Center for International Services & Programs

STEM OPT FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions

I am currently working on F-1 OPT and am eligible for STEM OPT. What does this mean for me?

If you are eligible for STEM OPT (under the current rules), you should continue working and continue to maintain F-1 student status by reporting employer updates and residential address changes, as required.  Reminder: All existent F-1 regulatory requirements related to OPT are still in effect. 

My 12 month OPT time is ending soon, and I was planning to apply for the STEM OPT extension. Can I still apply?

Yes, the CSU International Center will continue to process F-1 STEM OPT applications.

How can I find out if my field of study is a STEM field?

You can find a list of all of the STEM fields here: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/stemlist.htm

Do I need a job offer to apply for the STEM extension?

Yes and this job offer needs to meet the following requirements:

·         It has to be directly related to your degree level and field of study

·         It has to be full time (i.e. more than 20 hours per week)

·         It must be from an employer who participates in E-Verify.

What is E-Verify?

E-Verify is an internet-based system operated by USCIS in partnership with the Social Security Administration to help employers determine the employment eligibility of their employees. You can find more information about E-Verify here: http://www.uscis.gov/everify

What if I have submitted my STEM extension to USCIS on time, but I have not received my new EAD card before my current EAD card expires?

As long as USCIS has received your application prior to your current EAD card end date, your legal status and work authorization in the US are automatically extended by up to 180 days or until you receive a decision from USCIS regarding your request.

Can I be unemployed while I am on OPT STEM?

Yes, temporarily. Under standard post-completion OPT, you receive a 90 day allotment to be unemployed. When you receive the STEM extension, you receive an additional 60 days to be unemployed giving you a total of 150 days of unemployment during your entire OPT time.

What is the purpose of the Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students?”

You are required to submit a Form I-983 to ensure that you are receiving the academic and training benefits of your STEM OPT extension. You must work with your employer to prepare the Training Plan and submit it to your DSO before your DSO may recommend a STEM OPT extension in your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.

For more information, visit the Form I-983 resources on the STEM OPT Hub.

What if I need to make changes to my Training Plan?

 If you need to make material changes to your Training Plan, you and your employer must both sign the modified version of the Training Plan and file the updated version with your DSO as soon as possible. Material changes may include, for example, a significant decrease in hours per week that you will be engaging in the practical training or a reduction in compensation without a reduction in hours worked.

You and your employer need to sign your self-evaluation on an annual basis. You will be required to do a mid-point evaluation during the first 12-month interval of your STEM OPT extension and a final self-evaluation prior to the conclusion of your STEM OPT extension.

Will my training be evaluated during my STEM OPT opportunity?

Yes. You and your employer need to sign your self-evaluation on an annual basis. You will be required to do a mid-point evaluation during the first 12-month interval of your STEM OPT extension and a final self-evaluation prior to the conclusion of your STEM OPT extension.

After my OPT STEM extension ends, do I have a grace period?

Yes, you have a grace period of 60 days.

What is my status while I am on OPT STEM?

You are considered to be in lawful F-1 status as long as you meet the following requirements:

·         You have employment for more than 20 hours per week in your field of study and commensurate to your degree level,

·         You have full time employment with an E-Verified employer,

·         You have not been unemployed for more than 120 days during your OPT and OPT STEM,

·         You report to CISP any changes of address within 10 days of occurrence,

·         You report to CISP whenever a change occurs in your employer’s information OR at least every 6 months. Submit employment information to CISP using the OPT Work Address Form.

 

Can I change employers while on OPT STEM?

Yes, but you must report it to CISP immediately, so your F-1 record can be updated to reflect this change. Please update your information using the OPT Work Address Form.

How do I let CISP know if I have changed my immigration status?

Please email a copy of the approval notice of your new immigration status to CISP at intlcenter@csuohio.edu, so your F-1 immigration record can be closed appropriately.

What types of employment am I allowed to do on OPT?

All OPT employment is required to be in a job that is related to your degree level and field of study. Employment under the OPT STEM extension may include:

·         Multiple employers. A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to your degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.

·         Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment, where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. The company for whom the student is providing services must be registered with E-Verify. If requested by DHS, you must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract period and the name and address of the contracting company.

·         Self-employed business owner. A student on a 17-month extension can start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must register his or her business with E-Verify and work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program.

·         Employment through an agency or consulting firm. A student on a 17-month extension may be employed by an employment agency or consulting firm. The employment agency or consulting firm must be registered with E-Verify, but the third parties contracting with the agency or firm (for which the student is providing services) need not be.

 

Can I be employed in multiple part time positions?

Yes, but all employers must participate in E-Verify.

Can I study while I am on OPT?

You may take classes as long as they are supplemental to your employment. You may not start another degree program. (If you would like to start another degree program, your OPT would be canceled and you would receive a new F-1 student record).

 

Can I travel while my OPT STEM application is pending and I still have a valid, unexpired EAD card?

USCIS does not recommend that you travel while your application is pending.

Can I travel while my OPT STEM application is pending and my EAD card has expired?

No, you cannot re-enter the US with expired documents.

Which documents do I need when I travel on OPT?

·         Passport (valid 6 months into the future)

·         Valid F-1 visa

·         Form I-20 (recently signed by CISP)

·         Valid EAD card

·         Proof of employment