STEM OPT Extension

STEM OPT extension is a temporary employment authorization available for specific eligible F-1 international students currently on Post-Completion OPT. With an approved STEM OPT extension, an F-1 student is allowed to work off-campus for a specific time frame in roles that are an integral part of their major.

STEM OPT Extension Resources

Purpose

  • STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math. STEM OPT Extension (STEM OPT) is an employment benefit that grants a 24-month extension in addition to a currently approved Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization. 
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reviews and approves STEM OPT applications. The current filling fee is $410 and an average 90 - 180 day processing time. USCIS will mail students an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card once their STEM OPT application is approved. The EAD is the student's official work authorization in the U.S.
  • Eligible students are permitted to have two STEM OPT extensions in their lifetime based on two separate STEM eligible degrees. However, the STEM extensions cannot be consecutive or stacked together - this means STEM OPT can only follow Post-Completion OPT. Students CAN NOT extend their current 24 month STEM OPT for another 24 month based on their prior STEM degree.
    • For example: If a student receive a 24-month STEM OPT extension while on their Post-Completion OPT based on their bachelor’s degree in engineering and they later earn a master’s degree in engineering, they may apply for Post-Completion OPT based on their masters degree and then an additional 24-month STEM OPT extension based on their master’s degree. 

Types of STEM OPT

Students may be eligible to participate in STEM OPT in two different ways:

STEM OPT BASED ON MOST RECENT DEGREE

STEM OPT BASED ON PRIOR DEGREE

Most students will be applying for STEM OPT based on their most recently earned degree at SF State (the degree level and program the Post-Completion OPT is based on).

If a student has never applied for the STEM extension for the lower STEM based degree, they can qualify for a STEM extension as long as they are eligible for post-completion OPT for the new non-STEM based degree.

For example: If a student is currently participating in OPT based on an MBA but they previously received a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, they may be able to apply for a STEM OPT extension based on their bachelor’s degree as long as it is from an accredited U.S. college or university and the STEM OPT employment is directly related to their bachelor’s degree in Mathematics.

Students must meet the following criteria in order to be eligible to apply for STEM OPT:

  • Be in valid F-1 status by maintaining valid Post-completion OPT (have not exceed 90 days of unemployment).
  • Be physically in the U.S. 
  • Completed degree in a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) approved STEM field. Students may check the CIP code on their I-20 to see if they qualify.
  • Work at least 20 hours per week.
  • Work for an employer who meets all the requirements listed below in the “STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities" section below. Detailed information for students and employers can also be found on the Study in the States' STEM OPT Hub.
  • Meet the "when to apply" time frame.

When to Apply

  • Students currently on Post-Completion OPT are eligible to apply for STEM OPT as early as 90 days before their EAD end date.
  • USCIS must receive their application and have them logged into the system before their OPT end date. 
  • The STEM OPT start date would be the day after their OPT end date, and the end date would be 2 years after their STEM OPT start date. For example, if their OPT ends on June 3, 2020, their STEM OPT start date would be June 4, 2020, and their STEM OPT end date would be June 3, 2022. 

Here is a glance of the typical timeline from the day a F-1 student begins their STEM OPT request to the approval date and beyond (OIP cannot guarantee the USCIS process timeline):

Phase 1: Within Post-Completion OPT time frame

  1. Student reviews STEM OPT resources.
  2. Student downloads and fills STEM OPT Request Form and Form I-983.
  3. Student emails Form I-983 form to qualifying employer.
  4. Student receives signed Form I-983 from qualifying employment.

Phase 2: 90 days before Post-Completion OPT end date

  1. Student emails signed STEM OPT Request Form AND Form I-983 to f1@sfsu.edu.
  2. Student prepares STEM OPT Application while waiting for new I-20.
    • F-1 advisors prepare STEM OPT Requested I-20 (5business days).
  3. Student files for STEM OPT request on USCIS website.
  4. Student receives STEM OPT application digital pending receipt (immediately after filing and paying online).
  5. Student receives STEM OPT application paper pending receipt (4-8 weeks after online file).
  6. Student receives STEM OPT approval notice (90-180 days from online file date).
  7. Student receives Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (within 2 weeks after approval notice).
  8. Student continues employment while STEM OPT is pending.

