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OPT STEM Extension Rules ? Work for 5 Years with Valid Stamping ?

One of our readers asked, “how many years does f1 visa get stamped……for example if it stamped for 3 yrs …..course completed in 18 months ….then we have chance of working part time .if we don’t get permanent job ….or should we get back home …and file h1b visa ?“. Before we look into the question, let us understand some basics of F1 student working options after graduation like OPT and OPT STEM Extension regulations that were passed in 2008 and later.

What is F1 Visa  OPT for 12 Months

After a student on F1 visa graduates from a US University with a degree, they can work on OPT for upto 12 months in the same field as their degree.  This is a general provision giving for all students who get a degree from US universities it could be bachelors, masters or doctorate. Check F1 Student Work in US on OPT vs CPT  to get full details on this. Essentially, the key aspect is that you can work for upto 12 months after graduation with this option.

Now, what is OPT Extension for 24 months for STEM Degree holders ? 

Background : In 2008, to address the demand for tech workers with H1B visa Lottery, USCIS passed an interim rule for 17 OPT Extension and then later amended to give 24 months OPT for certain students whose degrees fall under STEM ( science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) Category. The updated OPT rule for 24 month extension became effective in early 2016 and it is you can read full Summary of the New 24 month STEM OPT Rule

What is the OPT Extension Rule for STEM Degree holders ?

With the interim final OPT extension rules, if a student has a degree that falls in STEM Degree Category, they can get another OPT extension for about 24 months, which makes your overall OPT stay for anywhere up to 36 months.  Typically, first term is given 12 months and can be extended up to 24 months. The big clause of is STEM category for 24 month extension. There are CIP Codes  ( CIP is an acronym for “Classification of Instructional Programs”) for degrees that fall under this category, it is printed on the I-20.  Read What is CIP Code and Importance for STEM Extension .

Also, to avail this OPT extension, the company you work for should be enrolled in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS’) E-Verify employment verification program and the student has to be maintaining proper status in US. There are also rules like the student should update the student’s designated school official (DSO) about student’s work info and their current address every 6 months, there has to be training plan, etc. All these rules have to met in order to maintain the 24 month OPT in proper status.

What is the application process for STEM OPT Extension ?  

  • The student should file Form I-765 with USCIS along with the Form I-20 endorsed by the DSO.
  • A copy of the STEM degree has to be submitted along with the application packet.
  • A required fee of about $410 USD has to submitted as well.( check USCIS website for updated fee)
  • The student has to indicate the STEM degree and also provide the employer’s E-Verify information in the application form.
  • The student has to file for this OPT extension before the expiration of 12 month.
  • If the student does not hear back the decision from USCIS on STEM Extension, the student can continue to work for about 180 days, when the application for extension is filed timely when in proper status.

Read  Optional Practical Training  FAQs by USCIS  and 24 Month OPT Extension USCIS.gov . You may check the Complete list of degrees qualified for STEM is listed on US ICE website.

So, Can you work for 5 years, if your F1 visa is Stamped for 5 years doing part time or some sort of work ? 

As described above, the answer is that you can work on OPT for 12 months and OPT Extension for another 24 months, if you fall under STEM category.  In total, you can only work up to 36 months. You work on F1 status during these 36 months. Your F1 visa stamp on the passport does not matter, it is the status you maintain in America that matters you to stay in America. Even, if you have 5 years F1 visa stamping, it does not let you work in US in any job in US. You will have to work only in OPT by maintaining your F1 visa status.   Read Visa Vs Status in USA to understand the difference.  You need to apply for H1B visa to continue to work in US after your OPT expires.  You need to find an employer who can sponsor you H1B Visa as well.  Read How to Apply for H1B visa

What are your thoughts ? What has been your experience ?


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  1. Hello ,
    My name is Uday.My OPT Extension expires on 31st October 2017 and I don’t have any extensions more.
    As of my knowledge, I would have another 60 days Grace period to stay back in USA and transfer my sevis to new college in that period.
    If the college starts from Jan 6th, 2018 and before that If I can get the I20 and sevis transfer, is that possible for me to use that 60 day grace period?

    Any help is highly appreciated.

