Maintaining Status on OPT STEM Extension
University at Buffalo DSO Information:
210 Talbert Hall Buffalo, NY 14260
COVID-19 & Maintaining Status
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic some rules about maintaing your visa status may have changed temporarily. For details please visit our COVID FAQ page. If you have questions after reviewing our information contact us for assistance.
How do I maintain my F-1 status while on an OPT STEM Extension?
To maintain your F-1 status while on an OPT STEM Extension, you must satisfy all of the following requirements:
Maintain full-time employment
- Work at least 20 hours per week in (a) job(s) directly related to your field of study. It is your responsibility to prove and document how your employment is directly related to your field of study.
- Ensure all work during the STEM extension meets requirements as specified below.
Acceptable Types of Employment
Any employment you choose while on the OPT STEM Extension must meet the following conditions:
- The employer must participate in the E-Verify Program.
- You must work a minimum of 20 hours per week.
- Your work must be directly related to your STEM program of study.
- If you are employed by more than one employer, each employer must complete a Form I-983 (Training Plan for STEM OPT Students).
- You must be employed by the employer that signed the Form I-983 and that employer must provide the practical training experience.
Self-employment and volunteer/unpaid employment are NOT permitted on the OPT STEM Extension.
We recommend that all students keep documentation to prove that they were employed while on OPT. Below is a list of common documents used to prove employment. You will not be required to submit this proof of employment to ISS, but it may be requested by USCIS if you are applying for future immigration benefits. Should you be asked to provide these documents to USCIS, consistency will be important. Be sure that the dates on offer letters, etc. are consistent with the dates you report to ISS.
- Copies of job offer letters and agreements/contracts with all OPT employers including start and end dates.
- Copies of job descriptions including job title, duties, location, pay rate and proposed number of hours to be worked per week.
- If you worked for an agency or consultancy, keep evidence of the projects you worked on.
- Keep copies of your pay vouchers or pay stubs for all periods of employment.
- Maintain copies of your bank statements that show direct or corresponding deposits from your employer(s).
- Copies of your W-2 tax forms.
Do not exceed unemployment limits
- Not exceed the allotted 150 days of unemployment time.
- Students on an OPT STEM Extension are permitted to be unemployed for 60 days in addition to the 90 days allotted for Post-Completion OPT.
- The maximum period of unemployment allowed is therefore 150 days during the entire 36 month OPT period.
- Each day of unemployment (including weekends) is counted towards the 150-day requirement for students on an OPT STEM Extension.
- Time spent outside the U.S. counts as unemployment unless the travel was work-related or during an official leave from one’s job. Therefore, to maintain your F-1 status, you must update your employment history and report any changes in employment to ISS as soon as you accept a new job offer or as soon as any changes occur.
If you exceed 150 days of unemployment, the Department of Homeland Security could automatically terminate your SEVIS record.
This means that your F-1 status and employment authorization will no longer be valid, and you will have to leave the U.S. immediately.
- Possible consequences to remaining in the U.S. after the 150-day deadline without a job include denial of future immigration benefits, accrual of unlawful presence, detention and deportation.
Report changes in employment and contact information within 10 days
- Report your employment and U.S. address information to ISS within 10 days of any change.
- You must also report any change of employer, Employer Identification Number or employer’s address plus any change or deviation from the training plan outlined on Form I-983, any reduction in compensation not tied to a reduction in work hours, any decrease in the number of hours worked per week, etc.
- A new Form I-983 must be submitted to ISS within 10 days of any change in employment details.
To report employment & change of address:
Log in to UB Global. Enter your current residential address on the “Update OPT Student Contact Information” e-form. You will be required to upload a copy of your EAD card (front side only).
Then, update your employment information on the “Add or Update OPT Employment” e-form.
- If you previously reported employment to ISS and are no longer working for that employer, you must report your end date of employment. To report your employment end date, first enter your previous employer’s information on the “Add or Update OPT Employment” e-form. Then, on the same e-form, enter your new employment details. You can report up to three employers on the same e-form.
Reporting Changes within 10 days
Students must update information on UB Global within 10 days of any changes to their personal or employment information. UB DSOs will then update SEVIS within 21 days.
SEVIS will count each day without employer information toward the total number of unemployment days allowed. Exceeding unemployment limits can result in a loss of status and failure to update employer information in SEVIS in a timely manner may result in any or all of the following actions (as described by USCIS on August 18th, 2020):
- The alien exceeding unemployment limits and therefore failing to maintain F-1 nonimmigrant status, rendering them removable, unless they are otherwise in a period of authorized stay;
- SEVP setting an alien’s SEVIS record to “terminated” if they have exceeded unemployment limits;
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) initiating revocation proceedings for an alien’s Employment Authorization Document if they have exceeded unemployment limits; and
- The exceeded unemployment limits negatively affecting the alien’s future benefit requests filed with USCIS.
