Scripps Research Logo

For Students on F-1 OPT

Information for F-1 Students Currently Holding an OPT Work Permit in a STEM Field

F-1 students in their first year of OPT may apply for an extension of OPT for 24 months (a total of 3 years of work permission), if required steps are completed prior to the expiration of their first-year OPT work permit and a petition is filed and receipted by the USCIS prior to the expiration of their current work permit. A receipt for filing an OPT extension request is sufficient to continue employment for 180 days. International students can call the International Services Office (858-784-8120) at any time to set up an advising appointment to discuss OPT, whether you graduated from TSRI or another institution. However, if you graduated from another institution, you will need to work with your international student advisor at your degree-granting institution to process the extension request, so it is important to contact them as early as possible.


Supervisors at TSRI (usually a PI) must meet significant obligations in order to employ an F-1 student during the STEM OPT period. These are listed below.

  • Training plan
    Before an application for a STEM OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) can be filed, the supervisor and the F-1 student must prepare and sign a formal training plan and submit it to the student’s International Student Advisor (also known as a “Designated School Official” or DSO). For a TSRI graduate, the training plan must be on file at the International Services Office (ISO). The training plan is completed using a Form I-983.  To complete the I-983, the student and the supervisor must list:
  1. The specific goals for the STEM OPT period and how they will be achieved;
  2. The specific knowledge, skills or techniques that the student will learn;
  3. Explain how the training is directly related to the student’s STEM degree; and
  4. Describe how the student will be supervised and evaluated.
  •  Employer attestations
     The supervisor will sign the I-983 form to confirm his or her  understanding that:
  1. The terms and conditions of the STEM OPT employment – including compensation – are commensurate with those provided to similarly situated U.S. workers. Compensation information must be disclosed in the training plan.
  2. The STEM OPT student will not “replace” a full- or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker.
  3. The supervisor has sufficient resources and personnel to train the student in the position.
  4. The training is directly related to the STEM degree and the offered position will achieve the objectives of the training plan.
  • Evaluations
    Just before the first 12 months of STEM OPT have passed and again, just before the end of the total 3-year period, the student must complete a self-evaluation on the same form I-983 and it must be reviewed, discussed and signed off on by the student and his or her supervisor. The student must submit the evaluation to their International Student Advisor within ten days after the conclusion of the review period. 
  • Employment termination
    The supervisor must inform the International Services Office at TSRI within five business days if the F-1 student is terminated or departs the STEM OPT job. The ISO will report this to the student’s home institution, if it is not TSRI.
  • Changes in the training plan
    The supervisor should inform the ISO “at the earliest available opportunity” if there are material changes to or deviations from the training plan. Material changes include a decrease in the F-1 student’s compensation that is not tied to a reduction in work hours; a significant decrease in work hours; any decrease in work hours below the minimum 20 hours per week (excluding time off pursuant to the TSRI’s leave policy); or any change or deviation that renders the I-983 attestations invalid or the training plan inaccurate. The ISO will report this information to the home institution if it is not TSRI.

All F-1 students on STEM OPT will be required to: 

  1. Report to their International Student Advisor within 10 days after starting a new STEM OPT job. If there is a job change from the original STEM job, the student must submit the new employer’s training plan to their International Student Advisor, using form I-983, who must make a new recommendation for STEM OPT and issue a new I-20 document.
  2. Report to their International Student Advisor any change in their legal name, residence address, employer’s name and address or loss of employment. This must be done within 10 days of the change to maintain legal status.
  3. Report to their International Student Advisor any material changes to the training plan “at the earliest available opportunity."
  4. Report to their International Student Advisor every six months (four times throughout their STEM OPT period), to confirm the accuracy of information in their SEVIS record, including their legal name and residence address, employer name and address and the status of their current employment.
  5. Submit a self-evaluation on form I-983 to their International Student Advisor just before 12 months have passed on STEM OPT and again, just before the end of 24 months on the STEM OPT work permit. This must be signed by the student and his or her supervisor.

Limitation on Days of Unemployment

The new rule allows STEM OPT students a maximum of 150 days of unemployment during their entire post-completion OPT period of three years. This includes 90 days during the initial 12-month work permit and an additional 60 days once granted a STEM extension. Unused unemployment days will carry over. For example, if there has been no unemployment during the first year of OPT, the international student could use up to the total of 150 days of unemployment during the STEM OPT extension.

The law allowing STEM extensions for 24 months goes into effect on May 10, 2016. Before an application can be submitted, the following steps must be completed:

  1. The supervisor and the F-1 student must prepare and sign the I-983 training plan.
  2. The student must submit the training plan to their International Student Advisor (DSO).
  3. The International Student Advisor must review and approve the plan to ensure that it is complete and signed and that it addresses program requirements. 
  4. The International Student Advisor must then recommend STEM OPT extension by endorsing and printing a new form I-20.
  5. The F-1 international student must then submit form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and supporting documentation to USCIS. This must happen during the validity of the F-1’s initial OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and within 60 days of the International Student Advisor’s recommendation for STEM OPT, listed on the I-20. The training plan need not be submitted with the application, but USCIS has the authority to request a copy of the plan.
  6. If the current OPT EAD expires while the STEM extension is pending, the F-1 student’s employment authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 days while the application is adjudicated. 

Driver’s License Requirement 

The Department of Motor Vehicles will not extend a driver’s license based on a receipt for a STEM OPT extension, even though the student can work for 180 days with a receipt. Therefore, it is extremely important to file the STEM OPT extension at the earliest point allowed, which is 120 days prior to the expiration of the initial OPT work permit, if the driver’s license expiration date coincides with the initial OPT expiration date.

Immigration forms can be found on the USCIS website Form I-983 has specific employer information that is needed so please contact the International Services Office if you will be employed by TSRI to obtain a sample of this form, including the required employer information. If you are a TSRI graduate who will be employed elsewhere, please contact the HR office or international office for the information you need. In either case, you may contact the International Services Office with any questions. We are here to help!