Students on OPT & STEM 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 student on OPT or STEM OPT, you continue to be under Rice's sponsorship. As such, we must continue to maintain your SEVIS records accurate, so that you will remain in valid visa status.

For information on applying for OPT, please see https://oiss.rice.edu/opt.


MAINTAINING STATUS ON OPT

Provide copy of EAD card to OISS

Upload a copy of your EAD at http://bit.ly/oissdocs as soon as you receive it. A photo taken with your phone is sufficient as long as the image is clear and legible.

Maintain employment - maximum 90 days of unemployment

You may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during your OPT. Please keep in mind that if you are employed and fail to report it, those days will count as unemployment.

Employment must be full-time

You must work more than 20 hours per week. You may combine multiple part-time positions to meet the full-time employment requirement. Positions may be paid or unpaid.

Employment must be directly related to major field of study and commensurate with degree level

Please note that while reporting employment in the SEVP Portal, it is your responsibility to provide a detailed description of how your practical training opportunity relates to your major area of study. If the relationship is not clear, additional documentation may be required to demonstrate the connection.
See the OISS Online OPT Reporting Formatting Tool for assistance with proper reporting format.

Follow all OPT Student reporting requirements within 10 days of any change

All changes must be reported through your SEVP Student Portal within 10 days of the change.

  • Change of address
  • Change in employment (new employer or end of employment), including detailed explanation of a direct relationship between your job duties and your major field of study and degree level. See sample explanations provided by SEVP in their policy guidance, or use the OISS OPT Reporting Formatting Tool.
  • Change in your visa status or departure should from the U.S. should be reported directly to OISS at oiss@rice.edu. Note: Once you change visa status to something other than F-1, you are required to use the USCIS Form AR-11 to report your change of address, as your information will no longer be updated through SEVIS.

For more information on reporting requirements, please see https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/opt-student-reporting-requirements.

Quick Tips on Reporting via the SEVP Student Portal

  • You should not edit existing employer’s information when changing to a new employer or position, but rather add a new entry.
  • Do not delete employer’s information if trying to update information, only delete if you never worked for that employer.
  • Report volunteer employment only if it’s directly related to your degree.
  • Start of employment should not be backdated more than 10 days.
  • Add do-not-reply.sevp@ice.dhs.gov to approved email contacts to avoid emails from going into your Spam/Junk folder.
  • Log in at least every 3 months even if you have nothing to report, to ensure that your SEVP Student Portal account stays active.
  • You will lose access to your SEVP Student Portal 6 months after your OPT end date. It is recommended to make copies/take screenshots of your SEVP Portal records for future reference.

Timely request STEM OPT Extension, if eligible

Requests for STEM OPT extensions must be submitted to USCIS no earlier than 90 days prior to completion of OPT, and no later than OPT end date. For more information, please see https://oiss.rice.edu/stem.

Cap Gap Extension, if applicable for H-1B applicants

Request a cap-gap extension I-20 from OISS at https://bit.ly/ineedcapgap if you have applied for H-1B and your OPT EAD expires prior to the H-1B start date. OISS can issue an I-20 that will reflect the effective extension of your OPT work authorization period, if applicable. For more information on Cap Gap, please see https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students/h-1b-status-and-the-cap-gap-extension.

Do not begin coursework at a new degree level, as it may impact your OPT

NOTICE: Per SEVP guidance, students engaged in post-completion OPT may not enroll in degree-seeking academic courses. Only recreational courses (such as pottery or cooking classes) are permitted. Violating this guidance can result in the loss of valid F-1 OPT status and accrual of unlawful presence. For more information, please schedule an appointment to meet with an OISS advisor.

If you plan to start a new degree program at a different school, please note that your OPT will automatically end on the day when your SEVIS record is released from Rice to your new school, even if your OPT EAD has not yet expired. If you wish to continue working for as long as possible, please discuss your transfer date carefully with an international advisor at your new school as well as OISS at Rice.

If you plan to start a new degree program at Rice, please note that your OPT will automatically end on the day when your new program starts, even if your OPT EAD has not yet expired.

