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

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.