Phase 3: STEM OPT/EAD start date begins

  1. Student continues employment while STEM OPT is approved.
  2. Student reports any changes to employment to SF State. Students may only make changes on SEVP portal for address changes.

Phase 4: OPT/EAD end date

  1. Student is on 60 day grace period.
  2. Student leaves the U.S. or transfers out.
  3. Student F-1 status is completed at SF State.

How to Calculate Unemployment Days

  • In addition to the 90-day maximum period of unemployment during the initial period of the 12 month of post-completion OPT, students are allowed to have an additional 60 days (for a total of 150 days) of unemployment after they obtain STEM OPT.

    • For example: "if a student uses 40 out of 90 days of Post-OPT unemployment days, they will have a total of 110 unemployment days left while on their STEM OPT (50 days leftover from Post-OPT and an additional 60 days from STEM OPT).
  • While on Post-OPT: USCIS typically authorizes a 12 month Post-OPT period (may be less depending on process time). Out of the OPT valid dates per the EAD, students cannot accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment days overall.
    • For example: "If EAD is valid from 7/30/2021 to 7/29/2022, students can't be unemployed for more than 90 days between 7/30/2021 to 7/29/2022."
  • Unemployment days start counting from the actual Post-OPT EAD "valid" start date if no employment is reported on the SEVP portal on day 1 of EAD start date.
    • It does NOT start counting from the day the student applied for OPT
    • It does NOT start counting from the initial requested OPT start date (if different from EAD start date)
    • It does NOT start counting from the semester finals end date
    • It does NOT start counting from the program end date on their I-20
    • It does NOT start counting while OPT is pending
    • It does NOT start counting if OPT is approved and EAD is received before EAD valid start date
    • Any days of unemployment throughout the whole EAD valid dates are counted, NOT just the first 90 days of OPT
    • Any days of unemployment between job changes are counted towards unemployment days
    • Any days without employment reported on SEVP portal are counted towards unemployment
      • If a student forgets to report their employment on the SEVP portal while on Post-OPT, the days are counted as unemployment days

Number of Hours Per Week

  • If authorized STEM OPT, students must work at least 20 hours per week in a position that is directly related to their major of study.

Exceeding Unemployment Days

  • If students accumulate 150 days or more of unemployment, they are in violation of their F-1 status. 

    • STEM OPT authorization will be automatically terminated by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

      • SEVP portal calculates unemployment days based on SEVP portal reporting. If a student forgets to report their employment, their records may be automatically terminated if the number of days of "unemployment" exceed 90 days
      • Since the termination is done by SEVP, they will receive an email notification from SEVP, not from OIP.
  • While on Post-OPT: if students accumulate 90 days or more of unemployment, they are in violation of their F-1 status & OPT status. They will not be eligible to apply for STEM OPT
    • OPT authorization will be automatically terminated by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

      • SEVP portal calculates unemployment days based on SEVP portal reporting. If a student forgets to report their employment, their records may be automatically terminated if the number of days of "unemployment" exceed 90 days
      • Since the termination is done by SEVP, they will receive an email notification from SEVP, not from OIP.
  • Students who exceed 150 days of unemployment days do not have access to the 60 day grace period.
    • To avoid violating F-1 status and termination of SEVIS record, prior to reaching the 150-day unemployment limit, students should depart the U.S., or transfer their SEVIS record to another school.
    • Students should email f1@sfsu.edu with their specific date they left the U.S. and request OIP to end their STEM OPT before exceeding unemployment days.

