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What are the reporting requirements when I am on OPT and STEM OPT?

By June 21, 2022Immigration
A stem student working on a project

It is important to remember that workers on OPT are still governed by the regulations of F-1 student visas, and must continue to work with their designated school officials (DSO) at every step of their employment and report all relevant employment-related changes.

The reporting requirements differ during the 12-month “post-completion OPT” that is given to each student after their degree-granting program, and during the 24-month “STEM OPT extension” given to eligible STEM students.

For example, during the 12-month “post-completion OPT” period, a student is permitted to engage in a wide range of activities, including working, engaging in unpaid internships or volunteer work, having a series of jobs, working for one or more businesses, companies, organizations, or agencies simultaneously, or be self-employed and perform work for others on a contractual basis. Importantly, though, all of these activities must be appropriately reported to the DSO, and must be incorporated in your SEVIS record.

Any changes in employment activity must be reported no more than 10 days after the change, including beginning or ending an employment, or changing a worksite location.

During the 24-month “STEM OPT extension” period, the allowed activities and reporting requirements are considerably more restrictive. For example, students and employers must submit a Form I-983 through the DSO before commencing each employment activity, and it is required that each employment activity must be more than 20 hours a week. Thus, during the STEM OPT extension period, a student may not engage in part-time work less than 20 hours a week.

It is very important to comply with all requirements to avoid unintentionally engaging in unauthorized work during your post-completion OPT and STEM Extension OPT. Especially since the requirements are different between the first 12 months of general “post-completion” OPT and the 24-month “STEM OPT extension” periods, it is critical to check with your DSO and seek the advice of lawyers to make sure you are compliant.

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