Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined in the regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." F-1 students must have completed one full academic year of full-time study before being eligible to apply.
There are three general types of Optional Practical Training:
- Pre-completion OPT - only available during the degree program
- Post-completion OPT - F-1 students must apply within 90 days prior to the date all degree requirements are met, or during the 60-days grace period.
- STEM OPT Extensions - available for certain Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) students. F-1 students must apply within 90 days prior to the ending date of the current Post-Completion OPT.
More information on OPT: 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)
24-Month STEM Extension
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made the following changes to the OPT-STEM Extension effective on May 10, 2016. The rule does not make any changes of the current Pre-Completion OPT and Post-completion OPT.
- Time increased from 17 months to 24 months
- New Required Training Plan (Form I-983)
- Under certain conditions, prior U.S. eligible degree (within 10 years) can be used for STEM-Extension unless a STEM-Extension was already used for this prior degree.
- Increased unemployment time on OPT STEM Extension from 30 to 60 days(total of 150 days when counting regular period of OPT)
- Two STEM extensions allowed instead of one per lifetime. The second can only be used at a higher degree level.
- Increased filing timeframe for OPT STEM Extensions from 30 to 60 days (based on the print date of the I-20).
- Has to be in a non-volunteer based capacity