Types of Employment Required

  • Must meet all criteria of the "STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities" below
  • Paid employment
  • Full Time (more than 20 hours a week)
  • If multiple employers: Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to their major.
  • Direct relation to major

Relation to Major

  • Student jobs must be directly related to their current major(s), not minor. It is their responsibility to be able to connect their STEM OPT job to their major. If the relationship between their job and their major(s) is called into question by USCIS during the STEM OPt application or SEVP in the future, the burden of proof is on them to demonstrate the relationship.
  • The F-1 international student advisors at OIP will not be able to advise students on specifically what jobs do/do not qualify as advisors are not experts in their field of study. They may use the visit the Career Services & Leadership Development (CSLD) website. Click "Resources" on the top of the page and choose "What Can I Do With This Major" from the drop down menu to gain access.
  • It is recommended that students maintain evidence for each job: the position held, duration of that position, the job title, contact information of their supervisor or manager, and a description of the work.  Students can also have multiple STEM OPT employment but all of them must be directly related to their major.

Types of Employment NOT Allowed

  • Employment not directly related to a student's major
  • Non-Everified employer
  • On-campus "Student" Employment
  • Staffing and Temporary Agencies: Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will review on a case-by-case basis whether the student will be a bona fide employee of the employer signing the Form I-983, and verify that the employer that signs the Form I-983 is the same entity that employs them and provides the practical training experience.
  • Volunteer/Unpaid Position: Students are not allowed to use a volunteer opportunity or unpaid position as a basis for the extension.
  • Self-Employment: The purpose of STEM OPT is to provide training for students.  Students may be employed by start-up business but they cannot be their own supervisor.  They must have a supervisor who oversees their work and provide them training that is indicated on the Form I-983.

STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities

Employers play a key role in maintaining and strengthening the integrity of the STEM OPT extension program. For the completed STEM employer requirement, visit STEM OPT Hub.

  • Employer must be enrolled in E-Verify and remain a participant in good standing with E-Verify, as determined by USCIS.
  • Employer must have an Employment Identification Number (EIN) used for tax purposes.
  • Employer must maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship.
  • Employer must recognize that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may, at its discretion, conduct a site visit of the employer to ensure that STEM OPT program requirements are being met.
  • Employer must complete and sign the employer sections of the Form I-983, Training Plan For STEM OPT Student. The Form I-983 must specify that the employer
    • Has sufficient resources and personnel available to provide students the appropriate training in connection with the specified opportunity at the location(s) specified
    • Provide students a training opportunity that is commensurate with those of similarly situated U.S. workers in duties, hours, and compensation.
    • Clearly articulate the STEM OPT students learning objectives and affirm the employer’s commitment to helping the student achieve those objectives. 
    • Form I-983 must be signed by the STEM OPT employers and STEM OPT students.  Students are required to submit modified Form I-983 to OIP for any material changes throughout their STEM OPT period.

Applying for STEM OPT Extension

  • Review the STEM OPT resources above carefully

    • Understand the STEM OPT responsibilities
       
  • Complete the mandatory STEM OPT quiz
    • The purpose of the quiz is to test students' knowledge of STEM OPT and remind students of their responsibilities.
    • There is no minimum score requirement.     
       
  • Keep a note of the date of completion to fill STEM OPT Extension Authorization Request form 
  1. Download the STEM OPT Extension Authorization Request form below.
  2. Fill out STEM OPT Extension Authorization Request form.
    • OIP accepts digital signatures, scanned copies, and high resolution/clear pictures of the completed form and documents.
  3. Download the Form I-983 form from DHS Website
  4. Fill out Form I-983 (TYPE IN INFORMATION) with employer
    • Form I-983 Instructions
    • Tips for I-983
      • SEVIS School Code: this code is on students' I-20 and begins with SFR
      • DSO Name & Contact:  Yuka Sakata (PDSO), 415.338.1293, f1@sfsu.edu, SF State, 1600 Holloway Ave, SF, CA 94132,
      • Student SEVIS ID No: this code is on students' I-20 and begins with N
      • Requested Period: start date would be the day after their OPT end date, and the end date would be 2 years after their STEM OPT start date. For example, if their OPT ends on June 3, 2020, their STEM OPT start date would be June 4, 2020, and their STEM OPT end date would be June 3, 2022. 
      • Qualifying Major and Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP Code): Spell out degree title & find this code is on students' I-20 and is listed behind their major. it contains 6 digits XX.XXXX
      • Level/Type of Qualifying Degree: such as Bachelor of Science or Master of Science
      • Based on Prior Degree? "No" for majority of students
      • Page 5 of the Form I-983 will be left blank when applying for STEM OPT
  • Once the student has received their I-983 form filled by their employer, and signed the STEM OPT Extension Authorization Request form, email the form to f1@sfsu.edu (within 90 days of their OPT end date)
  • An F-1 international student advisor will review then student's request. If eligible, they will be issued a "STEM OPT Extension Requested I-20" within 5 business days via email.
  • While a student is waiting for their "STEM OPT Extension Requested I-20", they should begin to prepare the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and additional documents.

