Answering HR Pros’ Most Common Business Immigration Questions: How Do I Verify the Work Authorization of F-1 STEM OPT Students?

We frequently get business immigration questions, and many of them are quite similar. Because of this, we like to answer some of the most common concerns as blog posts in the hopes that more people will get the information they need faster.

This post will focus on verifying the work authorization of F-1 STEM OPT students. Let’s dive in!

How do I verify the work authorization of a student in F-1 status and STEM OPT?

DHS issues F-1 students documents showing employment authorization based on the type of student they are and the type of employment they have.

A foreign student in F-1 STEM OPT is issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that states “STU: STEM OPT ONLY.”  

The following documents establish these students’ identity and employment authorization for Form I-9: 

✓ Unexpired STEM OPT EAD, OR 

✓ An expired OPT EAD with Form I-20 endorsed by the student’s DSO recommending a STEM extension, if the student timely filed their Form I-765 but their application is still pending.

The expired OPT EAD with the endorsed Form I-20 for STEM OPT and proof of a timely filed EAD STEM extension provides the student with an automatic 180-day employment authorization extension, while the extension application is pending with USCIS.

This automatic 180-day extension ceases once USCIS adjudicates the STEM OPT extension application.  

To update Form I-9 Section 2 for a current employee with a pending STEM OPT extension:

  1. Review the employee’s Form I-20 endorsed by the student’s designated school official recommending a STEM extension and
  2. Enter EAD EXT and the date 180 days from the EAD Card’s Expiration date in the Additional Information field.  For example, EAD EXT mm/dd/yyyy.

You must reverify the employment authorization 180 days from the date the EAD expires to continue employment.

If the student has changed employers, the Form I-20 must also contain the new employer’s information.