Off-Campus Employment (Internships)
STEM OPT Extension – 2016 Amended Rule
The final 24 month STEM OPT rule was published in the Federal Register on Friday, March 11, 2016. 81 FR 13039.
See the STEM OPT Hub for more information.
Update to the Department of Homeland Security STEM Designated Degree Program List (7/12/2023)
While we update this list frequently, it is not exhaustive. It should be used as a tool ONLY for STEM OPT exploration. Incoming students and students changing majors should check with admission and the academic department to make sure the program is offered in person.
- The new 24 month STEM OPT rule became effective Tuesday, May 10, 2016
- Volunteer or unpaid positions will not qualify for the 24 month STEM OPT extension
- Self-employment does not qualify for the 24 month STEM OPT extension
- Cap-Gap is included in the amended rule
- Students may be able to use a previously obtained STEM degree to apply for 24 month STEM OPT extension
- There is an opportunity for a second period of STEM OPT after obtaining a degree at a higher level at an accredited, SEVIS-approved institution
WHAT YOU NEED TO APPLY
- Have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree at an accredited, SEVP-approved
US institution in a major on the DHS Stem Designated Degree Program list and have
been granted Standard OPT that is currently valid
- Work for an employer who meets all the requirements as indicated by the amended rule:
- Enrolled in E-Verify
- Agrees to DHS site visits and to report changes in employment within 5 days to a DSO at USF
- Provides OPT with pay that is similar to US workers with the same duties and hours
- Complete the Form I-983 to show the formal training plan between the employer and
you for the period of the extension
- Obtain Form I-20 with STEM OPT Extension Request I-20 from OIS (in iStart)
- Gather the following documents:
- 2x2 Passport-Style Photograph (you will need two photos if filing by mail)
- Photocopy of Signed Form I-20 with STEM OPT Extension Request
- Copy of non-immigration documents (Passport, Visa, I-94)
- Photocopy of previous EAD card(s) (front & back)
- Transcripts (recommended) and/or a copy of the diploma, which states the program of study
When Can I File for STEM OPT?
You may file for the 24-month STEM OPT Extension to USCIS as early as 90 days before the end of your Post-Completion OPT but no later than the last day of your Post-Completion OPT.
How to Apply for STEM OPT:
- Request an I-20 for my STEM OPT Application from OIS
- File STEM OPT (C3C) Application with USCIS Online at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765
How Do I Request my I-20 for STEM OPT Application from OIS?
Submit the Request I-20 for STEM OPT Extension Application E-Form at https://iStart.usf.edu
Note: Filing by mail is still an option; however, we recommend the online method as it is faster and simpler. If you choose to file the STEM OPT Extension Application by mail, you will receive the USCIS mailing address with the STEM OPT Requested I-20. Only use one filing method (not both).
Regardless of the filing method, do NOT file with USCIS until you have obtained the Signed Form I-20 with STEM OPT Extension Request from the Office of International Services.
USING A PREVIOUSLY OBTAINED STEM DEGREE FOR 24 MONTH STEM OPT EXTENSION
Students on Standard OPT based on a non-STEM degree may be eligible to use a prior STEM degree earned from a US institution of higher learning to apply for the 24 month STEM OPT Extension if:
- The prior degree was earned from a currently accredited and SEVP certified institution
- You did not already receive STEM OPT Extension for that prior degree
- It has been no more than 10 years before the DSO recommends a STEM OPT extension in SEVIS based on the prior degree
- The prior degree is in a degree program category included on the current STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time of the DSO recommendation
- The practical training opportunity that is the basis for the 24-month STEM OPT extension must directly relate to the prior degree
- The prior degree was actually conferred (i.e., a student who uses a prior degree cannot take advantage of the "all but thesis or dissertation" exception)
STEM I-20 Processing Note: Due to the volume of requests and limited time some of these cases have to submit to USCIS, our office is processing them in order of deadline. We thank you for your understanding and patience in this matter.
Upon review of your STEM I-20 request in iStart, our office will contact you if adjustments to your paperwork are needed. Otherwise, you will receive an email once your I-20 is ready for pickup/mailing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I continue to work after my OPT extension is filed with USCIS?
A student who files the application timely may continue employment while the extension application is pending, until a final decision is made, or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
If I am approved for an extension, can I change employers?
A student may change employers during the STEM OPT extension. However, USCIS and SEVP advise against changing employers while the I-765 is pending, since the I-765 names a specific employer. Note: Students are advised to consult with an attorney regarding the effect of changing to an employer that is not the employer named on the I-765. The student must report the change in employer to the DSO and submit a new I-983.
If I am approved for an extension, can I work for a non-E-verify employer while still employed by the E-Verify employer named on the I-765?
Students may NOT be concurrently employed at a non-E-verify employer. While on a STEM OPT extension, the student is only allowed to be employed by employers who are registered with E-verify.
If my major is not listed on the DHS STEM Designated Program List can I apply for an extension of my OPT?
At this time, the extension is only for F-1 students who have completed a program in a STEM major.
Are there special reporting requirements for F-1 students who receive a STEM OPT extension?
Students with an approved STEM OPT extension must make a validation report every six months starting on the date the extension begins and ending when the OPT ends. The validation is a confirmation that the student’s name and address, employer name and address, and /or loss of employment is current and accurate. The student must follow all other current OPT reporting requirements. The employer must agree to report the termination or departure of the student to the International Student Office of the student’s former school, or through any other process chosen by the Department of Homeland Security.
Can I work for multiple employers while on STEM OPT?
Yes, but you must provide a complete I-983 for each employer using the Report New OPT Employer E-Form.
Does USCIS offer premium processing?
Starting April 3, 2023, USCIS is accepting premium processing applications/requests with the filling of the Form I-765 for the OPT employment authorization application. Premium processing Form I-907 is filed at the same time you file form I-765 and the additional fee is $1,500. The premium processing timeframe is 30 calendar days after USCIS receives all necessary documentation. USCIS accepts both online and paper filings of Form I-907.
More information is available at this link: https://www.uscis.gov/forms/all-forms/how-do-i-request-premium-processing
Can the Form I-983 be signed electronically?
Yes. On September 18, 2023, DHS announced a change in signature requirements for the Form I-983 to include electronic signatures. SEVP will now accept the following formats:
- Physical/Wet Signature
- Electronic signatures using software programs or applications
- Electronically reproduced copies of a signature
Further details about these acceptable I-983 signatures can be found in the Form I-983 Instructions.