USCIS has authorized students to file for STEM OPT Extension (C)(3)(C) online.

See the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization Instructions (link to Google Slides)

Additional Resources

Waiting for STEM OPT Approval

I-797C Notice of Action

  • USCIS will provide the STEM OPT receipt right after an online file, but will also mail a paper I-797C notice to students' address. The receipt number (usually starts from “IOE”) is printed on the I-797C notice. If students do not receive any I-797C notice after mailing the application, request the receipt letter to be sent to the student by using the USCIS online tools.

Request for Evidence (RFE)

  • (If applicable) If there is a problem with the application, USCIS will send them “Request for Evidence (RFE)” to ask more supporting documentation. An RFE does not mean that their application has been rejected.  It simply means that they need to provide the missing documents before their EAD can be issued. USCIS give applicant 30 days to respond to the RFE. Their STEM OPT application will be denied if they fail to respond to the RFE. Unfortunately, receiving an RFE will delay the processing of their STEM OPT application. Reach out to a F-1 Advisor at f1@sfsu.edu before responding to the RFE.

Communication between students and SEVP

  • The “preferred email” on each students' SF State Student Center is also the email address on their SEVIS record. 
  • If students checked their SF State email as their "preferred email", the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will be sending important communication to their SF State email.  If students want to change their "preferred email", see "Change U.S. Address, Phone Number, and Email Address" uSTEM OPT section below to update their preferred address. 
  • Students must make sure to continue to check their SF State email and personal email after graduating to avoid missing important information from SF State and SEVP.  

Case Status

  • Students can check the status of their STEM OPT application by entering their receipt number at USCIS' check your case status.

    • The receipt number (usually starts from “IOE”) is provided after the online file and printed on the I-797C notice.
  • The typical updates on the case status are:

    • Your case has been received
    • You have been sent a RFE (not common)
    • Your RFE has been received (only if a RFE was requested)
    • Your case has been approved
    • Your EAD has been mailed

Process Time

  • The standard processing time for USCIS to approve and mail the EAD is 90 - 180 days or longer.

  • While STEM OPT is pending, students are in valid F-1 status to continue their employment up to 180 days beyond the Post-OPT EAD end date.

    • Students are not using their 60 day grace period while STEM OPT is in pending status.

Special Cases

  • Non-Properly Filed Applications

    • If a students' application is returned/rejected by USCIS for any reason, they must contact f1@sfsu.edu as soon as possible to request a new STEM OPT requested I-20. Students must send the new I-20 with their STEM OPT application to USCIS immediately!  Their prior OPT requested I-20 will not be valid to be re-sent to USCIS.
  • Withdraw Applications

    • If a student wishes to withdraw their application for any reason, they must contact f1@sfsu.edu as soon as possible to discuss how to maintain their F-1 status. Students should not withdraw their application before speaking with a F-1 advisor.

