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STAGE 4: MAINTAINING F-1 STATUS WHEN ON STEM OPT EXTENSION

 

Now that you have received your STEM OPT EAD card, the next step is to maintain your F-1 status throughout your STEM OPT period by following the requirements for STEM OPT listed below. These are not listed as “steps” like in the previous stages because the order that you complete these actions may vary depending on your circumstances.

 

Follow Employment Requirements

What kind of job am I allowed to work in while on STEM OPT?

  • Your job must be a paid position (volunteer employment and unpaid internships are not allowed on STEM OPT).
  • You must have an employer (can not be self-employed).
  • Your employer must be enrolled in the E-Verify program.
  • Your position must be related to your STEM degree.
  • You must be working in your position for at least 20 hours per week.
    • If you have multiple employers at the same time, each position must be at least 20 hours per week.


What if I am unemployed during my STEM OPT?

  • There is a limit to the amount of employment days you can have while on STEM OPT. The limit is 150 unemployment days.
  • Unemployment days are days when you are not employed with a company. Weekends, holidays, and days that you take off for vacation (can be inside or outside the U.S.) are not considered unemployment days if you will return to continue your employment.
  • Unemployment days are cumulative between both your initial 12-month OPT and your STEM OPT. For example, if you used 30 days of unemployment during your initial 12-month OPT, you would have a balance of 120 unemployment days left during your STEM OPT Extension period.

 


What do I do if I reach my unemployment limit?

  • You do not get a grace period after reaching your unemployment day limit. If you are getting close to your unemployment limit, you should prepare to take action by your 150th day of unemployment.

Keep your I-20 and SEVP Portal updated

When do I need to update my I-20?

  • When you experience changes to your employment information (add an employer, end an employer, or change your current job within the same employer).
  • When you experience changes to your name, citizenship, or dependents.
  • If your I-20 is lost, stolen, or damaged.

 


When do I need to update my SEVP Portal?

  • When you experience a change to your personal address or phone number.

 


How do I update my I-20 or SEVP Portal?

  • Follow the chart below for instructions on how to update your information according to the change you have.
  • You are required to submit your updates within 10 days of the change (you may submit your updates in advance of the change, as well).
  • If you have a change in your employment/personal information and you are due for one of your 6-month validation reports around the same time, you should submit both forms in iPortal .

 

Description of Change Where to update change Additional info Document Uploads
If you are changing employers “Updated I-20/DS-2019 Request” on iPortal Option: “I am reporting both an end date to an employer and a start date for a new employer”

1. Pages 1-5 of the I-983, including the Final Evaluation (bottom half of page 5) for your previous employer

and

2. The I-983 Training Plan for your new employer

If you are adding a new employer “Updated I-20/DS-2019 Request” on iPortal Option: “I am only reporting a new employer” The I-983 Training Plan for your new employer
If you are ending your current job, but don’t have a new employer yet “Updated I-20/DS-2019 Request” on iPortal Option: “I am only reporting an end date to an employer without reporting a new employer” Pages 1-5 of the I-983, including the Final Evaluation (bottom half of page 5) for the employer you are ending
If you have changes in your current job that would change the information on your I-983 “Updated I-20/DS-2019 Request” on iPortal Option: “I am not reporting a new employer but am reporting a change to my current employer with an updated I-983" The I-983 Training Plan
If you have changed your personal address or phone number (no updated I-20 required) The SEVP Portal You may make these changes directly to the SEVP Portal None required
If you have changed your name “Updated I-20/DS-2019 Request” on iPortal Option: “Name Change” Passport biographical page
If you have changed your citizenship “Updated I-20/DS-2019 Request” on iPortal Option: “Citizenship or Country of Permanent Residency Change” Passport biographical page
If you need to remove a dependent “Updated I-20/DS-2019 Request” on iPortal Option: “Removal of Dependents” None required
If your I-20 is lost, stolen, or damaged “Replacement I-20/DS-2019 Request” on iPortal Option: Answer accordingly None required
If you are completing your STEM OPT early due to departing the U.S., transferring to another institution, changing visa status, or changing educational level at UC San Diego before STEM OPT ends "F-1 STEM OPT Reporting Form" on iPortal Option: "I am submitting my I-983 Final Evaluation on Student Progress ONLY because I am EITHER transferring to another institution, departing the U.S., changing visa status, or changing educational level at UC San Diego PRIOR to the end date on my current STEM EAD." Pages 1-5 of the I-983, including the Final Evaluation (bottom half of page 5)
Description of Change Where to update change Additional info Document Uploads

 

If you don't see your situation listed on this chart and you would like to know what to do for your situation, please contact us using our Contact Form .

Submit Required Validation Reports

What is the validation report?

  • The validation report is a requirement of the STEM OPT Extension; it requires you to validate, every 6 months, that you have kept your personal and employment information up-to-date in your record.

 


How do I submit my validation report?

  1. First, you must submit the STEM OPT Report Form in iPortal
    • Log into iportal.ucsd.edu .
    • Click on the “ Services” tab.
    • Click on “ F-1 STEM OPT Report Form”.
    • Answer the questions.
    • Upload I-983 Evaluation, if necessary.
    • Click “ Submit”.
  2. Then, ISPO will mark* in your SEVIS record that you have submitted your validation report.
    *Note: If you do not submit your form in iPortal on time, ISPO will not have the ability to submit your report to SEVIS and the status of the STEM OPT Validation or Evaluation will remain as “past due” in your SEVP Portal.

