OPT 24-Month STEM Extension

OPT 24-Month STEM Extension

On March 11, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a new STEM Final Rule, with effective date May 10, 2016. NAFSA: Association of International Educators provides a summary of the rule and current updates and background. Detailed information for students and employers can also be found on the DHS Study in the States OPT STEM Hub. See below for a summary of key points in the new STEM rule.

UC Berkeley Departments hiring  F-1 students on STEM OPT should review the Hiring Scholars on F-1 OPT webpage.

Berkeley International Office 24-Month STEM Application Procedures & Tutorial

Eligible students may apply for a 24-Month STEM Extension up to 90 days prior to the expiration of their OPT EAD. 

  1. Fully review the Berkeley International Office 24-Month STEM Extension Tutorial for detailed instructions on both the BIO application process and submission to USCIS. Pay careful attention to the Tutorial as it contains specific information as to how to complete the I-983.
    OPT 24 month extension cover slide

  2. Log in to the Student SEVIS Update (SSU) system DIRECTLY BEFORE you submit your STEM application to BIO. (Most  processing delays are due to failure to update all new required fields in SSU.) You must:
    1. Update all current & previous OPT employment
    2. Update your current address/email/phone
    3. Upload a copy of your OPT EAD
    4. Click the "Apply for STEM OPT Extension" link to start your STEM application. You will be asked to identify you STEM Employer, provide additional information and upload a copy of form I-983 Training Plan. 
  3. Complete the BIO OPT 24-Month Extension Request Form and submit to BIO with Post-Completion Services Fee of $300BIO will issue you a new OPT I-20 with a 24-Month Extension recommendation. 
  4. Submit a 24-Month Extension request to USCIS. (Detailed instructions available in the STEM tutorial)

The 2016 STEM Extension rule institutes significant changes for the F-1 OPT STEM Extension, including:

Duration Effective May 10, 2016 the STEM Extension will be for 24 months.
STEM Application Period STEM applications may only be submitted up to 90 days prior to the initial 12-Month OPT EAD expiration.
Eligibility for 2nd STEM Extension The new rule allows a total of 2 lifetime STEM Extensions, the 2nd after earning a new STEM-eligible degree at a higher level and obtaining a new, higher level of 12-Month OPT
Eligible Based on Previously Earned Degree May be based on a previously earned STEM Degree
Updated STEM Definition and CIP Categories STEM Definition and CIP Categories
Required Training Plan and Form I-983 Requires significant responsibility of the employer to provide a training plan related to the field of study, and attestations to wages and compensation being commensurate with "similarly situated U.S. workers"
New Obligations for StudentsSchools, and Employers 6 Month validation reports, annual evaluations, and submission of a new I-983 in case of material changes to the original I-983 are now required. Employers must agree to Department of Homeland Security site visits, as well as provide attestations to wages and working conditions
Types of Employment Allowed

Volunteer/unpaid positions and self-employment are NOT allowed. STEM-eligible employers must have e-Verify & EIN numbers and the student must have a "bona fide employer-employee relationship".

According to USCIS updates as of April 2018:

  •  Under no circumstances would another F-1 student on OPT or a STEM OPT extension (who is undergoing training in their own right) be qualified to train another F-1 student on a STEM OPT extension.
  • The employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student. 
  • The training experience must take place on-site at the employer’s place of business or worksite(s) . Online or distance learning arrangements may not be used to fulfill the employer’s training obligation to the student.
  • Staffing and temporary agencies may employ students under the STEM OPT program, ONLY if they will be the entity that provides the practical training experience to the student at its own place of business and they have a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. Such entities may not, assign or contract out students to work for one of their customers or clients, and assign, or otherwise delegate, their training responsibilities to the customer or client. The employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student. Moreover, the student’s practical training experience must be provided by the employer’s own trained or supervisory personnel at the employer’s own place of business or worksite(s), to which ICE has authority to conduct employer site visits to ensure that the employer is meeting program requirements. 

According to prior guidance from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program If a student uses a temporary or staffing agency to place them in a training opportunity, the agency cannot complete and sign the Form I-983, "Training Plan for STEM OPT Students." Only the E-verified employer that provides the actual training relevant to the student's qualifying STEM degree is authorized to sign and complete the Form I-983. 

Increased Unemployment Students with 24-Month STEM Extensions may have up to 150 days of unemployment during the total OPT period including initial 12-Month and 24-Month STEM OPT period

STEM Reporting Requirements & Address/Employment Updates

Please see our OPT Reporting page for more information regarding your obligations during the STEM Extension. This includes updating your personal or employment information, as well as how to comply with with special STEM 6-Month validation and Annual Evaluation requirements.