  2. Hi. I’m currently on my opt visa with a non-STEM master degree, but I didn’t get the working visa this year. So I’m planning to apply for a second master degree that is STEM, I understand that I don’t have OPT anymore but can I apply to a OPT extension after I graduate from this second master? Thanks

  3. Hi,

    I just graduated with BA in architecture. I used CPT for 2 co-ops and then used part time OPT. In September I will be going back to school for my masters. Co-op isn’t required for this degree, but can I still use CPT time to work part time while pursuing my master’s degree?



  4. Hi,
    i am currently on OPT after completing my masters, I want to go for Actuarial Science Major , i did not use my CPT as well OPT extension, will i get OPT extension or CPT if i go for another masters.

    Any comment will be helpful

  5. Hi All,

    I’m going to apply for the F-1 visa for spring 2016, but recent new i got is that most of the students are getting visa only for 3 or 2 yrs. Is there any specific reason for this or the OPT issue effected this..?

    • Ashok,
      Is that so? Even if it is issued for 2 years, you may get it stamped again in future if your course/OPT runs into 3rd year. Additionally, you can continue to stay inside US on the basis of I-94 (which is issued for duration of study) and not travel outside US during the 3rd year (this assumes you don’t have need to travel overseas).

  6. Please note that this rule is different from the application rules for the standard 12-month OPT, under which students could be approved for multiple OPT periods for each higher degree earned in the U.S. The start date of the 17-month OPT extension will be automatically set to the day after the expiration of the current 12-month OPT authorization.

  7. I have heard that there is no OPT extensions from Feb 2016, Is it true and is it finalized by the US govt. I wanted to do my MS fo next spring which OPT will i be eligible either the 12 months or the 29 months

  8. today (17-08-2015) i got a message from my friend that US student Visa is now only three years actually it is 5 years we all know that is that information is correct of wrong.
    Respond me immediately

  9. Hi ! iam planning for my Masters in usa.i have completed my btech..i want to know that if my visa will have 5 years validity so can i work full time on job after two years of Ms. (for remaining three years)…
    plz reply me…

  10. Hi, I am applying for Master degree in US on cpt course.i m from hospitality background.can any one suggest me how many year stay in US. And also for this course ielts band is necessary or not.becouse my consultancy say some colleges are not ask for ielts.so plz suggest me which is right….

  11. Hello,
    I persued my MASTERS from USA and did worked on EMPLOYEMENT AUTORIZATION upto 29 months including stem extension and has to unfortunately return INDIA for personal reasons.Know I am planning to come USA on H4 status.Can anyone let me know whether i am eligible to work in USA on dependent visa status.

  12. I graduated August 2014 and am back in Canada but my f-1 visa only expires in 2016. I am going to visit friends in two weeks in the US and am wondering if I will come across any problems when crossing the boarder.

  13. I am going for masters in u.s.a but the course is of 15 months duration. Am i eligible for Opt and opt extension? (my course is STEM category )

  14. Hi,

    I need some help please.
    I am working on OPT. My OPT expires on April 2015. After that, I still have 17 month STEM extension so i can work on OPT till September 2016. Should i make my employer apply H1B for 2015 or 2016 to increase my chances of having H1B visa?
    If I apply for H1B in 2015 and let’s say it is rejected. Can i apply for it one more time in 2016? Also, if it is rejected, can i keep working on OPT? In other words, is my OPT gets in danger if my H1B petition is rejected or not selected.

    Can please someone help about that?

  15. Hi

    I have graduted in May 2014 and started working in a company from July 28th 2014 in OPT. My OPT expires 05/26/2014 If my company applies for h1b for me this april and if it is denied can I opt for extention under stem afterwards ? I am STEM eligible

  16. Hi

    I am in opt stem it expires on March 8 th 2015 , do I need to join the college to be in the status or just wait for my h1 b to be filed by April 1st

  17. If one doesn’t get anything like OPT or H1B visa then can he use 5 years F1 VISA for taking any other part time course or online course and simultaneously work in company like other people?

  18. Please let me know that MS in Finance/Financial Engineering/Mathematical Finance etc, in Finance field and MS in Supply Chain Management comes in STEM category or not…..

  19. Hi,

    I am a hospitality graduate looking forward to do my MAsters in the USA.

    1. Please let me know list of universities that provide a Master program that allows me to work part time and also have a valid visa .

