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Alumni

Congratulations on obtaining your degree from Rensselaer! ISSS is still here to support you after graduation, as you will work with ISSS for work authorization and more.

This page was last updated on: June 23, 2022.

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Employment

Timely reporting of employment is critical to avoid accruing unlawful presence, which can have long-lasting impacts on future employment and immigration. Federal regulations require you to report changes of employment within 10 days of the change.

Post-Completion OPT Reporting

Report Your EAD Card

For students on Post-Completion OPT, please report to ISSS when your OPT is approved using this link: https://bit.ly/postOPT-EAD-reporting

How to Report Changes in Employment

Students on Post-Completion OPT MUST update their SEVP Portal Account within 10 days of any change of their employer’s name, address, dates of employment, unemployment, or any other changes to employment status.

When your Post-Completion OPT has been approved and your start date has begun, you will receive an email notification that your SEVP Portal account has been created. Note that it will be sent from this email address: donotreply@sevp.dhs.gov. Make sure to add this email to your contacts so the message does not go to your SPAM folder.

For more information on the SEVP Portal, see this link: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/sevp-portal-help

Policy Guidance

On September 27, 2019, SEVP published new guidance on determining the direct relationship between OPT employment and a student’s major area of study.  This guidance specifies what is required to prove that employment is “directly related to the students area of study,” and outlines the responsibilities of both the student and ISSS staff to meet the reporting requirements.  

If you are adding new employment or updating how the employment is related to your major, you need to notify International Services via email at isssoffice@rpi.edu that you have made a change to your SEVP Portal which requires ISSS review. We will review your information to ensure that your position is clearly related to your field of study and advise if any clarification is needed. In this process, we are reading what you have reported in the SEVP Portal, in the “How employment is related to course work” question.

Here is a sample answer to the “How employment is related to course work” question:

I will be working as a Biomedical Engineer. This is in relation to my Master's degree in Biomedical Engineering. During my education, I took various courses such as Advanced Calculus, Finite Element Analysis, Mathematical Statistics, and Statistical Analysis. This job requires direct application of those courses. In addition, my role requires me to perform statistical calculations to analyze the accuracy of biomedical images.

Applying for STEM OPT

The STEM OPT Extension is a 24-month work authorization for students who completed a STEM degree. The STEM OPT application process is similar to the Post-Completion OPT application process, and requires you to obtain a new I-20 from ISSS to apply for STEM OPT.

Am I Eligible?

F-1 students who have completed degrees in certain approved STEM fields may be eligible for a STEM extension. To qualify for a STEM extension, the student must:

  • Be currently authorized for an initial Post-Completion OPT period at the time the STEM extension request is filed with USCIS; and
  • Have completed a STEM qualifying degree program within the past 10 years in the United States (list of qualifying degrees); and
    • This may include a previously earned STEM degree, as long as you have not previously applied for a STEM extension using that degree. Contact ISSS for more information on previously earned degrees.
  • Work more than 20 hours per week, paid employment, with an e-Verified employer in a position directly related to the STEM qualifying degree; and
  • The employer and student-employee must abide by the terms of the Form I-983 Training Plan.

Steps to apply for STEM OPT

Step 1: Complete STEM OPT Workshop to learn about requirements: https://bit.ly/STEMOPTworkshop

This workshop is mandatory, and must be completed for you to apply for STEM OPT.

Step 2: Submit completed STEM OPT application to ISSS: https://bit.ly/STEMOPTapplication

  • Allow 10 business days for processing and review of the STEM OPT application
  • ISSS no longer accepts paper applications, effective November 2021.

Your STEM OPT application must be received by USCIS in its entirety before your current Post-Completion OPT authorization period ends. You can apply for STEM OPT with USCIS up to 90 days before the End Date on your Post-Completion OPT EAD Card.

ISSS will accept your STEM OPT application in advance of the 90 day application window so that we can begin reviewing your documents early. We will accept your STEM OPT application up to 4 months before your Post-Completion OPT ends.

For more information on the 24-month STEM OPT Extension, visit Study in the States.

