Maintaining Student Status / STEM OPT Extension

Maintaining Status - STEM OPT Extension

As an F-1 student on STEM OPT Extension, it is your responsibility to understand and comply with the terms of your immigration status during your stay in the United States. Any violation of the immigration regulations can result in a negative termination of your I-20, or could negatively impact any future benefit applications submitted to USCIS.

STEM OPT Employment Reporting

To learn how to complete STEM OPT reporting requirements, navigate to the appropriate section below. If you have questions about your STEM OPT situation, please schedule an appointment with an ISS Advisor.

Other Key Considerations

Below are other key considerations about maintaining status while on the STEM OPT Extension with links to more information. If you have any questions, contact an international student advisor.

Passport: Your foreign passport must be valid at the time you enter the US and throughout your studies at CSUF. Failure to do so is a violation of your immigration status. If your passport will expire, contact your country’s consulate or embassy for the renewal procedure.

U.S. Visa: Your U.S. visa must be valid upon entry into the U.S. It can, however, expire while you are in the U.S. as long as you are maintaining your legal status. If your visa is lost or stolen, follow the steps in the State Department Guide immediately so that the U.S. Consulate or Embassy that issued your visa is aware of the issue and can assist you in the future.

I-20: Your I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation on page 3 must be valid at all times. If you lose your I-20, fill out the I-20 Reprint Request form and ISS will reissue your I-20.

EAD Card: Your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card is an important document that shows you are allowed to work in the United States and the specific dates from which you are authorized to work. If you lose your EAD card and need a replacement, contact the ISS Office for assistance.

I-94: The Form I-94, "Arrival/Departure Record" is a critical record that shows that you have been legally admitted to the United States, the class of admission, and the authorized period of stay. It is very important that the information on the record is correct. You can obtain your I-94 by going to the I-94 website. If you cannot find the record, contact ISS for further assistance.

You must maintain a valid local address, phone number and email address with the ISS office at all times. If you change any of the above, you must report this to ISS within 10 calendar days by using the Personal Information Update form. Once the ISS office approves your form, you will receive a confirmation email and full summary of your submission.

You must work in a paid position related to your STEM major for at least 20 hours per week with an E-Verify employer. No volunteer, unpaid position, no self-employment is allowed during the STEM OPT Extension. Also, work is only permitted on the dates that the EAD is issued. You cannot work before the EAD start date and cannot work after the EAD end date.

Students on post-completion OPT are allowed up to 90 days of unemployment. Students who receive a STEM OPT extension are given an additional 60 days of unemployment for a total of 150 days over their entire post-completion OPT period. Exceeding this maximum is considered a violation of your F-1 status and can result in a termination of your I-20 or denial of future benefits, such as the H-1B visa.

While on approved STEM OPT your F-1 status depends on maintaining your employment. If you wish to study, do so only on a part-time basis. If you want to start a full time program at CSUF or another school, you must alert the ISS office that you need to transfer or change your level of education. Doing so will end your work benefit, but will allow you to study full time. There are no options for F-1 students that will allow full time study and use of the STEM OPT benefit at the same time; you will need to choose one or the other.

If you are planning on traveling outside the U.S., you must have a valid travel signature on the I-20 in order to re-enter the U.S. Fill out the Travel Signature Request at least two weeks before you leave the U.S. to allow the ISS office adequate time to process your request. If you travel outside the U.S. and try to re-enter on an expired travel signature, CBP may deny you entry at the border and you may be forced to return to your home country.

You must leave the U.S. or transfer to another SEVP-approved school no later than 60 days after your STEM OPT ends. You can verify your STEM OPT end date by looking at your EAD card. If you exit the U.S. during your grace period, you cannot return in F-1 status because your CSUF I-20 and EAD card will not be valid for re-entry.

To transfer before the deadline, submit a Transfer-Out to Another School form. Processing time may take up to two weeks, so submit the transfer paperwork to the ISS office at least two weeks before your grace period expires.