Once your application for the 24-Month STEM OPT is approved, USCIS will issue you an EAD.
The 24-Month STEM OPT period represents a continuation of your current F-1 status. You must stop your employment when the end date on the EAD card is reached, but may remain in the US for a 60-day grace period. Some students may be eligible for an extension of OPT and F-1 status due to the Cap Gap Relief rules.
You are expected to be employed in your field of study during the 24-Month STEM OPT. The maximum period of unemployment days is 150 days, which includes any days of unemployment during the initial 12 months of Post-Completion OPT. For example, if a student finishes the 12 months Post-Completion OPT with 30 days of unemployment time accrued, then he or she would have 120 days of available unemployment days remaining during their period of STEM OPT.
To avoid collecting unemployment days during an authorized STEM OPT, a student must work at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify employer in a position directly related to his or her DHS-approved STEM CIP. Here are additional details about STEM OPT employment requirements:
- In order to receive the STEM OPT extension, a student must pursue their practical training through an employer that is enrolled in USCIS’ E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.
- Additionally, STEM OPT extension applicants must select employers that can guarantee the student will complete a minimum of 20 hours of work per week and provide the student with formal training and learning objectives.
- The student must work with their potential STEM OPT extension employer to complete the Form I-983, which must include how the training opportunity has a direct relationship to the student’s qualifying STEM degree. Visit the Form I-983 page to learn how to properly complete and submit the Form I-983.
- F-1 students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Form I-983 because F-1 students may not provide the employer attestation (i.e., signatures) on their own behalf. However, they may use a start-up business so long as all regulatory requirements are met. The employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.
- Please note that a student’s post-completion OPT employer does not need to be the same as the student’s STEM OPT extension employer.