Depart the U.S. within the 60-day grace period at the end of your F-1 status

You are eligible for a 60 day grace period if you have continued to maintain status throughout your F-1 status, including your OPT period. Following completion of your OPT, you must depart the United States within the 60 day grace period, unless you are applying for STEM, starting a new academic program, or changing your status to another visa type.

MAINTAINING STATUS ON STEM OPT

Provide copy of EAD card to OISS

Upload a copy of your EAD at http://bit.ly/oissdocs as soon as you receive it. A photo taken with your phone is sufficient as long as the image is clear and legible.

Maintain employment - aggregate maximum 150 days of unemployment

You may not accrue more than 150 days of unemployment during the combined period of your OPT and STEM OPT.

Employment Authorization while STEM OPT is Pending

Timely filing a STEM OPT application automatically extends your work authorization by 180 days while you wait for the STEM OPT EAD. Please note that all STEM OPT regulations and requirements for maintaining status apply during this automatic extension period.

Employment must be paid, full-time, with an employer enrolled in E-Verify

You must work more than 20 hours per week and the employment must be paid. You may only work for the employer(s) with whom you have been approved to work under an I-983 Training Plan as reported to SEVIS.

Comply with all STEM OPT reporting requirement deadlines

Within 10 days of change:

  • Report change of address via SEVP Portal
  • Report changes in employment or I-983 Training Plan to OISS by submitting a new/updated Form I-983, and a final self-evaluation from prior employer (if switching to a new employer) using our online reporting form.
  • Report any change in your visa status or departure from the U.S. to OISS at oiss@rice.edu. Note: Once you change visa status to something other than F-1, you are required to use the USCIS Form AR-11 to report your change of address, as your information will no longer be updated through SEVIS.

Every 6 months:

Every 12 month:

Quick Tips on Reporting via the SEVP Student Portal

  • You should not edit existing employer’s information when changing to a new employer or position, but rather add a new entry.
  • Do not delete employer’s information if trying to update information, only delete if you never worked for that employer.
  • Start of employment should not be backdated more than 10 days.
  • Add do-not-reply.sevp@ice.dhs.gov to approved email contacts to avoid emails from going into your Spam/Junk folder.
  • Log in at least every 3 months even if you have nothing to report, to ensure that your SEVP Student Portal account stays active.
  • You will lose access to your SEVP Student Portal 6 months after your OPT end date. It is recommended to make copies/take screenshots of your SEVP Portal records for future reference.

Cap Gap Extension, if applicable for H-1B applicants

Request a cap-gap extension I-20 from OISS at https://bit.ly/ineedcapgap if you have applied for H-1B and your STEM OPT EAD expires prior to the H-1B start date. OISS can issue an I-20 that will reflect the effective extension of your STEM OPT work authorization period, if applicable. For more information on Cap Gap, please see https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students/h-1b-status-and-the-cap-gap-extension.

Do not begin coursework at a new degree level, as it may impact your STEM OPT

NOTICE: Per SEVP guidance, students engaged in post-completion OPT or STEM OPT extension may not enroll in degree-seeking academic courses. Only recreational courses (such as pottery or cooking classes) are permitted. Violating this guidance can result in the loss of valid F-1 STEM OPT status and accrual of unlawful presence. For more information, please schedule an appointment to meet with an OISS advisor.

If you plan to start a new degree program at a different school, please note that your STEM OPT will automatically end on the day when your SEVIS record is released from Rice to your new school, even if your STEM OPT EAD has not yet expired. If you wish to continue working for as long as possible, please discuss your transfer date carefully with an international advisor at your new school as well as OISS at Rice.

If you plan to start a new degree program at Rice, please note that your STEM OPT will automatically end on the day when your new program starts, even if your STEM OPT EAD has not yet expired.

Depart the U.S. within the 60-day grace period at the end of your F-1 status

You are eligible for a 60 day grace period if you have continued to maintain status throughout your F-1 status, including your STEM OPT period. Following completion of your STEM OPT, you must depart the United States within the 60 day grace period, unless you are starting a new academic program, or changing your status to another visa type.

Additional information and FAQs

For additional information and frequently asked STEM questions, please see the STEM OPT Info Page.

