DHS maintains a complete list of fields that fall within the regulatory definition of “STEM field” that qualifies certain degrees to fulfill the extension requirement. This list is known as the STEM Designated Degree Program list. The Department of Education’s Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) taxonomy system serves as the basis for the STEM OPT extension.
DHS will publish any subsequent updates to the STEM Designated Degree Program list in the Federal Register.
Eligible CIP Codes
DHS’s STEM designated degree program list includes all STEM fields qualifying an F-1 student for a STEM OPT extension. DHS determined a “STEM field” is a field included in the Department of Education’s CIP taxonomy within the two-digit series containing engineering (CIP code 14), biological sciences (CIP code 26), mathematics (CIP code 27), physical sciences (CIP code 40) or a related field. The current list is similar to the previous list under the 17-month STEM OPT extension.
All fields of study in the four core STEM areas of engineering, biological sciences, mathematics and physical sciences are included.
In general, related fields will include fields involving research, innovation or development of new technologies using engineering, mathematics, computer science or natural sciences (including physical, biological and agricultural sciences).
This means that DHS may consider a degree to be in a STEM field even if it is not within the CIP two-digit series for the four identified core areas and may designate CIP codes meeting the definition at the two-, four- or six-digit level.
Basis for STEM Field Definition
DHS drew upon the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) definition of “STEM field” to create the STEM Designated Degree Program list.
The NCES definition is grounded in the Department of Education’s expertise in the area of higher education, and it identifies STEM fields using CIP terminology that is widely used by U.S. institutions of higher education. DHS’s modified definition provides a straightforward and objective measure by which DSOs and adjudicators can identify STEM fields of study.