The 12-month period of post-completion OPT can be extended by 24 months for certain science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degree holders. First, find the Program of Study and Major printed on your I-20. Then, compare it to the STEM Designated Degree Program List to determine if your field and CIP Code are included in the list.
Students may be eligible for up to two separate STEM OPT extensions over the course of their academic career upon completion of two qualifying STEM degrees at different educational levels.
Staffing/Temporary Agencies Limitations
If you are in a STEM degree and are considering applying for the 24 month STEM extension, your employer must be the same entity that signs the Form I-983 and where you report for work.
In April 2018, USCIS clarified STEM OPT employer responsibilities and who can employ students on STEM OPT: F-1 Students can only qualify for the STEM OPT extension if their employer signs the Training Plan (Form I-983). USCIS's new information states, "The employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student." A genuine employer-employee relationship must exist.
This means that the employer that signs the Form I-983 cannot be an agency that "assigns or contracts out the student to work for one of their customers or clients (emphasis added)...the student's [STEM] 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)."
Further, the employee’s training experience must take place on-site at the employer’s place of business or worksite(s); the training cannot occur online, by telephone or email, or by periodic visits by the employee to the employer’s place of business.
USCIS emphasizes that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, “has the authority to conduct employer site visits to ensure that the employer is meeting [STEM OPT] program requirements.”
Please note: This new interpretation is in regard to the 24-month STEM OPT extension. It does not currently apply to 12-month OPT.