STEM OPT Reporting

The Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students is the document you complete with your employer that provides information on your employment to ISSS. The original hard copy document should be kept by the student, as it is needed to complete the 12-month and 24-month reporting requirements on STEM OPT. This document requires physical signatures from the employer and the student.

Report Receipt of STEM OPT EAD

Report to ISSS when your STEM OPT is approved using this link: https://bit.ly/stem-EAD-reporting

STEM OPT Reporting Requirements

As part of maintaining your F-1 status on STEM OPT, you must check-in with our office every 6 months while on STEM OPT, even if none of your other information has changed. You must also complete the required annual evaluations on your Form I-983 and submit them to ISSS based on the dates on your STEM OPT EAD, not the dates you have been employed at the company.

If your employment ends before your STEM OPT period is over, you must complete the ‘Final Evaluation on Student Progress’ found on Page 5 of the Form I-983 and obtain the required signature and provide that document to ISSS within 10 days of ending your employment using the STEM OPT: Report End of Employment request in Terra Dotta: https://bit.ly/STEMendreport.

If you have a new employer while on STEM OPT, your new employer must also be e-Verified and you must submit a new Form I-983 to ISSS within 10 business days to report this employment using the STEM OPT: Report Start of Employment request in Terra Dotta: https://bit.ly/STEMstartreport.

Employment Changes

You must update ISSS on any changes in personal and employment information and status within 10 days of the change, including, but not limited to:

  • Address changes, changes in legal name, changes to your contact information, or any other changes to your status.
  • Employer changes (including employer name, address, start date, and E-Verify number), loss of employment, and materials changes to the Form I-983 (such as a change in your site location or supervisor).
    • These changes may be reported to ISSS by submitting the STEM OPT: Reporting Change to Current Employment request in Terra Dotta: https://bit.ly/STEMchangereport.

STEM OPT Reporting Timeframe to ISSS

* This timeline assumes you are remaining at the same employer while on STEM OPT. The reporting timeframes are based on your approved period of STEM OPT, not your time on Post-Completion OPT.

  • After 6 months at employer while in approved period of STEM OPT, complete the STEM OPT Validation Reporting in Terra Dotta
  • After 12 months at employer while in approved period of STEM OPT, complete the STEM OPT Validation Reporting in Terra Dotta and upload a copy of your completed Form I-983 Evaluation on Student Progress
  • After 18 months at employer while in approved period of STEM OPT, complete the STEM OPT Validation Reporting in Terra Dotta
  • After 24 months at employer while in approved period of STEM OPT, complete the STEM OPT Validation Reporting in Terra Dotta and upload a copy of your completed Form I-983 Final Evaluation on Student Progress

The student has a deadline for each reporting requirement, which is available in the SEVP Portal. The completed documentation for reporting must be provided to ISSS by this time. We then have 21 days after the deadline to complete the validation in SEVIS.

Not Using Approved OPT/STEM OPT?

If you do not intend to use your OPT/STEM OPT and will depart the U.S., you must notify ISSS immediately. We need to take action on your SEVIS record to avoid any future problems.

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Grace Period

When F-1 students finish their OPT/STEM OPT, there is a specified grace period of 60 days that begins after your OPT/STEM OPT End Date on your EAD Card.

Grace Period Details

During this grace period, you can do any of the following:

  • Apply and be accepted to a new academic program which starts within 5 months of your graduation date; or
  • Travel inside of the U.S. and depart the U.S. by the end of the grace period; or
  • Apply to USCIS for a change of status [legal counsel recommended].
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Other Information

Connect with ISSS

ISSS is still available to provide you support regarding your F-1 status after you have graduated. You can use your personal email account to contact us, and should have your RIN in all communications so we can easily access your account.

Insurance

If you are on OPT/STEM OPT, you may need to look into other options for health insurance to ensure you have medical coverage after you graduate from Rensselaer.

