Career Clusters Preparation

Everything You Need To Know About the STEM OPT Extension

If you are an international student who is thinking about working in the United States after you graduate, optional practical training, or OPT, is a must know acronym for you! OPT allows you to work in the U.S. for a limited period of time after graduation in a job that directly relates to your major. Most F-1 students are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT per degree level (Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD), but students in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) majors may be eligible for an additional 24 month extension, for a total of 3 years.

Which majors are STEM?

Majors eligible for the STEM OPT extension are defined by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The full list of eligible BC majors can be found here. Some majors are pretty obviously related to STEM, like biochemistry, computer science, and math, but there are also some that might be a little more surprising. Economics, for example, is eligible for the extension, as well as some graduate programs in Lynch like Educational Research, Measurement, & Evaluation and Learning Engineering. If you plan to stay in the U.S. after graduation, it’s worth at least exploring these majors.

What are the eligibility requirements for STEM OPT extensions?

In addition to working in a STEM position that directly relates to your major, you must also be working a minimum of 20 hours per week and be paid. The employer must also be enrolled in the E-Verify program, which is the system the government uses to track who is eligible to work in the U.S.

Does a STEM minor make me eligible for an OPT extension?

No. The extension is only available to graduates with a STEM major. Similarly, your job cannot just relate to your minor, it must directly relate to your major.

Some international students chose a STEM major because their priority is working in the U.S. and find that companies are more likely to hire them with 3 full years of work eligibility. That approach isn’t for everyone though. If you know you aren’t interested in working in any job related to STEM, this might not be the best plan for you.

To learn more about STEM OPT and work authorization in general, be sure to connect with the Office of International Students and Scholars and review their STEM OPT training. Our career coaches can also work with you to help you identify employers open to hiring international students.

Salome Miclette, Assistant Director, Career Education

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