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.


MAINTAINING STATUS ON OPT & STEM OPT

  • Provide copy of EAD card to OISS to keep on file at http://bit.ly/oissdocs.
  • 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. The total number of unemployment days allowed during the combined period of OPT and STEM OPT is 150 days.
  • Employment must be full-time (more than 20 hours per week). You may combine multiple part-time positions to meet the full-time employment requirement.
  • 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.
  • Follow all the reporting requirements listed below.
  • 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 and your OPT EAD expires prior to the H-1B start date.
  • Depart the U.S. within the 60-day grace period following completion of your OPT, unless you are applying for STEM, starting a new academic program, or changing your status to another visa type.
  • 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.

REPORTING REQUIREMENTS ON OPT

  • Submit updates for any changes in your address within 10 days through your SEVP Student Portal
  • Submit updates for any changes in your employment within 10 days through your SEVP Student Portal. Mandatory information to be included under the "Relation to Field of Study" section:
  • Report any changes in your visa status or departure from the U.S. within 10 days 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.
  • OPT Student Reporting Requirements as summarized by Study in the States

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.

REPORTING REQUIREMENTS ON STEM OPT

  • Submit updates for any changes in your address within 10 days through your SEVP Student Portal
  • Submit your validation reports (required every 6 months) and mandatory self-evaluations to OISS through our online submission form
  • Submit an updated Form I-983 to OISS if there is any change in your training plan
  • In case of any changes in your employment, you must submit the following to OISS within 10 days:
    • Updated Form I-983 with your self-evaluation signed by your former employer at the conclusion of your employment
    • Updated Form I-983 regarding your new employment and the formal training plan that has been set for you
  • Report any changes in your visa status or departure from the U.S. within 10 days 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.
  • See the STEM Info Page for more information and frequently asked questions
  • STEM OPT Student Reporting Requirements as summarized by Study in the States

Quick Tips on Where and How to Report Information

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.

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. with OPT Before Graduation

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

Travel Abroad and Re-Entering the U.S. with OPT After Graduation

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 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 (OPT) 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 Optional Practical Training Handout
    Optional Practical Training is one of the two types of temporary employment available to students in legal F-1 status. This handout outlines the application procedure; please schedule an appointment with your International Student Advisor for further information about OPT. Please come by OISS to pick up a complete OPT packet.
  • F-1 STEM OPT
    This website provides information on the 24-month STEM extension, important resources, as well as the STEM Extension Tutorial and the STEM Extension Handout.
  • STEM Designated Degree Programs – A list of majors that currently qualify as a STEM major.
  • SEVP Student Portal – More information and Frequently Asked Questions
  • 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 9/30/2020, you can use this form to request for one.
  • Social Security Number
  • Taxes – 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.

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

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 applfoations. 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.