Rejected

  • OIP recommends students to file their STEM OPT applications online. Online filing are typically not "rejected" since applications cannot be submitted until payment is processed.
  • Rejected applications are for mail-in filing where physical mail is returned by the USCIS Lockbox prior to processing.
  • Rejected applications are not considered properly filed, and do not establish or retain a filing date.
    • Examples for rejections: missing/incorrect payments attached with mail-in application, missing signatures on the I-765 paper file.
  • If still within STEM OPT eligibility time frame, student may request a new STEM OPT I-20 by contacting f1@sfsu.edu and resubmit a new I-765 application and fee to USCIS.
    • Mail-in Applications returned for application fee issues appear to have a “case number” on the rejection notice. However, the STEM OPT application has not been accepted/receipted.
  • Students whose STEM OPT application is rejected after the applicable filing deadline is closed (i.e., after the OPT EAD end date) are not eligible to refile, and must either depart the United States or take other actions to preserve or re-establish status (such as applying for a new program and travel/re-entry or reinstatement). Students in this situation should consult an experienced immigration lawyer.

Denied

  • Applications have undergone review by a USCIS adjudicator and the adjudicator has found the applicant ineligible for benefits.
  • Denied applications may be eligible to file for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion if within eligible time frame.
  • Students whose OPT application is denied after the applicable filing deadline is closed (i.e., after the OPT EAD end date) are not eligible to refile, and must either depart the United States or take other actions to preserve or re-establish status (such as applying for a new program and travel/re-entry or reinstatement). Students in this situation should consult an experienced immigration lawyer.

Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion

  • The denial of a Form I-765 cannot be appealed.

    • If the student believes that new facts or situations bear on the outcome of the decision, the student may consider filing a motion to reopen.
    • If the student believes that USCIS did not properly apply the law or policy to the facts, the student may consider filing a motion to reconsider.

Motion to Reopen

  • Motions to reopen are filed on Form I-290B with the proper fee, and must be signed by the student.
  • Form I-290B instructions summarize the required bases for filing a motion to reopen.
  • Students in this situation should consult an experienced immigration lawyer.

Motion to Reconsider

  • If the denial is due to USCIS error, a motion to reopen should not be filed.

    • Students should email the denial notice & a letter of explanation of the error to f1@sfsu.edu. OIP will forward the request to the USCIS Service Center to open the case internally.
    • Students should contact the CIS Ombudsman’s office for assistance
      • Note: that seeking internal resolution from USCIS Service Center does not stop the regulatory timeframe for filing a motion.The CIS Ombudsman’s Office generally advises filers to pursue USCIS’ appeal/motion options in conjunction with their outreach, to preserve that option. The student should be made aware of and consider both options carefully and consult an experienced immigration lawyer, if needed.
  • If re-filing the application is required, student must request a new STEM OPT I-20 by contacting f1@sfsu.edu and resubmit a new I-765 application and fee to USCIS.

Students who have pending I-765 must enter the U.S. with “PENDING” remark for STEM OPT.  Do not leave the U.S. if current 12 -month post-completion OPT has ended, and the STEM OPT extension application is still pending.

See "Travel While on OPT or STEM OPT" section at Travel for more information.  

After STEM OPT Approval

Approval Notice

  • USCIS will mail students an I-797 Notice of Approval (It is different from I-797C notice) letter at their mailing address.

Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

  • USCIS will mail students an EAD at their mailing address.
  • If an EAD card is lost or has an error, review the USCIS "Replace an EAD" resource.

LOST EAD

Option 1:

  • Student may check the mailing address accuracy on I-765 online file and opens inquiry with the USCIS Contact Center using the USCIS Self Service Online Tool at https://egov.uscis.gov/e-request/Intro.do
  • When USCIS receives the returned card from USPS, they will reissue the card to the updated address.
  • Student should allow 21 days for card to be returned to USCIS, and an additional 30 days for reissuance before re-inquiring with USCIS.
  • If still not received 30 additional days after 2nd inquiry, student should contact USCIS for proof that the card has been returned to USCIS and then can file with the CIS Ombudsman to escalate reissuance.
  • The student can work if still within 180 days of OPT EAD end date.

Option 2:

  • Student files new I-765 application for replacement EAD.
  • New I-765 and filing fee are sent to USCIS. Copies of I-797 approval notice and I-20 showing original STEM OPT recommendation are generally sent as best practice.
  • Student receives receipt for replacement card filing. Student may work up to 90 days with this I-797 receipt while awaiting replacement card. (https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/40-completing-section-2-form-i-9)

In all cases, the student’s address must be able to accept mail categorized as “first class or higher”; student must be listed as physically residing there with USPS or have indicated the person living at the residence in the c/o mailing address on the I-765.

