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General Information and Eligibility

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an off-campus training benefit available to F-1 students after program completion. Students in eligible STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs can apply for a 24-month OPT extension.

STEM OPT Information and Eligibility:
  • A student with a STEM-qualifying bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from an accredited, SEVIS-certified U.S. educational institution, who is in a valid period of standard post-completion OPT, has an offer of paid employment for more than 20 hours per week from an employer enrolled in E-Verify.
  • Applicant has completed a degree in a STEM-eligible field from a U.S. accredited institution with SEVP certification within the last 10 years and has not already utilized this degree to apply for an OPT STEM Extension.
  • You may receive the STEM OPT I-20 as early as 90 days before the end of your 12-month OPT period.
  • Your DSO determines that the degree program that will serve as the basis of the STEM OPT extension is on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List.
  • The following CSP majors/programs are currently eligible for STEM OPT. This will match the information on page 1 of your I-20.
    • Biology- CIP 26.0101
    • Chemistry- CIP 40.00501
    • Data Analytics- CIP 30.7101
    • Information Technology Management- CIP 11.1099
    • Mathematics- CIP 27.0101
    • Computer Science- CIP 11.0701
  • The DSO updates the student's SEVIS record with a recommendation for a 24-month STEM OPT extension, and issues a new Form I-20 that reflects the STEM OPT extension recommendation.
To Know Before You Apply:
  • File the STEM extension application with USCIS within 60 days of the DSO's recommendation in SEVIS and before the expiration of your post-completion OPT.
    • Contact ISS for a new I-20 if you cannot meet this deadline.
    • Students may not apply for STEM OPT extensions during the 60-day grace period following an initial period of regular post-completion OPT.
  • USCIS will issue an EAD reflecting the approved STEM OPT extension.
  • Throughout the STEM OPT extension period, the student, employer(s), and school comply with all reporting, training, supervision, evaluation, wage, documentation, and other obligations specified in the regulations and on Form I-983.
  • Students may work for two employers at the same time. Each employer must fully comply with STEM OPT requirements, and the student must be employed for no less than 20 hours per week with each employer.
  • Be aware of potentially fraudulent employers. Find information on what you should look out for here.
  • STEM OPT Dates:
    • The STEM OPT Start Date is the day following the current post-completion OPT End Date.
    • The STEM OPT End Date is 24 months after the start date.
    • A student who has timely filed an application for a 24-month STEM OPT extension with USCIS may work for the STEM OPT employer while the STEM extension application is pending, for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of their prior post-completion OPT EAD.
      • Time spent during this 180-day period while the application is pending counts towards the 24-month extension.
      • If the STEM OPT application is still pending with USCIS beyond 180 days, the student must stop working until USCIS approves the STEM OPT application.
  • Unemployment and Grace Periods:
    • Students with 24-month STEM extensions may have up to 150 days of unemployment during the total OPT period including the initial 12-month (90 days) and 24-month (60 days) STEM OPT period.
    • Students are eligible for the 60-day grace period at the end of OPT. This time may be used to transfer to a new school or depart the US.
    • Students do not receive an additional grace period after the denial of an OPT application (post-completion or STEM).
      • The grace period allowed to the student would be the grace period from the end of the program, if the student is denied a post-completion OPT, or the end of the post-completion OPT, if the student is denied a STEM extension.
Health Insurance:
  • If your STEM OPT employer does not provide health insurance, you may purchase your own plan. CSP does not enroll OPT students in health insurance.
    • If you would like to use CSP's health insurance partner, LewerMark, you may view their STEM OPT eligible plan here
    • There is an icon for OPT/OPT STEM students to select for more information.
    • Please contact Matt Lewer at with any questions about OPT plans.
  • Travel is allowed on STEM OPT. Be sure to travel with the following documents:
    • Passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of the re-entry to the U.S.)
    • Valid F-1 Visa
    • Form I-20 with valid travel signature and STEM OPT Recommendation
    • Valid or Expired OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
    • Employment Verification Letter
    • I-797 Receipt Notice for STEM OPT Application (if application is still pending with USCIS)
How to Apply for the STEM OPT Extension
Step 1: Pay the $60 STEM OPT processing fee here.
Step 2: To request a STEM OPT I-20, click on the "STEM OPT Extension" request  that can be found in the “Control Center” section of the request page
Step 3: Blackboard will be discontinued. If you have had courseswork through Blackboard, please go in and download your syllabi and take screenshots of class descriptions, attendance, grades etc. The information will no longer be available to you after 09/03/2024. In case of an audit through USCIS, you might be asked to provide this information, so please be sure that you have that information saved for your records.
Step 4: File all USCIS application items with USCIS within 60 days from the day your STEM OPT I-20 is processed. You must sign the Student Attestation section on your I-20.
  • You can start your online application here.
Step 5: Follow all other Requirements in STEM OPT to maintain your F-1 status. 

The information contained in this website is not intended as, and does not serve as, legal advice. It is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Content is subject to change, and students are advised to consult an experienced U.S. immigration attorney for advice and further information. Neither Concordia University, St. Paul nor the Office of International Student Services is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.