12-month initial OPT approval.

If the STEM application is timely filed while the initial 12-month OPT authorization is valid, your current work permission is automatically extended up to 180 days while the case is pending with USCIS. Ultimately, when the STEM Extension is approved, you will receive a new I-766 Employment Authorization Document, or EAD card.

In the interim, you can document your continued authorization with the expired EAD and a copy of the new I-20 with STEM recommendation. It may also be helpful to have a copy of the Receipt Notice to show that the application was filed in a timely manner.

After Receiving Your New EAD

When you receive your new Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) showing the approved STEM Extension, please email a copy to for our files.