CORRECTING AN ERRONEOUS EAD

Possible mistakes may include: name, birthday, start and/or end date. A typical error is a STEM OPT EAD end date that exceeds 24 months, or that ends more than the STEM OPT completion limit. Students should review dates for accuracy and correct any errors, even if the error appears to grant more than the regulatory permissible amount of time.

Option 1: If the error is made by USCIS:

  1. Student completes the online typographical error form here: https://egov.uscis.gov/e-request/displayTypoForm.do
  2. Follow directions received via email.

Option 2: If the error is made by the student:

  1. Student must apply for a replacement EAD card online
  2. New application includes:
    • New Form I-765 and Form I-765 filing fee online
    • Letter of explanation describing the error
    • Copy of incorrect original EAD
    • A new I-20/ STEM OPT recommendation is NOT required, as the STEM OPT has already been approved.

STEM OPT is a F-1 Benefit

  • Even though STEM OPT student is not attending classes, they are still in F-1 status while they are on STEM OPT.  They are required to maintain their F-1 status in order to legally working in the U.S.

To maintain F-1 status, students must

  • Fulfill Reporting Responsibilities with SF State

    • Not submitting validation report or evaluations would be a violation of the terms of the Form I-983 and may jeopardize the student’s F-1 status.
  • Maintain Accurate Contact Information with SF State
    • Students must ensure their contact information on SF State Student Center is accurate, including preferred email, mailing address, and phone, and check their personal and SF State email weekly. See the "Update Contact Information" resources below.
    • Students may continue to contact F-1 international student advisor at f1@sfsu.edu for travel & STEM OPT related advising.
  • Maintain Accurate Contact on SEVP Portal
  • Maintain employment (not exceed 150 days of unemployment days)
    • See the "150 Days Unemployment Limit and Consequence of Exceeding Limit" resources below

Introduction

STEM OPT students are required to regularly validate, evaluate progress, and report material changes on their Form I-983 to the Office of International Programs via STEM OPT Reporting Form.

TIPS: Treat the reporting deadline like school assignment deadline. STEM OPT students should set up calendar reminders for each validation and evaluation deadline.

Students will receive an email reminder from SEVP Portal 30 days before their validation and self-evaluation is due. All reporting must be completed within 10 days of due date or change.

Not submitting validation report or evaluations would be a violation of the terms of the Form I-983 and may jeopardize the student’s F-1 status.

Validating SEVIS Information

Every 6 months (from the start date of the STEM EAD), student must validate the employment information in their SEVP portal is accurately reflects their current circumstance.

Students will receive an email reminder from SEVP (Not from OIP) 30 days before the due date.   

There are four required validation reports: 

  • 6-month validation report
  • 12-month validation report
  • 18-month validation report
  • 24-month validation report

Annual Self-Evaluations

Each STEM OPT student must complete and submit to OIP two annual self-evaluation describing the progress of the training experience. Students will receive an email reminder from SEVP (Not from OIP) 30 days before any evaluation is due.  

There are two required annual self-evaluation:

  • 12-month self-evaluation: Complete the "Evaluation on Student Progress" section on the page 5 of Form I-983. Submit all 5 pages to OIP.
  • 24-month self-evaluation: Complete the "Final Evaluation on Student Progress" section on the page 5 of Form I-983. Submit all 5 pages to OIP.

Change of Employer

Students must submit two Form I-983 to OIP within 10 days of starting the employment.

  • Form I-983 signed by previous employer: Submit "Final Evaluation on Student Progress" on Form I-983 within 10 days of previous employment end date.
     
  • Form I-983 signed by new employer: Submit a new Form I-983 completed and signed by new employer within 10 days of new employment start date.

Loss of Employment

Complete the "Final Evaluation on Student Progress" section on the page 5 of Form I-983 within 10 days of employment end date. Submit all 5 pages to OIP.

