FAQs

Can an F-1 student on OPT work in any position?

  • No.  A student who is on the initial 12-month OPT or a 24-month STEM extension must work in a position that is related to the student’s degree program.

How long can an F-1 student on OPT be unemployed?

  • An F-1 student on the initial 12-month OPT can be unemployed no more than 90 days.  A STEM student who obtains the 24-month extension is allowed another 60 days of unemployment, for a total 150 days.

What does STEM mean?

  • STEM means that a student graduated with a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics.

When should an F-1 OPT student apply for a STEM extension?

  • At least four (4) months before the expiration of the initial OPT.  If you think there are any complexities with your case, make sure to consult with your Designated School Official (DSO) and/or immigration attorney.

Does an employer have to be enrolled in E-Verify to hire an F-1 STEM OPT student?

  • Yes. An employer has to be enrolled in e-Verify to hire an F-1 student who is on their 24 month STEM OPT.

What is an I-983 training plan?

  • When an employer hires an F-1 student on STEM OPT, both the employer and the employee have to jointly prepare a formal training plan that describes the goals of the training, the training plan in detail, what the student will achieve and how he/she will be supervised by the employer.  The student must present this I-983 form to the school’s DSO.

Does an employer have a ‘non-replacement’ attestation for the I-983 form?

  • Yes, the employer must attest that it will not replace a part-time or full-time US worker with an F-1 STEM OPT student.

Can an F-1 STEM OPT student change employers?

  • Yes, but the new employer would have to be e-Verified and a new I-983 form would need to be completed within 10 days of starting the new job.

What reporting requirements does an employer have when they hire a STEM OPT student?

  • An employer must notify the student’s DSO when there are material changes to the training plan, as well as termination of employment.

Will employers who hire STEM OPT students get site visits from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)?

  • The Department of Homeland Security has the authority to conduct site visits to verify the training plan and whether the employer and F-1 student are in compliance.  These visits could be in-person or over the phone, but employers should be prepared for these random visits. 

What happens if an F-1 student’s STEM OPT extension application hasn’t been approved by USCIS before the initial OPT expires?

  • If an F-1 student files a STEM OPT extension application in a timely manner before the initial 12-month OPT expires, they will be work authorized for 180 days past the expiration date while the STEM OPT application is pending with USCIS.

What should a student do if they receive a Request for Evidence (RFE)?

  • The USCIS issues a lot of RFEs for STEM extensions, as well as other types of immigration cases.  The student shouldn’t panic. Read the RFE carefully and determine if advice from immigration counsel is needed to determine the best strategy for the case.

Do F-1 students have a grace period?

  • Yes. The F1 visa grace period gives students a 60day grace period during which they may remain in US beyond the completion of their program of study or Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Can an F-1 student work during the 60-day grace period?

  • No.  A student can remain in the U.S. during the 60-day grace period but they cannot work.

Can a student on STEM OPT be self-employed?

  • Generally, no.  The regulations require that an employer-employee relationship exist between the employer and employee.  Therefore, most self-employment situations won’t work. However, there are narrow exceptions so consult your immigration attorney for advice.

What is a ‘day 1’ CPT program?

  • There are some schools that provide Curricular Practical Training (CPT) during the entire educational program.  However, these programs have come under increased USCIS scrutiny, and students considering enrolling in such programs should consult with their immigration attorney.

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