Skip Navigation

17-month OPT extension for STEM Majors

A 17-month extension of post-completion F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) is available for students who have completed a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) field or have all course requirements for the STEM degree excluding any thesis requirement or equivalent. Such students could, therefore, have up to 29 months of Optional Practical Training.

Eligibility for 17-month OPT extension

To qualify, a student must meet ALL of the following criteria:

    •  Has a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree with a major on the STEM-Designated Degree Program List  OR has completed all course requirements for the degree, excluding any thesis requirement or equivalent.
      (The CIP Code referenced in the list is located on page 3 of the I-20 near the top next to the Primary Major.)
    • Currently on post-completion OPT based on a designated STEM degree
    • Has not previously been granted an OPT STEM extension
    •  Has a job or job offer from an employer who is enrolled in the U.S. Government’s E-Verify program, a free Internet-based employment eligibility verification system. The position must be employment of at least 20 hours per week.
    •  Has not exceeded 90 calendar days of unemployment during the initial period of post-completion OPT
    • Application was filed with USCIS before expiration of current post-completion OPT employment authorization

If you are unsure if you qualify, please talk to an International Student Advisor for assistance.

Application Process

If you meet the eligibility requirements for the 17-month extension of OPT, it is necessary to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

In order to apply, you must submit the following documents to ISSS:

    • ISSS STEM Packet which contains STEM Handout, STEM Request Form, and Document Request Form (DRF)
    • • Copy of current OPT I-20, pages 1 and 3
    • • Copy of passport page(s) showing picture, biographical information, and expiration date
    • • Copy of most recent I-94 card (front and back) or printout of I-94 Number from www.cbp.gov/I94
    • Copy of U.S. entry visa
    • • Copy of current Employment Authorization Document—EAD (front and back)
    • • Copy of transcript showing your STEM-related degree and major
    • • Form I-765—Application for Employment Authorization
      • Please make sure to include the following information on the form:
      • – Eligibility Category (c)(3)(C)  [Item 16]
      • – Degree level (BS, MS, PhD) and CIP code for Primary Major from the top of page 3 of the I-20 [Item 17]
      • – Employer's E-Verify Company or Client Company Identification Number [Item 17]
    • • Two identical color photos taken within the last 30 days which meet U.S. Department of State requirements (print name and SEVIS ID on back). Do not reuse old photos!
    • • Check or money order for $380 payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security"
    • • Form G-1145 [Optional] (to be notified electronically when OPT application is received by USCIS)

Once ISSS has all of the above documents, it typically takes 4-5 business days to process the request. Upon completion, you will be notified by email to come to the International House to sign the new I-20, a copy of which must be included with your application. ISSS will then mail the completed application to USCIS.

Timing of Application

As with the original request for post-completion OPT work authorization, there are very specific rules governing when the application can be filed.

The Form I-765 and required supporting documentation for the 17-month extension of OPT must be received by the USCIS Service Center:

    •  No earlier than 120 days before the expiration date of the current EAD
    •  No later than the expiration date of the current EAD

It is recommended that you submit your application for the 17-month extension of OPT to ISSS between 90 and 120 days before your EAD's expiration date.

It typically takes about three months for USCIS to process an EAD application. If the I-765 is properly and timely filed, the student's employment authorization is considered automatically extended pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 274a.12(b)(6)(iv), for up to 180 days while the EAD application is pending.

Appropriate Types of Employment

The OPT extension authorizes a student to engage in practical training directly related to the STEM degree major. It is not necessary to work for the same employer for the entire period though all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify. The student must work a minimum of 20 hours per week.

According to USCIS, there are various forms of acceptable employment:

 Multiple employers. A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to his or her degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.

 Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment, where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. The company for whom the student is providing services must be registered with E-Verify. If requested by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the student must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract period and the name and address of the contracting company.

 Self-employed business owner. A student on a 17-month extension can start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must register his or her business with E-Verify and work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program.

 Employment through an agency or consulting firm. A student on a 17-month extension may be employed by an employment agency or consulting firm. The employment agency or consulting firm must be registered with E-Verify, but the third parties contracting with the agency or firm (for which the student is providing services) need not be.

OPT employment authorization will automatically terminate on the date your F-1 SEVIS record is transferred to another school. Consult with ISSS to plan the timing of a transfer.

Unemployment

Students who receive the 17-month extension are given an additional 30 days of unemployment for a total of 120 days over their entire post-completion OPT period. This is an allowance of 30 additional days to the 90 days granted during the initial 12 months of post-completion OPT. Please note that these are calendar days not business days. It is student's responsibility to maintain the total count of days without a job to ensure they do not accrue more than 120 days of unemployment.

Any days without employment such as the time between jobs even if outside the United States are counted toward this limit.

Reporting Requirements

While on OPT, you MUST report the following events within ten days to ISSS (isss@du.edu):

  •  Change of residential or mailing address including phone number or email address
  • • Change of legal name
  • • Change of employer
  • • Change of employer's address
  • • Loss of employment
  • • Change of immigration status
  • • Permanent departure from the United States

In addition, Validation Reports are required at six months and twelve months from the start of the OPT extension. These reports are a confirmation that ISSS has the student's most current information. The report must contain the following:

  • • Full legal name
  • • DU ID#
  • • Current mailing and residential address
  • • Name and address of current employer
  • • Date on which you began working for your current employer

You can send the reports by email to isss@du.edu.

F-1 status and work authorization can be terminated if the Validation Report is not received within ten business days of the reporting deadline.

Travel while on OPT

It is possible to travel outside the United States during the 17-month extension of OPT. You will need to be prepared to show the following documents to the officer at the Port of Entry upon your return to the United States:

    •  Unexpired passport valid for at least six months into the future
    •  Unexpired F-1 visa unless traveling to Mexico, Canada or certain nearby islands (See Visa Renewal if your visa will not be valid on the date of your planned return to the United States.)
    •  Form I-20 with a travel signature from ISSS that is less than 6 months old
    •  Valid EAD card
    •  Proof of employment such as a letter from your employer

Do not travel outside the United States if your EAD card has expired and the application for the OPT extension is pending.

End of OPT Extension

It is not possible to further extend F-1 Optional Practical Training beyond the expiration date listed on the EAD. It is critical that you do not continue working after this date unless you have valid work authorization such as the 'cap gap extension' for F-1 students with an H-1B petition pending.

Upon successful completion of Optional Practical Training, a student has a 60-day grace period in which to prepare to leave the United States. A student can also use this time to apply for a new program at the current school, request a transfer to another SEVP-certified school or apply for a change of status.

Early Completion

If you do not plan to remain on Optional Practical Training until the expiration date listed on the EAD, you must inform ISSS of your last day of work.

Work authorization is automatically terminated if the student's F-1 SEVIS record is transferred to another school to begin a new program.