We’ve been noticing that many students and campus staff are coming to our information sessions or sending emails about 3 years of OPT. We wanted to clarify the difference between post-completion OPT and the STEM 24-month extension of OPT. One of our advisors, Alisa Sweet, wrote out a message to help promote understanding.
Some of you may know that F-1 students who are in a STEM field can be authorized for up to three years of OPT. But did you know that in order to participate in “STEM OPT,” you have to apply for OPT twice?
All F-1 students who meet the requirements of OPT are eligible to apply for Post-Completion OPT, which is the 12-month work authorization that begins after you complete your program. Post-Completion OPT is for both students who are in a STEM field and students who are not. Students who are eligible for the 24-month STEM OPT can then apply for an extension of their authorization before the end of their Post-Completion OPT dates.
While in both cases your OPT activity must be related to your area of study, STEM OPT actually has additional requirements for employment and reporting that are not required for Post-Completion OPT. For example, STEM OPT participants are required to complete the form I-983 while they are on the STEM OPT extension. However, if you’re still within your 12-month Post-Completion OPT period, the form I-983 is not required even if you are a STEM student.