    F1 Visa allows me to study and also work for 5 years right?Pls let me know thanks

  20. Hi,
    I am applying for Ms at msu.The program I am applying for is not stem associated and its a one year course. My course will end in December 2014 and if I find an employer they will file my h1b in april 2015.What about the gap from December to April?

  21. Hello, thanks for providing such a informative blog. I have a question regarding OPT-extension. If 120days of unemployment has passed, is there a 60 days packing period for us to get ready and go home? What status will we be? Or we need to go back before/when it reaches 120 days?

    Thanks in advance.

  22. Hello,

    I have a problem and hope someone could answer this question.
    My OPT period started on jan 23rd 2012 and i have been working from feb 17th 2012
    with an e-verified company. Problem is i did not update my employee details with
    the USCIS before 90 days period.

    can anyone tell me if that effect my chances of getting a STEM extension period of
    17 months? If so, how bad is the impact?

    • Kamal,
      Talk to your DSO and ask them if they can update the SEVIS record for the back date. If they cannot update the SEVIS record, then it can be an issue. USCIS will most likely issue RFE to confirm if the unemployment was less than 90 days or not.

        • Kamal,
          When USCIS processess the application for extension or H-1 petition, and if they any questions or need more information, then they would issue RFE (request for evidence). Around 60 days will be given to respond to the RFE.

          • Saurabh
            Thanks for answering my questions.Hopefully my application for extension doesnt get rejected!!!

  23. I am currently on my OPT extension. I have been out of a job for quite sometime and went beyond my 120 days of unemployment time. Currently I am working with a company that is ready to sponsor my H1. Will there be any problems arising because of this extended unemployment period?

  24. Hi Saurabh,

    One company is filing my h1b inhouse but i have to travel to India for 2weeks. Should I let them file my h1 now and go to India while it is under process? Will this pose a problem when I get back at the port of authority or at the consulate for stamping? My OPT expires Feb2013 and my F-1 status expires Sept.2014, so should i wait now and get filed for h1b next yr? Please help in this situation. I have to visit India for a family emergency.

    • Mehek,
      Your H-1 COS will be abandoned if you leave US while it is pending. You should travel either after your H-1 COS has been approved, or have the petition filed after you have returned to US. There should not be a problem at PoE. Make sure you carry your F-1/OPT documents including employment verification letter and I-20 endorsed for travel.

      • Thank you Saurabh.. your reply is very much appreciated!
        I also have a major confusion about OPT.. I have read USCIS rules but I just don’t get it!
        I graduated in Dec,2011 but selected the OPT start date as February 15th, 2012 and got a non-sponsor-able job on Feb 20th. That is about 60days from program completion. I have heard that you get 60days grace period post OPT. Have I exhausted that 60day grace period because I selected a later opt start date? I hope I’m making sense. And if I do get to use those 60days grace period.. it means I can stay in the country from Feb15th 2013 to April 15th 2013… Can I ask my employer to file my H1B on April 1st of 2013?

        Thanks a lot for all your help Saurabh!

        • Mehek,
          I would suggest talking to your DSO about this. I think you will get another 60 day grace period at the end of your OPT (I am not 100% sure though). If your employer files H-1 in FY-14 during that grace period, you can continue to stay in US on the basis of cap-gap. However, you cannot work during that cap-gap period until Oct 1 2013.

          • Thanks a ton Saurabh!!!! I’m only relying on you for all my doubts! I’ll contact my DSO right away.. you are great!!! I can’t thank you enough!

  25. Hi ,
    I am a student on my OPT and have found a job and they said they would file for my H1B too.
    However they are doing my background check and medical tests and this is going beyond my 90 day period of employment. How should I sort this issue.


    • KKrishnan,
      You can explain the urgency to them, and ask to expedite. You can also discuss options of joining them on probationary basis (i.e. pending background/medical checks).

  26. Hi,

    Thanks in advanced!

    i have done my MS last year and i am on OPT right now, My OPT is going to expired on July 2012. as i have one more extension left, so my question is i have never worked in any company or with any employer, but now i have found Everify company, which is going to apply for my 17 Months OPT. so is it good ? or i have to go back to F-1 status again and get admission in school.

    • Mitesh,
      You mean you were unemployed on OPT until now for last 8-9 months? If yes, then it will be pretty tough to get OPT extension as you didn’t maintain legal status on OPT.

