Rice Unconventional Wisdom

Scholars on F-1 OPT

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), within the Department of Homeland Security, requires schools to maintain certain information in SEVIS for all students currently completing OPT (optional practical training). As an F-1 scholar on OPT, you continue to be under your F-1 student visa institution's sponsorship. As such, that institution must continue to maintain your SEVIS records accurate, so that you will remain in valid visa status.

Maintaining Status on OPT

  • Provide copy of EAD card to your F-1 student visa institution's OISS to keep on file
  • Submit updates for any changes to your address, your employer, or your visa status changes.  You must report the information to OISS within 10 days, so your institution can continue to properly and accurately update your SEVIS record.
  • If you were an F-1 student at Rice, you may report your changes here.
  • Maintain employment, as students on OPT who have accrued more than a total of 90 days of unemployment are considered to be out of status
  • Depart the US within the 60 day grace period following completion of your OPT, unless you have changed status or are in the process of doing so.
  • Request STEM OPT extension from OISS, if eligible, within 90 days prior to completion of OPT
  • Request Cap-Gap extension from OISS if you have applied for H-1B

Note: Once you change your visa status to something other than F-1, you are required to use Form AR-11 to report your change of address.

Travel Abroad and Re-Entering the U.S. with OPT After Graduation:
It is not advisable to leave the U.S. while waiting for an EAD to arrive. Re-entry may be denied. F-1 students authorized for OPT after graduation can travel outside the U.S. and re-enter as long as they have all the following documents :

1) Passport valid at least 6 months.
2) Unexpired F-1 visa stamp in the passport.
3) I-20 form endorsed for travel (on page 3) by a Designated School Official within the last six months.
4) Valid EAD issued by USCIS.
5) Letter of employment offer or verification
6) Follow Special Registration departure procedures, if applicable

In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. for less than five years are exempt from social security taxes (also called F.I.C.A. tax). Be sure to bring this to the attention of the employer because many employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax laws. F-1 students authorized for practical training employment are subject to all other taxes that may apply: federal, state, and local. However, the entire period of practical training may be treated as an extended business trip and substantially reduce federal taxes by deducting "travel expenses" (amounts for food, housing, and transportation) from the income earned. Consult an accountant or tax attorney for more information about this second provision of the tax laws.

Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9 Form):
Within the first three days of beginning work, both the employee and employer must complete a form entitled “Employment Eligibility Verification” (USCIS Form I-9). This form will be kept on file by the employer and must be updated each time renewal of the work permission is received.

OPT Resources
F-1 Optional Practical Training Handout
F-1 STEM OPT Statement of Understanding for Rice F-1 Students 
STEM OPT and Cap-Gap Interim Final Rule 
STEM Designated Degree Programs - Click here for a list of majors that are qualify as a STEM major.