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UC Merced International

STEM OPT Extension

24-Month STEM Extension of Optional Practical Training

F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees included on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, are employed by employers enrolled in E-Verify, and who are currently on approved post-completion OPT may apply for a 24-month extension. More information can be found on the Department of Homeland Security Study in the States web page called the STEM OPT Hub.

What are the eligible STEM degrees?

To be eligible for the 24-month OPT extension, a student must have received a degree included in the STEM Designated Degree Program List found on the link below. This list sets forth eligible courses of study according to Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes developed by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The STEM Designated Degree Program List is available on the Department of Homeland Security webpage below:

https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2016/stem-list.pdf

Eligibility requirements for the 24-month extension of post-completion OPT

  • The student must have a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree included in the STEM Designated Degree Program List.
  • The student must currently be in an approved post-completion OPT period based on a designated STEM degree.
  • The student’s employer must be enrolled in E-Verify.
  • The student must apply on time (i.e., before the current post-completion OPT expires).
  • The student must complete the Form I-983 Training Plan with their STEM OPT employer. For more information on the I-983, click here.

What is the E-Verify program?

  • The E-Verify program is an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA).
  • The E-Verify program currently is the best means available for employers to determine employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security Numbers. 
  • E-Verify electronically compares information contained on the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 with records contained in SSA and DHS databases to help employers verify identity and employment eligibility of newly-hired employees. 

How to Apply for the 24-month STEM extension

The student submits the STEM OPT Request Form and Form I-983 to ISSO in KL 101. The student is issued a new I-20 to send with Form I-765 to USCIS as detailed on our ISSO OPT webpage for current students. This is the same application process used to file the initial post-completion OPT application except additional documents are required. The I-765 application and further instructions can be found on the USCIS webpage.

What must a student do after being granted the 24-month STEM extension?

  • The student must report to his or her DSO or in their SEVIS Student Portal any change within 10 days:
  1. Legal name;
  2. Residential or mailing address;
  3. E-mail address;
  4. Employer name;
  5. Employer address;
  • The student must also report to his or her DSO every six months using the STEM OPT Participation Reporting Form to confirm the information listed above; even if there have been no changes.