Insurance Suggestions

ISSS staff have worked with a number of insurance providers over the years and can recommend any of the following companies which are listed in alphabetical order:

RPI Email Account

Your RCS account and email will expire after you have graduated from RPI. To learn more about when they will expires, and what actions you can take to maintain short-term access to your email, see this article from DotCIO: https://itssc.rpi.edu/hc/en-us/articles/360008785032-Graduating-or-Leaving-RPI-.

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Starting New Program in the U.S.

If you intend to start a new program in the U.S., you have three options:

  1. Transfer your SEVIS record to the new school, or
  2. Begin a new program at Rensselaer and request a Change of Level I-20, or
  3. Depart the U.S. and return on a new I-20 with a different SEVIS ID number.
Transfer SEVIS record

All F-1 students who intend on continuing study at a new school in the U.S. need to transfer their SEVIS record from RPI to the new school. This includes students currently on OPT. If you are on Post-Completion OPT or STEM OPT, you must transfer your record within 60 days of your Post-Completion OPT or STEM OPT End Date on your EAD Card.

To request a SEVIS transfer, complete the ISSS Transfer Request: https://bit.ly/transferISSS

Start new program at Rensselaer

Students who intend to begin a new program of study at RPI will need to request a Change of Education Level (COL) I-20 within 60 days of of their OPT/STEM OPT End Date. Please keep in mind that you must allow ISSS at least 2 weeks for processing, so we highly recommend you submit all your documentation to us in advance of your OPT/STEM OPT End Date.

For students who are changing their education level to any graduate level [Masters or Doctorate], there are a series of internal processes which must be completed for ISSS to issue your COL I-20.

  1. You must be admitted to your program of study and obtain an acceptance letter.
  2. You must provide proof of funding to obtain a new I-20. The proof must cover the Cost of Attendance for one academic year. For the amount of funding required, please see the Admissions Cost of Attendance: admissions.rpi.edu/aid/cost
    • This proof can be institutional funding, personal funds or sponsor funds.
    • If the funds are not in your name, your sponsor must provide you with a signed Affidavit of Support: rpi.app.box.com/v/affidavitofsupport
  3. Your academic department will submit an Export Control application on your behalf. Export Controls are " U.S. federal government laws and regulations that require federal agency approval before the export of controlled items, commodities, technology, software, information or technical assistance to restricted foreign countries, nationals/persons, and entities (including universities)" [URL: https://www.rpi.edu/counsel/].  The Export Control application must be approved before an I-20 can be issued. As this process can take some time, we advise that you work closely with your department to ensure this documentation is submitted in a timely fashion.
  4. After your application is approved by Export Control, Admissions will notify ISSS so we may issue the COL I-20 to your graduate program.
Travel & Re-entry with new I-20

If you are not eligible to transfer your SEVIS record or begin a new program at Rensselaer with the same SEVIS ID, you will need to use travel (outside of the U.S.) and re-entry to obtain a new F-1 status. This occurs in specific situations, so please contact ISSS at least two weeks before your Program End Date/OPT/STEM OPT End Date to obtain guidance on if this will pertain to your situation.

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Travel Outside of the U.S.

Travelling outside of the U.S. while in a period of work authorization has different requirements than when you were a student at Rensselaer.

Travel during Post-Completion OPT

Our office does not recommend traveling outside the U.S. while your OPT application is pending with USCIS. If you must travel while your application is pending, please consult the ISSS Office.

For students whose OPT has been approved, you can travel outside the U.S. provided you have the following:

  • Valid I-20 signed for travel within the past 6 months
  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa (if you need to renew, contact ISSS before you go)
  • EAD card
  • Proof of employment upon re-entering the U.S. (e.g. offer letter, contract, etc.)
Travel during STEM OPT

You should not travel outside the United States while your STEM extension application is pending unless you will return before your Post-Completion EAD expires.

Once the application is approved you will receive a new EAD card. 

For students whose STEM OPT has been approved, you can travel outside the U.S. provided you have the following:

  • Valid I-20 signed for travel within the past 6 months
  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa (if you need to renew, contact ISSS before you go)
  • EAD card
  • Proof of employment upon re-entering the U.S. (e.g. offer letter, contract, etc.)