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STEM Extension

24-Month STEM Extension Information

Key points of 24-month STEM extension:

  • An individual is eligible for a 24-month extension of OPT after their initial 12-month period. Students who subsequently earn another STEM degree at a higher education level can apply for ONE additional 24-month extension at the conclusion of the second degree's Post-Completion OPT.
  • Student must be currently employed in the 12-month period of post completion optional practical training, working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student's major area of study.
  • Student must have successfully completed a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a STEM field, from a SEVIS-certified college or university within the past 10 years.
  • Student must have a job offer from an employer registered with the E-Verify employment verification system.
  • STEM Employment must be paid, or at least 20 hours per week should be paid. Unpaid work during STEM has never been officially approved.
  • Volunteering is not acceptable during the STEM work authorization period.
  • Student and student's employer are required to report termination of employment to UMass Lowell's International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) via email at: isso@uml.edu. Termination of employment is considered to be when a student has not reported to work for a period of five consecutive business days without the employer's consent.
  • Students granted a 24-month STEM Extension may not accrue an aggregate of more then 150 days of unemployment during the total 36-month OPT period.
  • Student is required to make a validation report to the UMass Lowell's International Students and Scholars Office every six months. The validation is a confirmation that the student's name and address, employer name and address, and/or loss of employment is current and accurate. Keep in mind that any of the above changes should have already been reported to email: isso@uml.edu within 10 business days of each change (with the exception of termination of employment, which should be reported within 5 days). This is critical as SEVIS may terminate the STEM extension if the six month report isn't provided. We can only provide it if you update your status with our office every six months. SEVIS will be strictly enforcing this requirement. The 6 month report can be made here
  • Student is required to provide ISSO with an evaluation of his/her STEM OPT experience on their current Form I-983 after being on STEM for one year, and must submit an additional FINAL evaluation at the completion of each STEM employment experience or completion of STEM authorization period. STEM employer must attest to the accuracy of the self-evaluation.
  • Student and STEM employer must submit a Form I-983, Training Planfor STEM OPTStudents with their application for a 24-month extension. Therein, employers will attest to the student's role with the company, the goals and objectives of the position, a description of how the employer will provide oversight, and a description of how the employer will measure and assess the student's acquisition of new knowledge and skills.
  • You can hold concurrent employment for multiple employers while on STEM, but ALL employers must be a e-verified employers and have e-verified you with their organization

*Attention STEM OPT Students working for a contractor (third-party placement)

USCIS has recently announced that the the STEM OPT program no longer permits third-party placement, effectively blocking staffing companies from qualifying as STEM OPT employers. This will, of course, lead many STEM graduates to have difficulty finding STEM OPT employment or even obtaining H-1B visa status.

USCIS quietly updated its website in late January with a stricter interpretation of third-party placements, though this only became widely known recently. It appears the change was intentional, albeit communicated through the most unusual manner. For this reason, we now urge you to consult with an immigration attorney (please see the Immigration Resources website) with any questions on the above, especially if you are currently associated with a third-party placement employer/client site.

Read USCIS Interpretation of Third Party Placements here

To apply for a UMass Lowell STEM Recommended I-20, please go to our Forms webpage. Students who receive their STEM Recommended I-20, may then proceed to mail all required documentation to USCIS (pdf).

For more information regarding the new 24-Month STEM Extension, please go to the Study in the States website!

You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view any pdf files. It can be download for free from the Adobe website.