 


When do I submit my validation report?

  • Your validation report is due at 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, and 24 months after the start date of your STEM OPT. Log into the SEVP Portal to view a chart that lists your validation report due dates.
  • You will be sent automatic email reminders by the SEVP Portal when you are due for a validation report. However, you are responsible for keeping track of when your validation reports are due.
  • You must submit your validation report within 10 days of your due date.
  • If you have a change in your employment/personal information and you are due for one of your 6-month validation reports around the same time, you should submit both forms in iPortal .

 


Do I need to submit my I-983 with my validation reports?

 

6 months

No section of the I-983 needs to be completed at this time.

12 months

Upload pages 1-5 of the I-983, including the "Evaluation on Student Progress" section (top half of page 5) to your F-1 STEM OPT Reporting Form in iPortal.

18 months

No section of the I-983 needs to be completed at this time.

24 months

Upload pages 1-5 of the I-983, including the "Final Evaluation" section of the I-983 (bottom half of page 5) to your F-1 STEM OPT Reporting Form in iPortal.

 


What happens if I miss the deadline for one of my validation reports?

  • If you do not submit your form in iPortal on time, ISPO will not have the ability to submit your report to SEVIS and the status of the STEM OPT Validation or Evaluation will remain as “past due” in your SEVP Portal.

 


If I end my STEM OPT before my STEM OPT end date, do I still need to submit the validation reports that are due after I have ended my STEM OPT?

  • No, you only need to submit validation reports that are due while you are actively on STEM OPT. However, you will need to submit the I-983 Final Evaluation. If you decide to end your STEM OPT early, follow the Actions to Take at Completion of STEM OPT , and your STEM OPT will be terminated accordingly.

 


Additional Information

Getting Assistance with the SEVP Portal

If you get locked out of your account or would like to change your email address associated with SEVIS,  please submit the SEVP Portal Assistance Request in iportal.ucsd.edu.

Form I-983 Explained

Think of the I-983 in 3 sections:

  1. The Training Plan, which is the first 4 pages of the I-983
  2. The “Evaluation on Student Progress”, which is located on the last page (page 5) of the I-983
  3. The “Final Evaluation”, which is located on the last page (page 5) of the I-983

 


1. The Training Plan:

 

When do I submit the I-983 Training Plan?

  • At the time of applying for the STEM OPT Extension; and
  • If you begin employment with a new employer during your STEM OPT period; and
  • If you experience any changes in your current employment during your STEM OPT period that would change the information you originally stated in your I-983 Training Plan for that employer (e.g. job duties, salary, number of hours, etc.).

How do I submit the I-983 Training Plan?

  • Follow the chart in the “Keeping your I-20 and SEVP Portal updated” section above for instructions on how to submit the Training Plan according to your circumstances.

 


2. The “Evaluation on Student Progress”:

 

When do I submit the I-983 Evaluation on Student Progress?

  • This is only submitted once during the entire STEM OPT Extension period - at 12 months after the STEM OPT start date.
  • You would complete this section for whatever employer(s) you are working for at the time.
  • If you are between jobs at 12 months after your STEM OPT start date, then you would complete this evaluation for your most recent employer.

How do I submit the I-983 Evaluation on Student Progress?

  • This is submitted in iPortal with the 12-month validation report, as described in the “Validation Report Requirement” section above.

 


3. The “Final Evaluation”:

 

When do I submit the I-983 Final Evaluation?

  • When you end employment during your STEM OPT Extension; and
  • When you end your STEM OPT Extension (this could be due to reaching your STEM OPT end date or could be if you end your STEM OPT early due to changing status or departing the U.S.).

How do I submit the I-983 Final Evaluation?

  • When you are within your STEM OPT Extension period – Follow the chart in the “Keeping your I-20 and SEVP Portal updated” section above for instructions on how to submit the I-983 Final Evaluation according to your circumstances.
  • When you are ending your STEM OPT Extension – Follow the instructions listed on our Actions to Take at Completion of STEM OPT page.

Traveling while on Approved STEM OPT Extension

Can I travel after I have been approved for STEM OPT?

  • Yes, you can travel and reenter the U.S. as an F-1 student because you are still in F-1 status while on STEM OPT.

 


What documents do I need to reenter the U.S. while I am on STEM OPT?

  • Current passport – should be valid for at least 6 months after your reentry date.
  • Current F-1 visa – you may reenter the U.S. until the end date of your visa stamp.
  • Current I-20 – Must have a valid Travel Signature on page 2; travel signatures are valid for 6 months while on STEM OPT.
  • Your original STEM OPT EAD card.
  • A job offer letter from your current employer (not required, but recommended).

 


What if my visa will be expired when I want to travel internationally?

  • You should still be able to renew your visa while on STEM OPT, however, you may find it difficult to renew your F-1 visa for practical training purposes. Students on OPT or STEM OPT are advised to plan carefully before leaving the U.S. and to contact the U.S. Consulate in their home country regarding visa renewal processes. You can also review our general travel and reentry page.