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The Difference Between Post-completion OPT and STEM OPT Explained

June 16, 2016

One of the most popular training opportunities for F-1 students is post-completion optional practical training (OPT), which grants participants up to12 months of employment authorization for on-the-job training that relates to their degree.

The new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) OPT extension is more selective and prolongs existing post-completion OPT employment authorizations for some F-1 students.

Designated school officials must recommend eligible students for both post-completion OPT and the STEM OPT extension in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. However, students must fulfill different eligibility requirements to participate in each opportunity.

Post-completion OPT

F-1 students who maintain their status and graduate from a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified college, university, seminary or conservatory are eligible to apply for post-completion OPT through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). F-1 students who meet the qualifications for regular post-completion OPT may have pursued any field of study.

Please note that students can participate in OPT both before and after completing their studies. However, all periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT (usually 12 months).

STEM OPT Extension

The STEM OPT extension is only available to certain F-1 students who receive a qualifying degree in a STEM field at the bachelor’s level or higher from an accredited, SEVP-certified school. Students must be in their initial period of regular post-completion OPT to apply for the extension. The STEM OPT extension also involves additional forms and reporting requirements.

F-1 students granted the STEM OPT extension by USCIS receive an additional 24 months of employment authorization for on-the-job training in their STEM field.

Do you want to learn more about post-completion OPT and the STEM OPT extension? Read about training opportunities in the United States and explore the Study in the States STEM OPT Hub for more information.

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