  27. Hi.
    I am pursuing my Masters in Electrical Engineering at Florida Institute of Technology.
    I had came to India for some reason and during that, I lost my passport with F-1 Visa on it.
    Now, I have to apply again for a new F-1 Visa.
    But, my I-20 is about to expire in May, 2012.
    So, are there any chances for getting rejection in Visa?
    Thanks for your reply.

  28. Hello, I was on my OPT and it expires on 19th of February 2012. I am currently under my 60 days of grace period. Since I could not get a work sponsorship so then I applied for my Master degree. I would not get an answer of acceptance by end of March. If I got accepted by the new school by end of March or early April, will it be a problem with transferring and renew my I-20, since my grace period is going to end in 18th of April 2012 and the Master Program only starts in September 2012. Do I have to return to my country and re-apply for an F-1 visa or can I stay in the country and be able to renew my I-20 upon my acceptance from the school without I have to leave the country?…
    Thank you.

  29. Hi,

    I am originally from England. I am on an OPT which expires May 2012. I am looking for an H1B sponsoring company. I graduated in May 2011 with an MBA, and did an internship in Finance. I have had job offers from roughly 8 large global financial firms, yet they will not sponsor for entry level jobs. Can I extend my OPT? I have a fiance here in the USA, and will most likely be married within a year or two.

    Any help is much appreciated. I am really desperate at this point. I know if I do not arrange something soon then I will be forced to leave upon the expiration of my OPT.



  30. Hi

    I completed my Masters in Software engineering from California in May 2011. My OPT is valid upto May 2012 and my F1 visa is valid up to 2014.
    Because of some personal reasons I had to come back to India in Aug 2011.
    My question is, is it possible for me to go back to US as my OPT and visa still valid? I don’t have any job yet.
    Please let me know. I have searched on net but couldn’t find answer to this.


    • Rahul,
      I don’t know the exact date of graduation and your travel out of US, but seems like you have stayed close to 90 days in US on OPT unemployed (as you mentioned you don’t have a job yet). Usually one can travel on OPT as long as they have a valid job, stayed unemployed for less than 90 days and have endorsed their I-20 OPT card for travel by DSO (valid for 6 months, I suppose). You don’t seem to satisfy that.

      You can also contact your DSO for a more accurate answer.

  31. Hi ,
    I am currently on H4 visa. I have a Masters in Biotechnology from India. I applied for a PhD at schools in the US and a professor is willing to take me as her PhD student. I will most likely be joining school from fall 2012.While the admission process is still going on, I would like to clarify certain things.

    1. What will be the visa which I have to apply for ? Is it F1 or J1?

    2. If I plan to take a break after a year and continue with my PhD, will there be any issues with my visa status?

    3. Is there a possibility that I can apply for a Green Card by myself either after I complete my course or while I am doing my research?

    Thank you in advance for answering my queries

    • 1. F-1
      2. You will have to check w/ school if they allow you to take a break in b/w or not while maintaining legal visa status. If not, you can go to H-4 and then move back to F-1. The other thing you can do is start your PhD on H-4, and once you know that there would be continuity in attending school then only move to F-1
      3. Employment based GCs can be filed by employers

  32. Hi,

    My OPT is expiring on Feb 8th 2012, I am currently working for a construction firm. My Company wanted to file my H1B Visa, unfortunately, all the H1b CAP for 2011 was filled.
    I am left with only one option – to register in a University to pursue another Masters degree.
    I applied for a Spring semester in a University here in States, which will start around March 26th 2012 and my OPT 60 days grace period will be ending around April 8th, 2012. I would be getting my new I-20 before April 8th, 2012.
    My questions is whether I would be allowed to stay legally in the US to pursue another degree during my 60 day period or do I have to go back to my home country and re-enter the US for the same.

    Any suggestion on this would be greatly appreciated.

    • You can continue to stay during those 60 days and pursue course in another university. Once you have a new I-20, you can file for extension of stay, if your I-94 is expiring soon.

