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International Student Services

Employment Possibilities for OPT STEM Extension

Where can I work while on the OPT STEM extension?

You can work anywhere in the United States.

What are the work restrictions while on the OPT STEM extension?

Any work must be related to your major field of study.

Any employer must have an E-Verify number.

You must do a minimum of 20 hours of paid work for an E-Verify employer and the work must be directly related to your field of study to count as employment while on the STEM extension.

During the 24 months of the STEM extension, you cannot be unemployed for more than 60 days.

What kind of work is considered employment on the OPT STEM extension?

Paid employment

All employment during the STEM extension must be paid employment. Volunteer experience does not count as employment for the purpose of maintaining F-1 status during the STEM extension.


The student’s prospective STEM OPT extension employer must be enrolled in USCIS’ E-Verify employment eligibility verification program and must, along with the student, complete and sign a Form I-983.

The student must submit the completed and signed Form I-983 to their DSO. The Form I-983 must include information clearly describing how the training opportunity being offered by the employer has a direct relationship to the student’s qualifying STEM degree. Additionally, the Form I-983 must clearly indicate that the student will work a minimum of 20 hours per week during the extension period.

F-1 students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Form I-983, and students may not provide employer attestations on their own behalf.

The Employer’s Training Obligation: Staffing and Temporary Agencies

Staffing and temporary agencies and consulting firms may seek to employ students under the STEM OPT program, but only if they will be the entity that provides the practical training experience to the student and they have and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. STEM OPT participants may engage in a training experience that takes place at a site other than the employer’s principal place of business as long as all of the training obligations are met, including that the employer has and maintains a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student.  

As noted in the 2016 STEM OPT rule, certain types of arrangements, including multiple employer arrangements, sole proprietorships, employment through ‘‘temp’’ agencies, employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, and other similar relationships may not be able to demonstrate a bona fide employer-employee relationship and, therefore, may not meet the requirements of the STEM OPT extension.


DHS website STEM OPT