About STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT)


F-1 students with degrees in certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields may be eligible for a 24-month extension of the initial period of post-completion OPT. 

The Department of Homeland Security maintains a list of designated degree fields eligible for the STEM OPT extension.

A second period of STEM OPT may be available where the student enrolls in a new degree program and earns a qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level.  Students cannot engage in more than two periods of STEM OPT.

The Department of Homeland Security maintains the STEM OPT Hub on its Study in the States website.


To be eligible for the STEM OPT extension, you must:

  • Maintain valid F-1 status
  • Be in a valid period of post-completion OPT
  • Have a degree in a field listed on the STEM Designated Degree Program List (you can find the code assigned to your major listed in the “Program of Study” section on page 1 of your Form I-20)
  • Have an offer of employment from an employer enrolled in the E-Verify program
  • Have employment that is directly related to your STEM degree field
  • Have a Form I-983 Training Plan completed and signed by you and your STEM OPT employer
  • File (submitted and received by USCIS) your Form I-765 application before your current OPT expires

Eligibility Based on a Previously Obtained STEM Degree

If you are currently in a non-STEM degree program, but have previously earned a STEM-eligible degree from an accredited U.S. institution of higher education, you may be eligible for the STEM OPT extension if:

  • You received both degrees from accredited and SEVP-certified institutions in the United States
  • Your STEM-eligible degree was conferred within 10 years of the STEM OPT extension application
  • You haven’t already been granted a STEM OPT extension based on the previous degree
  • Your employment is directly related to the STEM degree
  • Your employer meets the STEM OPT employer requirements

Volunteer work and unpaid internships on STEM OPT

Unpaid or volunteer work does not constitute employment under the 24-month STEM OPT extension. Under the STEM OPT rule, the training opportunity must be paid employment for at least 20 hours per week, and there must be a bona fide employer-employee relationship. This rule applies to each employment situation if you have multiple STEM OPT employers.

The Department of Homeland Security’s STEM OPT Hub on the Study in the States website provides additional information regarding STEM OPT extension eligibility and the training opportunity.