Change of Status (i.e. change status from F-1 to H-1B)

Complete the "Final Evaluation on Student Progress" section on the page 5 of Form I-983 within 10 days of the effective date of their new status. Submit all 5 pages to OIP.

SEVP Portal

  • SEVP Portal is an important tool that lets F-1 students participating in practical training meet their legal reporting requirements. The portal allows these international students the ability to report address and telephone.
  • Unemployment days are automatically calculated based on SEVP portal employment reporting.
  • Students can update their U.S. physical address, telephone number, and view their employment information at the SEVP Portal.
  • Information such as student's email address and STEM OPT employer must be updated through the international student advisors at OIP.  Students will not be able to make change in SEVP Portal by themselves.

Requesting an Updated I-20 with Employer Information

  • Students are not required to request an updated I-20 with employer information each time there is employment change. The SEVP portal is used to track employment.
  • A student who plans to stay in the U.S. will need an updated I-20 with the employer information only if an employer is specifically requesting to see an STEM OPT approved I-20 with the employer name on it.

To request an updated I-20, fill out the following request form:

Processing time

  • Once a F-1 student submits a request through Qualtrics. OIP will review their I-20 request and email them an updated I-20 within 5 business days.  
  • Once a F-1 student receives their electronically signed I-20 over email, they must print the I-20 and physically sign it in blue ink in order to use the I-20 at the U.S. Port of Entry.
As of Nov. 1, 2021, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) published SEVP Policy Guidance: Use of Electronic Signatures and Transmission for the Form I-20, which permanently establishes the procedures for the use of electronic signatures and transmission of the Form I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status."

This guidance permits international students advisors/designated school official (DSO) to electronically sign (digital signature) and email the Form I-20 to F-1 students and any dependents. However, students must print out their digital I-20 and sign it to have a physical copy at the U.S. Port of Entry.

How to Calculate Unemployment Days

  • In addition to the 90-day maximum period of unemployment during the initial period of the 12 month of post-completion OPT, students are allowed to have an additional 60 days (for a total of 150 days) of unemployment after they obtain STEM OPT.

    • For example: "if a student uses 40 out of 90 days of Post-OPT unemployment days, they will have a total of 110 unemployment days left while on their STEM OPT (50 days leftover from Post-OPT and an additional 60 days from STEM OPT)
  • While on Post-OPT: USCIS typically authorizes a 12 month Post-OPT period (may be less depending on process time). Out of the OPT valid dates per the EAD, students cannot accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment days overall.
    • For example: "If EAD is valid from 7/30/2021 to 7/29/2022, students can't be unemployed for more than 90 days between 7/30/2021 to 7/29/2022."
  • Unemployment days start counting from the actual Post-OPT EAD "valid" start date if no employment is reported on the SEVP portal on day 1 of EAD start date
    • It does NOT start counting from the day the student applied for OPT
    • It does NOT start counting from the initial requested OPT start date (if different from EAD start date)
    • It does NOT start counting from the semester finals end date
    • It does NOT start counting from the program end date on their I-20
    • It does NOT start counting while OPT is pending
    • It does NOT start counting if OPT is approved and EAD is received before EAD valid start date
    • Any days of unemployment throughout the whole EAD valid dates are counted, NOT just the first 90 days of OPT
    • Any days of unemployment between job changes are counted towards unemployment days
    • Any days without employment reported on SEVP portal are counted towards unemployment
      • If a student forgets to report their employment on the SEVP portal while on Post-OPT, the days are counted as unemployment days

Number of Hours Per Week

  • If authorized STEM OPT, students must work at least 20 hours per week in a position that is directly related to their major of study.

Exceeding Unemployment Days

  • If students accumulate 150 days or more of unemployment, they are in violation of their F-1 status. 

