Pre-completion: An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT after he or she has been enrolled for one full academic year. The pre-completion OPT must be directly related to the student’s major field of study. Students authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT must work part-time while school is in session. They may work full-time when school is not in session.
Post-completion: An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in post-completion OPT upon completion of studies. The post-completion OPT must be directly related to the student’s major area of study and employment must be full-time.
H-1B immigration regulations limit to 65,000 the number of foreign nationals who may be issued a visa or otherwise provided H-1B status each fiscal year. Of those 65,000 H-1Bs, Free Trade Agreements carve out 1,400 H-1Bs for Chilean nationals and 5,400 for nationals of Singapore. An additional 20,000 H-1Bs are allocated to foreign nationals holding a master’s or higher degree from a US university.
F-1 students are admitted to the US for “duration of status” (D/S), meaning that they may remain in the US for 60 days after the end of their program or after the duration of their employment authorization under OPT. Cap-gap occurs when an F-1 student’s status or work authorization expires after April 1st but before the H-1B becomes effective on October 1st. An F-1 student in a cap-gap situation would, in most cases, have to leave the United States and return at the time his or her H-1B status becomes effective on October 1st. Depending on when the student’s status expires, such circumstances could require the student to remain outside the United States for several months. The “cap-gap” provisions allow an extension of F-1 status, post-completion OPT, or the 60-day grace period, assuming the student is in one of those “statuses” on the date the H-1B petition is filed.
An H-1B petition must be filed and accepted on behalf of the student during the H-1B acceptance period while the student is in valid F-1 status (including during the student’s academic course of study, authorized periods of post-completion OPT authorization, and during the 60-day grace period). The petition must request a change of status from F-1 to H-1B to begin on October 1st of the year in which the application is made. Petitions requesting consular processing of the H-1B petition are not eligible for cap-gap. Students meeting these criteria will automatically have their F-1 status extended until September 30 unless the H-1B petition is denied, revoked or withdrawn.
F-1 students whose periods of authorized stay or work authorization expires before October 1 and who do not qualify for a cap-gap extension are required to leave the United States, apply for an H-1B visa at a consular post abroad, and then seek readmission to the United States in H-1B status for the dates reflected on the approved H-1B petition.
– The student is currently on post-completion OPT
– The student has earned a degree from a school accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency
– The degree is listed on the STEM Designated Degree Programs List (https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2016/stem-list.pdf). Note that not every degree in a STEM field qualifies.
- – The employer is enrolled in E-Verify and in good standing;
- – The employer has a valid FEIN;
- – The employer has sufficient resources and trained personnel to provide appropriate training
- – The student will not displace a U.S. worker
- – The terms and conditions of the training will be consistent with those offered to the employer’s similarly situated U.S. workers in terms of duties, hours, and compensation.
Students must initiate the process by requesting the DSO at their academic institution to recommend a STEM OPT extension. If the student and the employer meet the STEM OPT requirements, the DSO makes the recommendation by endorsing the student’s Form I-20 and by making the appropriate notation in SEVIS. Students then submit the endorsed I-20 to USCIS along with their EAD application and supporting documents to USCIS. The STEM OPT extension is adjudicated (approved) by the USCIS through the issuance of an EAD.
Yes, students whose EAD applications are received before their current EAD card expires will be able to continue employment while the EAD extension application is pending until they receive the final decision from USCIS on the application or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
Validating SEVIS Information
Report changes to their DSO within 10 days of the change, including:
- – Legal name
- – Residential or mailing address
- – Email address
- – Employer’s name
- – Employer’s address
- – Status of current employment
Report to your DSO every 6 months to confirm the information listed above, even if none of your information has changed.
Initial: 12 months after the STEM OPT start date; and
Final: Recapping the training and knowledge acquired during the complete, 24 month training period.