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: November 27, 2019.

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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

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

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.

Application Instructions

  • Review the instructions and documentation requirements in the STEM OPT Process Guide, found here: https://rpi.box.com/v/STEMOPTprocessguide
    • More forms can be found on the ISSS Forms page > F Student Requests > STEM OPT.
  • Please allow 3-4 weeks processing time for any forms submitted. You will receive an email notification once documents are processed.
    • Your initial STEM OPT application will be reviewed within the first 2 weeks of this time period. Often revisions to documents are required, and the STEM OPT process can take up to 4 weeks or longer (depending upon your response time and ISSS processing) before the new I-20 is issued.

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.

STEM OPT FAQs

  • I graduated with two degrees and one is STEM. Can I apply for the STEM extension?
    • Yes, as long as your employment is directly related to the STEM qualifying degree.
  • Do I need a job to apply?
    • Yes, you will need to have a job offer from an e-Verified company and completed Form I-983 Training Plan in order to apply for the STEM OPT Extension with USCIS.
  • What is E-Verify?
    • E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. The E-Verify program is operated by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. Your employer must provide an E-Verify number for your I-765 to be included with your STEM extension application. Your employer should also notify the ISSS Office of your termination, departure, or unexplained absence within 10 business days.
  • What if I am unemployed after starting STEM OPT?
    • With the STEM OPT Extension, students are allowed an additional 60 days of unemployment beyond the initial Post-Completion OPT limit of 90 days, allowing for a total of 150 days of unemployment. This includes weekends.
    • Please note that when applying for the STEM OPT Extension, the student cannot exceed 90 days of unemployment in the initial Post-Completion OPT period.
  • Can I travel?
    • 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. You will need this new EAD card, along with a valid I-20 (signed for travel in the past 6 months), a valid passport, a valid visa, and proof of employment upon return to re-enter the United States.
  • How should I report to ISSS?
    • You should send our office a copy of your new EAD card once your STEM extension is approved.
    • You should also update us on any changes in personal and employment information and status within 10 business days of the change, including, but not limited to: address changes, employer changes (including employer name, address, start date, and e-Verify number), loss of employment, changes in legal name, changes to your contact information, materials changes to the Form I-983, or any other changes to your status.
    • As a part of maintaining your F-1 status while on STEM OPT, you are required to check-in with our office every 6 months while on STEM OPT, even if none of your other information has changed, and to complete the required annual evaluations on your Form I-983 and submit them to ISSS.
    • * NOTE: If you end employment before your STEM OPT is over, you must complete the ‘Final Evaluation on Student Progress’ found on Page 5 of the Form I-983 and provide that document to ISSS within 10 days of ending your employment.
    • If you change employers while on STEM extension your new employer must also be e-Verified and you must submit a new Form I-983 to ISSS within 10 business days.
  • On the Form I-983, what should I list as the 'Designated School Official (DSO) Name and Contact Information"?
    • Please list the following information: Emilie Buse, busee@rpi.edu, 518-276-4966

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.

For help filling out this form, see the documentation on the ISSS Forms page > F Student Requests > STEM OPT.

STEM OPT Reporting

As a part of maintaining your F-1 status while on STEM OPT, you are required to 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.

If you have a new employer while on STEM OPT, your new employer must also be e-Verified and you must submit both a new Form I-983 and a completed STEM OPT Employer Reporting Form to ISSS within 10 business days to report this employment.

Employment Changes

You must update ISSS on any changes in personal and employment information and status within 10 business 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 via email to ISSSoffice@rpi.edu and will require you to provide an updated Form I-983.

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.

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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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:

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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, please submit the following documents to the ISSS Office:

  • Completed and signed F-1 Transfer Request Form, found here: rpi.app.box.com/v/transferoutform
  • Copy of acceptance letter to the new institution
  • Transfer-In Form from the new institution

Please keep the following in mind when transferring your SEVIS record:

  • On your SEVIS release date, your record no longer belongs to RPI. This means that you are no longer authorized for any study or employment granted by RPI, and that the ISSS Office no longer has access to the record to make changes. Please think carefully about your plans before choosing a release date.
  • Your new school cannot issue a new I-20 until the SEVIS record has been released to them.
  • You can remain in the U.S. throughout the transfer process. If you are overseas your record can still be transferred, but you will need the new I-20 from your new school to re-enter the U.S. and apply for a new F-1 visa (if your current visa is expired).
  • Students on OPT/STEM OPT who will be starting a new program must request their SEVIS record be transferred. This can be done at any time while you are on OPT/STEM OPT or within 60 days of your OPT/STEM OPT end date. Choosing a release date before your OPT/STEM OPT ends automatically cancels any remaining OPT/STEM OPT work authorization.
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.)