STEM OPT (Optional Practical Training)

DHS grants STEM OPT extensions to eligible F-1 students who are currently in a period of post-completion OPT once per degree level (i.e., bachelor's, master's or doctorate). Students may not apply for STEM OPT extensions during the 60-day grace period following an initial (usually 12-month) period of post-completion OPT.

A student may participate twice in the STEM OPT extension over the course of their academic career. To participate twice in the STEM OPT extension, a student must earn a second qualifying degree at a higher education level and must be participating in an initial period of OPT at the time they apply to USCIS for their second STEM OPT extension. In some cases, students may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree to qualify for their second STEM OPT extension. More information about using a prior STEM degree to qualify for a 24-month STEM OPT extension is detailed in the “Degree” portion below. 

To be approved for STEM OPT, you will need to submit another OPT application and fee (similar to the one we prepared last year) to USCIS. There a few additional items to include with the application; a checklist is available below. Links to forms and instructions are below. The application must be received and have a USCIS receipt number before the last day of your current OPT but no earlier than 120 days before.  You should plan to submit no later than 30 days before to be sure to have the receipt number.

The biggest difference between regular OPT and STEM OPT is the employment requirement and the I-983 Training Plan. You must have an eligible employer in order to apply, and you and the employer must fill out a detailed I-983 Training Plan. I have to approve the I-983 before you can submit the STEM OPT application. The employer can change during STEM OPT but each employer is required to create the I-983 Training Plan with you before you begin working with the employer.  The Training Plan should list specifics: specific tasks, goals and objectives, specific time to begin or accomplish, specific knowledge gained by you, specific oversight by your “trainer”, specific measurement of how well all of the above is accomplished. You can use additional pages if needed; just label each page with the section number and heading that it corresponds to. During the STEM OPT 2 years (or at change of employment), there are annual evaluations  and you would write a self-evaluation of how you have made progress in relation to the specifics.



OIA Checklist for STEM OPT Application (online application)


You can also click through this: It also goes section by section, field by field, to describe the content desired in the answers. Very helpful!


OPT Homepage

How to fill out the Form I-765