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Everything You Need To Know About The STEM OPT Extension Debate: Latest Information

The STEM OPT extension debate has put international students in a frenzy since its ordeal in 2014. Ultimately this debate ended on May 10th, 2016, with the US Court of Appeals (DC Circuit) favouring OPT STEM study programs as valid. In the USA, STEM industries have proven to be one of the largest and potential contributors towards the country’s economy. A report by FTI Consulting revealed that STEM supports 2/3 of the US jobs (67%), 69 % of the US GDP and $2.3 trillion in annual federal tax revenue.

So, if you’re an international student planning to pursue STEM subjects in the USA, understanding the STEM OPT extension process is mandatory. Thus, to help you find all the related information on this topic, read along to access all the exclusive updates.

Overview Of STEM OPT Extension

STEM extensions allow international students that pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics to extend their OPT (Optical Practical Training). There are multiple benefits of availing a STEM OPT Extension, such as:

1. For the USA, the country can hire talented minds to contribute towards the growth of STEM industries in the country. It is mistaken that this extension will harm the employment opportunities of US workers. Instead, the USA aims to find more talents to contribute to the US economy whilst treating the former equally as American workers.

2. For international students, you can continue to stay in the USA to obtain a good professional experience. Having a STEM OPT extension can also make the process of availing a green card easy for students who wish to make the USA their permanent home.

THE STEM OPT Controversy

In 2014, WashTech (Washington Alliance of Technology Workers), a US workers alliance, filed a court case against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that created a 2008 regulation for STEM extensions in the USA. WashTech claimed that a STEM extension would cause harm to US workers with regard to employment opportunities. Thus, they petitioned in the US court, stating that STEM OPT study programs should be considered invalid.

To conduct an OPT, international students should follow the F1 visa rules, where they have to be enrolled in a full-time academic program at a USA university. Upon completion of their STEM degree, study abroad aspirants can pursue OPT for up to a year. But as per the 2008 STEM regulation, there had been an extension of 17 months from 12 months.

However, the court found that the 2008 STEM regulation had ‘procedural deficiencies’ and allowed the DHS to revise the same by February 12th, 2016. Failing to do the same would result in the cancellation of STEM regulations. Thus, DHS presented an amended version of the regulation, which was approved by the US court and put to practice officially on May 10th, 2016.

Latest Rules For STEM OPT Applications

Since the upgraded regulation, there have been multiple STEM OPT extension application revisions for current international students to adhere to. Here are the complete details:

1. The OPT STEM extension timeline has been changed from 17 months to 24 months.

2. Students opting for the STEM OPT training plan and employers providing the same should complete the form I-983.

3. There will be a self-evaluation process conducted every year during the STEM extension period.

4. Students who exhibit two STEM degrees pursued at different academic levels and from a reputed USA institution can apply for two STEM OPT extensions.

5. STEM extensions are conducted based on a student’s recent degree or a degree availed from a USA institution within the last 10 years and if a student is in an authorized period where they will almost complete their OPT.

6. Students will have a maximum unemployment timeframe after filing and receiving their OPT STEM extension application. The maximum unemployment days have been extended from 120 to 150 days for 36 months OPT, and for 12 months OPT, it is 90 days.

7. Students conducting STEM OPT job roles should be aware that the salary structure will be the same as what the local American workers will receive.

8. Any STEM OPT extension practices should include a bona fide employer and employee relationship.

9. DHS will have the authorization to conduct regular site visits to ensure employers are aligned with the form I-983.

Top STEM OPT Eligibility Criteria For International Students

Before applying to any STEM applications, there is a set of STEM OPT requirements that need to be catered to by international students. Thus, to avoid any rejection, ensure you meet all the listed criteria below:

1. Students have been granted OPT and are currently in the valid post-completion OPT process.

2. Students should hold a STEM degree at an undergraduate or higher academic level and seek training based on the degree pursued.

3. Students have received their STEM degree from the current accredited SEVP-certified academic institution in the USA.

4. Only employers that offer OPT to STEM degree students should make use of an E-Verify program.

5. STEM degree students and employers training the former should have signed the form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT students.

6. Students should submit the form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, before 90 days of their OPT employment authorization expiry and within 60 days from the date your school official entered the OPT recommendation in your SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) record. Only F1 students are eligible to apply for the STEM OPT online application for form I-765.

7. Students who plan to enroll in a future STEM degree program are eligible to apply for an additional 24-month STEM OPT extension.

8. Students who pursued an undergraduate degree in any STEM subject but are currently enrolled in a non-STEM subject are still eligible to apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension. Ensure the undergraduate STEM degree is availed from a SEVP-certified USA institution.

How To Apply For The STEM OPT Application?

To apply for the STEM OPT application, international students are required to file certain documents. Ensure all of the below are checked:

1. Submission of Form I-765, which includes the correct application fee, employer’s name as listed in the E-Verify and employer E-Verify company identification number or E-Verify client company identification number. Students should file this form with USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) by paying a filing fee. Upon this, an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) will be sent by the USCIS to students.

2. Form I-20, which includes a certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant student status. Your DSO (designated school officials) will issue this certificate within 60 days.

3. Copy of your STEM degree

Post-Submitting STEM OPT Extension Requirements

Once you complete the above-listed process, you will receive your STEM OPT extension. Post this, there are certain checklists you should adhere to, such as:

1. You need to report any changes made as per the list below to your DSO within a time frame of 10 days

  • Your legal name
  • Your residential or mailing address
  • Your email address
  • Your employer’s name and address

2. Ensure you visit your DSO every 6 months to check on the information listed below. This action is mandatory even if no change is made to the above details.

Latest Updates on STEM OPT Extension

As of March 2022, the Biden Administration unveiled three new policies to enhance the STEM OPT extension process for international students. They are:

1. 22 new STEM degree subjects have been added. This includes bioenergy, general forestry, forest resources production and management, human-centred technology design, cloud computing, anthrozoology, climate science, earth systems science, economics and computer science, environmental geosciences, geobiology, geography and environmental studies, mathematical economics, mathematics and atmospheric and oceanic science, general data science, general data analytics, business analytics, data visualization, financial analytics, other data analytics, industrial and organizational psychology, social sciences, research methodology, and quantitative methods. The purpose of this is to allow F1 STEM graduates to qualify for a three-year OPT instead of a year.

2. J1 exchange visitors pursuing undergraduate or pre-doctoral studies are now eligible to apply for a 36 months STEM OPT extension for a maximum of 18 months.

3. For NIW (National Interest Waiver Immigrants) visas, there will be a third factor to which student applicants should cater. The factor includes acknowledging international students with STEM degrees whose impact is evident in growing the STEM industries in the USA.


With the STEM OPT extension new rules, the USA aims to increase international student enrollments at their prestigious academic institutions. If you wish to receive more details related to STEM programs in the USA or are wondering which is the ideal USA university to pursue a STEM degree, schedule a free 1-1 counselling session with our expert counsellors who can guide you towards making the right STEM-related academic decisions.

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Address: Office No. 204, 2nd Floor, ML Spaces, Dashrathlal Joshi Rd. Opp. Old Jain Mandir, Vile Parle West, Mumbai – 400056.


Email: info@collegepond.com


Call Us:  022-46003655


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Copyright © 2002 – 2024 | All Rights Reserved | Collegepond Counsellors Pvt. Ltd.