Office of International Programs

OPT: STEM Extension

Recipients of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields may be eligible for a one-time 17-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 29 months).  The 17-month Stem Extension OPT is adjudicated (approved) by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The end result of filing for the OPT 17-month STEM extension is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) which shows dates students are able to work legally in the United States.

STEM Extension Overview:

  • Only one 17-month STEM extension is granted PER LIFETIME regardless of additional degrees awarded or level of degrees.
  • New STEM extension EAD card begins the day after the expiration of the 12 month EAD card and ends 17 months later, no matter the date of adjudication.
  • 17-month extension will be granted in one EAD card period and cannot be split into smaller periods. 
  • It is possible to change eligible employers during the 17 months, but only once the student has received the extension EAD card.
  • If extension application is denied, student will still have 60 day grace period after expiration of 12-month EAD card to begin a new degree program at USC, transfer to another institution, change status or depart the U.S.

STEM Extension Requirements:

  • Must currently be on post-completion 12-month OPT
  • Verified completion of a degree on the STEM field list and degree posted (the USM International Programs office can help you verify if your major falls within the list of approved STEM majors)
  • Job or job offer from employer registered with the U.S. Government E-Verify employment verification system and employer agrees to report within 48 hours to OIS any termination or ending of employment.

STEM Extension Criteria:

Any OPT STEM extension employment must be:

  • Paid
  • Directly related to the STEM degree major and at the appropriate degree level
  • At least an average of 20 hours per week AND
  • With an employer who is E-verify compliant and employer agrees to report end or termination of employment within 48 hours to the USM International Office.

Applying for a STEM Extension:

The application process is similar to when you applied for your original EAD card. You will need to file a new I-765 form, provide new photos, pay a second fee and provide an updated I-20 from the USM International Programs Office. Students MUST submit their application for an extension BEFORE their current period of OPT expires. STudent are allowed to apply up to 120-days before the end of their current 12-month OPT.

Please contact the USM International Programs office for additional information when you are ready to begin this application process.

Periods of Unemployment:

  • An additional 30 days of unemployment time will be available during the extension, combined with the 90 days granted during initial 12-month. 
  • Students have up to a 10-day grace period between the end of one job and the beginning of another that does not count toward the unemployment cap.
  • Students must report immediately to the USM International Office any changes in employment.
  • USM International Programs and DHS strongly recommends that students keep evidence for each job regarding the position held, dates of position, the job title, supervisor name and contact information and a description of the job.

Reporting Requirements of the STEM Extension:

Report to USM International Programs within 10 days of any change of:

  • Legal name
  • Residential or mailing address
  • Employer name
  • Employer address, and/or
  • Interruption or loss of employment

Make a validation report to USM International Programs every six months while on 17 month OPT extension when:

  • the student's F-1 status ends
  • the student changes educational levels at the same school
  • the student transfers to another school, OR
  • the 17 month OPT extension ends, whichever occurs first

The validation reporting is a confirmation that the student's name and address, employer name and address, and/or loss of employment are current and accurate