  33. Hi,
    I have a question which I am not able to find an answer. Please help me out. I graduated from MS in Northeastern U majoring in Pharmaceutical Sciences, specialization: Pharmaceutics. According to the revised list of STEM designated degree programs, Pharmaceutics and Drug Design have just been included in the list.
    However, since my university has a general degree in Pharmaceutical sciences with specialization in Pharmaceutics, they told me that I am not eligible for STEM extension even though my specialization fits in with the STEM extension eligible degrees. Is there some way I can direct the USCIS or any other establishment towards our dilemma. This problem is set to affect the careers of all international students in my batch. Please help.

  34. Hi,

    I am currently in my OPT extension period and my F1 VISA expires before my OPT extension expires. I am confused whether I can continue working after my F1 VISA expires as I have valid OPT exptension. I went through online and found not much information related to my situation. It will be a great help if someone can provide me with the exact information. Thank you.


    • You can continue to stay and work in US as long as your OPT and I-94 are valid. In case you leave US, then you will have to get F-1 visa stamped in order to re-enter US on F-1 vias. Until then, you don’t need to worry about your F-1 visa expiring.

      • Thank you for the information Saurabh. I appreciate your time in replying to my situation. Merry Christmas.


  35. My OPT is expiring on Feb 8th 2011, I am currently working for a consulting firm as a consultant in an bank. My Company didn’t file my H1B Visa …as they keep saying they will until all the H1b CAP was full.
    I have only one Option left to go back to University for my MS Studies.
    My Question is if apply for Summer Classes in University, which will start around May 15th 2011 and my OPT 60 days grace period will be ending around April 8th, 2011 and if I would be getting my new I-20 before April 8th, 2011 whether i would be allowed on legal status to stay in US or do I have to go back to my Home Country and come back in US. Also my F-1 Visa is Valid till August , 2013.

  36. Hi,

    I am working FT on OPT and it expires in January 2012. I am planning to apply for OPT extension soon. My F1 visa expires in June 2013 and my Employer wants to do my H1B next year. Please let me know how many months in advance do I need to visit my country for H1B stamping before my F1 expires.


    • If your H-1 is filed and approved w/ COS, then you will be on H-1 status from that approval date. No immediate stamping is required as long as you are in US. Next time you travel outside of US, you will have to get H-1 visa stamped in your passport in order to be able to return back to US on H-1. At that point it doesn’t matter whether your F-1 visa is still valid or expired.

      Does that answer your question?

  37. Hi,
    1. I’m on OPT at present, and the initial 12 months of OPT expires on 8th December 2011.
    2. I’m working for a consulting firm. However, the client I’m working for has offered me a full-time job and they will also file my H1-b petition.
    3. My question is can I apply for my OPT extension simultaneously through my present consulting firm? whereas my H1-b petition is filed by my client company who will become my future employer.

  38. hi, I am right now on my OPT extention period. It is going to expire in June 5 2011.
    I have alredy applied for my H1 but it has not been approved yet.
    So as I know I have to apply for Cap-gap I20 for the period of June 2011 to Oct 2011.
    But if I wont gen my cap-gap I20 before my OPT expires would there be any problem or I can still continue working?

    • I don’t think you necessarily need to apply for new I-20 to avail cap-gap. A person is put into that status automatically as long as they satisfy the requirements. You can check with your DSO for more details and ask them if they need to endorse the existing OPT for that.

  39. Hello,
    I am a B.tech in Electronics engineering with a experience of 3years (1 year teaching electronics engg and 2years as QA engineer).My husband will be going to california,USA on H1B by this March2011.
    1) I want to pursue MBA/MS from USA but as i will be on H4 visa can i get some advantages.
    2) I read on this site that OPT is not given for H4 holders.Is it necessary to get OPT for job or can we get H1-b Visa from any sponsor without OPT also.
    3) Can i convert H4 visa to F1 visa during studies.For conversion of H4 visa to F1 visa ,i need to comeback to India or not.
    4) Please recommend that i apply for H4 visa or F1 visa which will be more beneficient.

    Please reply to my questions.


    • Sara,

      1) Yes, read this : Study on H4 Visa advantages

      2) Yes, you are right. No, you do not need OPT for getting job. But the reality is, it can be very challenging to find a sponsor who can apply for H1B visa, when you are on H4 visa. OPT gives you time and F1 status for more options.

      3) Yes, you can do a Change of Status. As long as you do not leave and re-enter US, you do not need visa stamping.
      4) It depends…you would have to take a decision…. Read the article I recommended above and talk to your spouse about your options, he can recommend you…


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