OPT STEM Extension
17-Month STEM Extension of Post-Completion OPT
STEM OPT Eligibility Requirements
- Bachelor's, master's or Ph.D. degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) are eligible to apply. The STEM Designated Degree Program List with CIP code can be found on the SEVP website. If your exact major concentration CIP code (found on page 3 of your I-20 form) is listed on the SEVP STEM program list, then you are eligible for a STEM extension.
- Job or a job offer that is directly related to the STEM field of study.
- Job or a job offer from an employer who participates in the U.S. Government E-Verify employment verification system. (see below)
- Only one 17-month extension is possible, regardless of how many degrees in the U.S. the student obtains. If you received a STEM extension for bachelor's degree, you are not eligible for a STEM extension at the master's or Ph.D. level.
- Must apply for the 17-month extension before your initial 12 month period of OPT ends.
- Must comply with additional reporting requirements related to your name, address and employer information (see below).
- May not request the Stem extended months in the initial OPT application; must apply for initial 12 months of post-completion OPT first.
E-Verify is an electronic employment eligibility verification system under which employers commit to use an electronic database to check whether the name and social security number presented by new hires match the records in the Social Security database, and whether any immigration documents presented by the employee match information in Department of Homeland Security database. If an employer is not enrolled in E-Verify, a STEM student can NOT obtain a 17-month OPT extension. More information on E-Verify is available at the USCIS website.
STEM OPT Application
You may file for the 17-month STEM extension up to 120 days prior to the end of your post-completion OPT. You must submit all application materials (see link below) for the 17-month OPT Extension to the Davis IC.
Student Reporting Requirements
1. During your 17-month OPT STEM extension, you are still in F-1 status under Princeton University's visa sponsorship, so you must continue reporting any changes of address to the Davis International Center within 10 days of change. Please report address changes, name changes, employment updates, employment interruptions and loss of employment by submitting the OPT Reporting Form.
2. You must also send to the Davis International Center a validation report every six months starting from the date of STEM extension starts and ending when your F-1 status ends or the STEM extension ends, whichever comes first. The validation report must include your:
- First and last name
- SEVIS ID number
- Current U.S. living address
- Name and address your current employer, and
- Date you began working for the current employer.
The report must be submitted to the Davis International Center within 10 days of each 6 month reporting period.
IMPORTANT: If this report is not submitted and your SEVIS record is not updated every six months, your SEVIS record will be automatically terminated and you will no longer have valid immigration status in the U.S.
Employer Reporting Requirements
The employer must report to the Davis International Center within 48 hours when the job ends or the student leaves the employer. Employers should seek guidance about this from their legal counsel or directly from US CIS.
Periods of Unemployment While on OPT
Maintaining F-1 status during OPT and STEM OPT requires that a student is employed for at least 9 of 12 months during the initial 12 months of OPT, and at least 25 of 29 months during the entire 29 month OPT/STEM OPT period. Each day (including weekends) during the period when OPT/STEM OPT authorizations begin and end that the student does not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment. STEM OPT authorization beings one day after initial 12 months of OPT end.
For student reaching the limit of unemployment time, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) suggests that, "prior to reaching the limit on authorized unemployment the student should prepare to transfer to another SEVP-certified school, change educational level, depart the United States, or take action to otherwise maintain status in the United States" (SEVP Policy Guidance, page 22).
The SEVP Guidance also states that "a student who has exceeded the period of unemployment while on post-completion OPT has violated his or her status unless he or she has taken one of the following actions:
- Applied to continue his or her education by a change of education level or transferring to another SEVP-certified school
- Departed the United States
- Taken action to otherwise maintain legal status"
You remain in F-1 status and under Princeton visa sponsorship until the end of your entire OPT/STEM OPT period. When traveling outside the U.S., you must carry your I-20 with a valid travel signature (obtained within the last 6 months), proof of work authorization (EAD card) and an employment letter stating the job title, job description, beginning/end dates, and salary. If your F-1 visa has expired, you will need to apply for a new visa before returning to the U.S. Students who need a new entry visa are strongly advised to consult with their international student ad visor before making travel plans.