24-Month STEM OPT Extension

Students with degrees in DHS designated “STEM” fields may be eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of OPT to receive an additional 2 years of employment authorization directly related to their STEM degree program.

You can find detailed information here, as wellas on the Department of Homeland Security's official STEM Hub website.

Please be aware that Minot State DSOs can only advise on student responsibilities while on STEM OPT and cannot speak directly to your employer. If your employer has any questions about STEM OPT that you (the student) cannot answer, the employer will need to speak with their own legal team, accounting/tax professionals, or refer to information from the Department of Labor. Minot State cannot advise employers. 

F-1 students who are currently authorized for OPT employment based on completion of a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Ph.D. degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) field, as defined by DHS, may be eligible for a 24-month extension of OPT. You must fit the following criteria:

  • You must currently have valid OPT based on a STEM-eligible degree. You can check if your major’s CIP code appears on the DHS STEM designated list here. You can find your major's CIP code on your I-20, right next to where the major is listed. It must match a number on the DHS STEM designated list exactly in order for you to be eligible to apply.
  • You have not exceeded 90 days of unemployment while on OPT.
  • Your employer is registered in the E-Verify employment verification system

There is a lifetime limit of two periods of 24-month STEM OPT; each occurring after a higher degree level has been obtained.  A STEM degree obtained at a U.S. university prior to your current degree may be the basis for a STEM extension under certain circumstances. While the STEM OPT I-765 is pending with USCIS, you may continue to work for up to 180 days.

The earliest you can send your application to USCIS is up to 90 days before your original EAD card expires.  The deadline to submit the STEM extension application is two- weeks prior to your EAD end date.

You can submit your STEM extension OPT application by MAIL or through E-FILING. USCIS recommends e-filing because the online system allows you to:
• Create a USCIS account
• Pay the USCIS I-765 fee online
• Complete the I-765 form online and upload documents

See the USCIS e-filing website for more information.

To request a STEM OPT Application I-20, provide the following to the Office of International Programs several weeks before your current EAD card ends:

Required Documents for USCIS (you can apply up to 90 days before your original EAD card expires, but not after it expires):

  • 2 new U.S. Passport Photos The photos required to use for the OPT application must meet the specifications of U.S. style passport photos. To see a full description of these specifications, go to the U.S. Department of State website.
    • Submit 2 identical color passport photos taken within 30 days of filing your application. The photos must have a white to off-white background, be printed on thin paper with a glossy finish, and be unmounted and unretouched. The passport-style photos must be 2” by 2”. You must remove your glasses and your head must be bare unless you are wearing headwear as required by a religious order of which you are a member.
      E-FILING: you must either scan them or take a picture with your phone. See instructions in the online I-765 application!
      Filing by MAIL: Using pencil or felt tip (soft) pen, lightly print your name and I-94 number on the back of the photo. Do not damage the photo surface by pressing hard while writing.
  • USCIS Fee: Check USCIS's I-765 page for the most current fee amount near the bottom of the page. They will deny any application that over or under pays. The can update the fee at any time.
    • Filing by MAIL: U.S. check or money order made payable to: U.S. Department of Homeland Security (do not abbreviate).
    • E-FILING: If you e-file the form I-765, the online form will automatically calculate the correct fee and you will pay online when you submit the e-filed application. You must pay with a valid credit or debit card, or provide your bank routing and checking account
      numbers to have money taken directly from your U.S. bank account.
  • Form G-1145 (only if filing by mail)
  • Form I-765: [eligibility category ( c ) ( 3 ) ( c ) ] You do not need to provide documentation that an employer is an E-Verify employer; but you must list the employer's correct E-Verify number and the employer's name as listed in E-Verify. Follow all I-765 directions provided by USCIS.
  • A new OPT STEM I-20 that was issued by MSU International Office (page 1-3) that must be received by USCIS within 30 days of printing it. Don’t forget to sign it!
  • Photocopies of all previous I-20s, especially the one showing the initial 12-month OPT.
  • Photocopy of current EAD, front and back. If you still have the approval notice (Form I-797), attach a copy as well.
  • Photocopy of passport biographical page
  • Photocopy of your F-1 visa, including the stamp.
  • Photocopy of paper I-94 (both sides) or electronic I-94 record.
  • Proof of final STEM degree:
    • Photocopy of your diploma
    • Final Official Transcript showing the major and degree level eligible for the STEM Extension.
  • Evidence that Minot State currently accredited by the U.S. Department of Education and Certified by the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP).

While on your 24-month STEM OPT, there are significantly more reporting requirements compared to your 12-month OPT period.

The following information must be reported to the Minot State Office of International Programs within 10 days of any changes or reporting deadlines:

  • Your residential address
  • Your phone and email address
  • Employer('s) name
  • Employer('s) address
  • Job Title(s)
  • Explanation of how your job(s) relates to your degree from Minot State
  • Start and/or end dates of employment
  • Any periods of unemployment
  • Material Changes to your I-983
  • Validation Reports every 6 months
  • 12-Month Evaluation I-983
  • Final Evaluation I-983 at the end of each employment
  • 24-Month Final Evaluation I-983
  • Date of exiting the U.S. (You must provide date of exit if you decide to exit the U.S and complete your OPT status prior to the end date of your OPT)
  • If your visa status changes while on OPT

Be advised that SEVIS might automatically terminate your F-1 record if you fail to submit these required updates to the Minot State Office of International Program.

You should complete the following Validation Reports no more than 15 days before and no later than 10 days after it is due. For students on a regular 24-Month STEM Extension, the 6 and 12-month clock begins on the start date of your STEM EAD.

  • Every 6 months (from the start date of the STEM EAD), students must "check in" by sending an email the Minot State Office of International Programs with the following information:
    • Your current mailing address
    • Your employer’s name and address

  • At 12-months, students must submit an "Annual Evaluation," which is the top of page 5 of the the I-983 Form. This is to update/confirm your employment information in SEVIS. Submit the I-983 form signed by your current employer via email to the Minot State Office of International Programs.

  • 24-month Validation Report: at the end of the STEM OPT period, students must submit their 24-month Validation Report and upload their Final Evaluation (bottom of page 5 of the I-983 Form).

If you change employers during your 24-month STEM OPT period, send an email to the Minot State International Student Coordination with the following information and documentation:

  1. Confirm your current address/phone/email.
  2. Special OPT hire letter written by your employer. You will need to provide this list to your employer so that they can include all of the following in your letter. Most hire letters do not automatically contain all of this information, so you will need to request it specifically.
    • Employer name
    • Employer EIN (usually available from Human Resources)
    • Job Title
    • Start Date
    • End Date
    • Hours per week (full-time is defined as 20 or more hours per week)
    • Compensation (hourly wage and yearly salary)
    • Address where work will take place
    • Supervisor Name
    • Supervisor Telephone Number
    • Supervisor Email Address

  3. Work description written by you: explain how your new job relates directly to your degree. Your statement will be copied and pasted directly into SEVIS. You are limited to 1000 characters (about one paragraph). Be prepared to provide government agents further justification for your job if requested. Do not work any job that is not directly related to your degree field and is not commensurate with your academic degree level.
    • Include the following in your paragraph to make your argument clear and persuasive to government agents:
      1. Job Title
      2. Job Description
      3. List of MSU courses that connect to your on-the-job tasks

  4. A new I-983 form for the new employer.

  5. Final Evaluation I-983 page 5 from previous employer.

  6. End date of previous job.

  7. Copy of your STEM EAD - back and front (if we don’t have it already).
Page last updated October 21 2022 (lc)