If after reporting updates you would like an updated I-20 or you need a reprinted I-20 for a reason other than travel you can request one on UB Global using the "I-20 Reprint Request" e-form.
Submit OPT STEM Reports
6-Month STEM Report
Students on the OPT STEM Extension must submit a report to their school every six months. When the school receives the report, it will notify SEVIS that the student has complied with this reporting requirement.
If a Six-Month Report is not submitted by the student, it is possible that there could be negative consequences in the future. Therefore, it is imperative that you not only maintain employment, but that you report it to the ISS office and submit the required six-month report in a timely fashion.
- To submit the 6-Month Report, log in to UB Global using your UBIT name and password and choose the e-form titled "STEM OPT Reporting".
It is your responsibility to complete and submit your 6-month report in a timely manner.
12-Month and Final Evaluations
In addition to the 6-Month Report, the student and the student’s employer must complete a performance evaluation every 12 months, and at the end of the employment period. To submit an Employment Evaluation, log in to UB Global using your UBIT name and password.
What's the difference?
Both evaluations are on page 5 of the I-983. The 12-Month Evaluation is the top half and the Final Evaluation is the bottom half.
For more information please refer to DHS' Students and the Form I-983 page.
- To submit the 12-Month Evaluation Form, choose the “STEM OPT Reporting" e-form. The e-form will prompt you to upload a copy of your Evaluation Form.
- To submit a Final Employment Evaluation:
- If it is the final month of your OPT STEM Extension, choose the “STEM OPT Reporting” e-form and select “24 months” from the drop down menu. The e-form will prompt you to upload a copy of your Evaluation Form.
- If you are changing employers: You will also be prompted to upload the evaluation form when reporting an end date on the "Add or Update OPT Employment" e-form.
- If your immigration status has changed, you can upload the evaluation when you complete the "Change of Status Notification" e-form.
- If you are leaving the U.S. before the end date on your EAD and will not return to continue your OPT, then complete the "Departure Form for Students on OPT" e-form. You will be prompted to upload the evaluation as a part of that form.
Notify ISS about changes
- Report any change in your name (email email@example.com).
- Report any change in your immigration status (e.g. change to H-1B) by completing the "Change of Status Notification" e-form in UB Global.
- Report any changes in F-2 dependents.
- Request an F-2 be added to your SEVIS record using the procedure described on our page.
- Notify ISS if any F-2 dependent changes status or leaves the U.S. and will no longer be a dependent on your record while you are on OPT.
Report any employer non-compliance
- Report any employer non-compliance to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). If you believe that your employer is not complying with the terms and conditions of the STEM OPT regulations or the Form I-983 Training Plan, contact the Student and Exchange Visitor Program at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Department of Homeland Security.
Travel While on OPT
There are many factors to consider before deciding to travel while on OPT. Before making any travel plans, we recommend that you review the Travel section of our website.
Be sure to check the Travel Endorsement Signature on page 2 of your OPT I-20. This signature is valid only for 6 months.
To request an updated I-20, log in to UB Global using your UBIT name and password, and click "Students Currently Approved for OPT", then "OPT Travel Validation Endorsement Request". Please submit your request at least 10 business days before you plan to leave the U.S.
How long can I remain in the U.S. after my EAD expires?
All students on OPT have a 60-day grace period after their EAD expires. You are permitted to remain inside the U.S. during those 60 days to prepare for your departure, apply to change your status (if eligible) or begin a new degree program. If you are not admitted to a new degree program or do not submit a change-of-status application before the end of the 60 days, you must leave the U.S.
During your 60-day grace period, you may not work.
What happens if I violate my immigration status?
If a student on OPT fails to maintain their immigration status, as explaned above, the student will violate their immigration status. Status violations are serious and can result in the accural of unlawful presence. It is extremely important that you adhere to all reporting deadlines, understand your obligations as an F-1 student on OPT, and follow all state and federal laws. If you have questions about status violations while on OPT, please contact ISS.
- If you transfer to another school or begin study at another educational level at UB, then your OPT authorization will automatically be terminated.
- If you are accepted to begin another degree program at UB and your OPT has not yet expired, your OPT will terminate on the first day of classes for your new degree program.
- If you later decide not to mail your OPT STEM Extension application to USCIS for any reason, you must notify ISS immediately so that we can cancel your OPT recommendation in SEVIS.
- Recent reports indicate that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has started visits to worksites hosting students on the OPT STEM Extension. For more information on site visits, read DHS' Employer Site Visits page.
- If you decide to leave the U.S. and are no longer pursuing your OPT STEM Extension, please complete the "Departure Form for Students on OPT" located in UB Global.
- While on an OPT STEM Extension, you are still in F-1 status.