    • STEM OPT authorization will be automatically terminated by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

      • SEVP portal calculates unemployment days based on SEVP portal reporting. If a student forgets to report their employment, their records may be automatically terminated if the number of days of "unemployment" exceed 90 days
      • Since the termination is done by SEVP, they will receive an email notification from SEVP, not from OIP.
  • While on Post-OPT: if students accumulate 90 days or more of unemployment, they are in violation of their F-1 status & OPT status. They will not be eligible to apply for STEM OPT
    • OPT authorization will be automatically terminated by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

      • SEVP portal calculates unemployment days based on SEVP portal reporting. If a student forgets to report their employment, their records may be automatically terminated if the number of days of "unemployment" exceed 90 days
      • Since the termination is done by SEVP, they will receive an email notification from SEVP, not from OIP.
  • Students who exceed 150 days of unemployment days do not have access to the 60 day grace period.
    • To avoid violating F-1 status and termination of SEVIS record, prior to reaching the 150-day unemployment limit, students should depart the U.S., or transfer their SEVIS record to another school.
    • Students should email f1@sfsu.edu with their specific date they left the U.S. and request OIP to end their STEM OPT before exceeding unemployment days.

Students on STEM OPT extension must enter the U.S. with “APPROVED” remark for STEM OPT.

See "Travel While on OPT or STEM OPT" section at Travel for more information.  

Students can receive free tax assistance (Only if their total income is below $54,000). See "Taxes in the U.S."

Preferred Email

  • Students' “preferred email” on their SF State Student Center is also the email address on their SEVIS record.  For example, if they checked their SF State email as their "preferred email", the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will be sending important communication to their SF State email.  Students must make sure to continue to check their SF State email and personal email after graduating to avoid missing important information from SF State and SEVP.  

U.S. Address

  • Students can change their U.S. address and phone number at SEVP Portal, but not their email address.  Their email address at SEVP must be updated by OIP.  Their SF State Email will be discontinued after they graduate, therefore, we recommend students to update their address when they receive notification from SF State ITS about their SF State email account closure.    

Update Email on SEVP Portal

Step 1: 

Login to the SF State student center. Change "Preferred" email address from their SF State email account to “Other”. Make sure the “Other” email is a desirable email to use for SEVP Portal.

screenshot for changing email

Step 2: 

OIP will update students' email address in the SEVIS database in 24 hours.

Step 3: 

SEVP Portal will lock students' account, and sends an email from "Do-not-reply.sevp[at]ice.dhs.gov" to their new email account with a temporary password

Step 4: 

Enter the new email address and temporary password to log in.  Students can reset their SEVP Portal password.

Students can also review the SEVP PORTAL: CHANGING YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS VIDEO at Study in the States website.

After STEM OPT Ends

Students will have 60-day grace period after the “Valid Until” date on the EAD.  They must leave the U.S. or transfer to another school to continue their F-1 status within the grace period.

See Change Degree Level: Bachelors to Masters if they plan to pursue another program of study at SF State.

If students wish to pursue study at a different U.S. institution, follow the I-20 Transfer Procedures and request their SEVIS record/I-20 to be transferred to their new school.

Complete the "Final Evaluation on Student Progress" section on the page 5 of Form I-983 within 10 days of the effective date of their new status. Submit all 5 pages to OIP.

Click the button below to submit "Final Evaluation on Student Progress":

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Students can continue to work up to 180 days after their current EAD end date if USCIS has received their STEM OPT extension application before their current EAD end date.

Yes, if students are currently on STEM OPT.  Submit a modified Form I-983 signed by their new employer to OIP for review.  

OIP discourage students to change STEM OPT employer while their STEM OPT application is pending.

Do not enroll in any academic courses: Students can only take recreational/avocational classes (Yoga or Wine tasting classes…etc) while on Post-OPT.  They cannot enroll in any academic degree nor certificate programs while on Post-OPT. 

If students plan to obtain a higher degree and their academic program will start before their OPT end date, they must request their SEVIS record to be transferred to their new school.  Their OPT will end on the date SF State transfer their SEVIS record out.

The information contained in this website is provided as a service to the international students, faculty, staff, employees and administrators of San Francisco State University, and does not constitute legal advice on any immigration, tax or other matter. We try to provide useful information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site or any associated site. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Neither San Francisco State University nor the Office of International Programs is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

Last updated: October 2022

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