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Frequently Asked Questions: F-1 Status

The F-1 visa enables an individual to enter the U.S. as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. The student must be enrolled in a program that culminates in a degree, diploma or certificate and the school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.

Q: Can I work on-campus while in F-1 status?

A: F-1 students are permitted to work on campus. Approval by a Designated School Official (DSO) or USCIS is NOT required, and students may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and full-time during official school vacation periods. On-campus employment includes work performed on school premises or at an off-campus location which is educationally affiliated with the school.

Q: Can I work off-campus while in F-1 status?

A: Yes, but only after completing an entire academic year of full-time study. After the first year, F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment: (1) Curricular Practical Training (CPT); Optional Practical Training (OPT); or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT).

Q: What is the difference between OPT and STEM OPT?

A: The only difference between OPT for STEM students is that by earning a STEM degree, the student now has the ability to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT employment.

Q: What are the requirements for a 24-month extension?

A: Students seeking a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT must: (1) have received a STEM degree included on the STEM Designated Degree Program List; (2) currently be employed by an employer in E-Verify; and (3) have received an initial grant of post-completion OPT based on their STEM degree.

Q: How do I apply for a 24-month extension?

A: Students need to file Forms I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, along with the filing fees and a copy of their STEM degree with USCIS. The student also needs to complete and submit Form I-983, Training Plan for Stem OPT Students, to the DSO for approval.

Q: Is there a deadline to apply for a 24-month extension?

A: Yes. Students must apply for an extension before the expiration of their 12-month OPT.

Q: Can I change employers during my 24-month extension?

A: Yes. Students currently on a 24-month extension may change employers if the new employer is E-Verified. However, a new Form I-983 will need to be completed.

Q: If I enroll in a new academic program, am I eligible for another 24-month STEM OPT extension?

A: Students who enroll in a new academic program and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level are eligible for one additional 24-month STEM OPT extension.

Q: Do I have any reporting responsibilities while on a 24-month extension?

A: If you receive a STEM OPT extension, you must report changes to your legal name, your residential or mailing address, your email address, your employer’s name and your employer’s address with your DSO within 10 days of the change. You must also report every six months to confirm this information, even if no change has occurred.

Q: If my STEM extension is granted, is employment authorization automatically extended?

A: Yes. If a student is granted a 24-month STEM OPT extension, employment authorization is automatically extended for 180 days.

If you are interested in applying for F-1 Student Visa Status, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys today!