TRAVEL

It is not advisable to leave the U.S. while waiting for your EAD card to arrive, as re-entry may be denied!

Travel Abroad and Re-Entering the U.S. while OPT/STEM OPT is Pending

Travel while your OPT/STEM OPT approval is pending requires extreme caution. While traveling before the end date on your I-20 may incur fewer risks than travel after graduation, it still may negatively impact your OPT/STEM OPT application and/or entry back into the U.S.

Travel Abroad and Re-Entering the U.S. once OPT/STEM OPT is Approved

F-1 students authorized for OPT/STEM OPT 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 into the future.
  2. Unexpired F-1 visa stamp in the passport.
  3. I-20 form stating "OPT Approved" and endorsed for travel (on page 2) by a Designated School Official within the last six months.
  4. Valid EAD issued by USCIS.
  5. Letter of employment offer or verification (strongly recommended)
  6. Employment information in SEVIS updated via SEVP Student Portal (strongly recommended)

OPT FORMS & RESOURCES

F-1 Optional Practical Training Tutorial

Optional Practical Training is one of the two types of temporary employment available to students in legal F-1 status. This tutorial guides you through the details of OPT and the application procedure; please schedule an appointment with your International Student Advisor for further information about OPT.

F-1 OPT Info Page

This website provides information on Post-Completion OPT, important resources, and instructions on how to apply: https://oiss.rice.edu/opt.

F-1 STEM OPT Info Page

This website provides information on the 24-month STEM extension, important resources, as well as the STEM Extension Tutorial and instructions on how to apply: https://oiss.rice.edu/stem

STEM Designated Degree Programs

A list of majors that currently qualify as a STEM major is available at https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub/additional-resources/eligible-cip-codes-for-the-stem-opt-extension

SEVP Student Portal

More information and Frequently Asked Questions available at SEVP Student Portal

OISS Online OPT Reporting Formatting Tool

If you need assistance in making sure that your OPT reporting includes all the required information, you are welcome to use the OISS Online OPT Reporting Formatting Tool

Request Form for Cap Gap I-20

If you were selected in the H-1B lottery, and need a cap gap extension because your OPT expires before the H-1B start date, you can request for a cap gap I-20 at https://bit.ly/ineedcapgap

Social Security Number

For more information about applying for a Social Security Number, please see https://oiss.rice.edu/ssn

OPT Pre-employment Tax Support

More information on a resource provided by Sprintax to assist you in completing your W-4 is available at https://oiss.rice.edu/cpt-opt-tax

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.

SAMPLE EXPLANATIONS FOR OPT REPORTING OF A DIRECT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PRACTICAL TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES AND A STUDENT'S MAJOR AREA OF STUDY

Sample Explanations for OPT Reporting

These sample explanations were provided by SEVP in their Policy Guidance.

1. Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering: I work full time as an Electrical Engineer at ABC Corp., a government contractor. In my job, I analyze client requirements for electrical systems and provide them with cost estimates of such systems. My work requires understanding of electrical circuit theory, which I studied in-depth at the University of ABC.

2. Bachelor's degree in Business: I work full time as a Loan Officer at a mortgage company, Happy Homes, where I meet with clients and evaluate, authorize and recommend approval of loan applications. On a daily basis, I use the knowledge I gained in my credit analysis, sales and marketing classes that I took as part of my major program of study.

3. Master's degree in Music: I am working at a hospital playing the harp in patient rooms. I also conduct hands-on harp beginner workshops for long-term patients. On average, I work at the hospital 35 hours a week. My duties directly utilize the skills and knowledge I acquired from my coursework and degree in music therapy.

4. PhD in Computer Science: I am employed as a Computer and Information Research Scientist at ABC Research Institute. I work as part of a team of scientists and engineers that designs experiments to test the operation of various software systems. My work builds on research in complex algorithms and machine learning, which I studied as part of my dissertation.

5. Master's degree in Kinesiology: I am working 25 hours a week in a health food store as a consultant for Self-Made Inc., designing and teaching exercise classes that are incorporated into a customer's overall nutrition and exercise plan. My designs and customer instruction draw upon my studies and classwork in exercise therapy and physical reconditioning.