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Frequently Asked Questions about Reporting Changes

Below you'll find some of the most frequently asked questions about reporting changes on OPT and their answers.

Should I report updates through the SEVP portal, through CMU or through both?

Background: The SEVP portal was developed by the government to allow students to self-report employment and address changes directly to the government. Prior to the SEVP portal, all OPT updates were submitted to the school who in turn submitted the information to the government. We encourage all students to create a SEVP portal account.

For general employment updates: We currently recommend that all employment updates be made through CMU's reporting page and not through the SEVP portal. This is because we have found that SEVP portal submissions are generally missing important pieces of information. Therefore, submitting your updates through CMU provides you with another level of verification before submitting your information to the government. If you choose to make your updates through the portal, and OGE advisor may contact you to complete any missing information.

For address updates: Address updates may be made through the SEVP portal, through CMU's reporting page, or through both. Regardless of how you submit your address, it will get updated with the government. Please note that in the event OGE needs to mail you something, we will always ask you for your preferred mailing address at the time of mailing. We do not automatically use the address you have reported for mailing purposes.

For STEM extension participation reports: Participation reports can only be completed through CMU's reporting page. Therefore, you do not need to report your participation through the SEVP portal. See the "report STEM extension participation" heading above. Please note that you may receive emails from the portal about a participation report even though you completed it through our office. This is normal. Please also note that the automated SEVP portal emails provide incomplete information on how to complete your participation report. See the email you received from OGE or the STEM extension participation report heading above to see more specific information on how to complete this.

Is unpaid or volunteer work allowable for OPT?

For post-completion OPT, yes, unpaid or volunteer work may be allowable provided that the work is directly related to your program of study. Unpaid or volunteer work is generally not permitted for work during STEM OPT Extension.

If you work in an unpaid or volunteer capacity, we recommend keeping records of the following:

  • Copies of any and all correspondence you may have had with the entity for which you are working/volunteering. Ideally, this correspondence would spell out the terms of your volunteer work, including start and end dates, how you will be trained, and the location of the training.
  • Clear goals and objectives for your unpaid/volunteer work. Theseshould plainly and obviously, align with your program of study.
  • Copies of time records showing the dates and times in which you worked along with a description of what you did.
  • Copies of any and all training material you may have received while conducting your work, including reading assignments, certificates of completion, screenshots of online quizzes/test results, etc.
  • Copies of products or artifacts you may have produced while conducting your work, including research studies (published or unpublished), book reviews, brochures, websites, etc.

You are not required to submit any of these records to the OGE for review. These are merely suggestions in the event USCIS, SEVP, or another government agency asks you for more detail about your volunteer or unpaid work. The government may ask for such information at any time to ensure that you are complying with the terms of your OPT and F-1 status. The burden is on you to prove that any and all work you undertake while on OPT meets the requirements of the OPT program and F-1 regulations. Serious consequences may arise in the event the government is not satisfied with how you respond to their inquiries.

How do I know if I am on STEM OPT or Post Completion OPT?

Look at page 2 of your I-20 under the "Employment Authorizations" box. If you are on STEM OPT, it will say "STEM OPT" for the employment type. Otherwise, it will say "Post Completion OPT." Everyone who applies for OPT after graduation first starts with post-completion OPT, even if you completed a STEM degree. STEM OPT is an additional 24-month extension of your post-completion OPT that you must apply for. It is granted to students who have completed certain majors in science, technology, engineering, or math. More information about STEM OPT is located on the STEM OPT page.

I am approaching my limit of unemployment. What can I do?

Limits on unemployment:

  • Students on post-completion OPT: 90 days maximum of unemployment
  • Students on STEM OPT: 150 days maximum of unemployment

Before considering the options below, do keep in mind that volunteer work can be counted as "employment" while on post-completion OPT (though unpaid/volunteer work is generally not permissible for STEM OPT). Any volunteer work you report needs to be directly related to your program of study and must amount to more than 20 hours of work each week in order to stop the accrual of unemployment. Multiple part-time volunteer positions that total more than 20 hours each week are also acceptable. Additionally, multiple part-time paid positions related to your program of study are also acceptable so long as they also total more than 20 hours of work each week combined.

You have a few additional options to consider to remain in valid status if you are approaching your maximum allowed days of unemployment:

  • OPTION 1:Depart the United States by the end of the day on day 90. You should also report to our office that you are abandoning OPT. You can report this above. If you do find employment that starts before day 90, you can report that as well using the reporting form above. Just keep in mind that you are only allowed 90 days (post-completion) or 150 days (STEM) of unemployment in aggregate. Therefore, if you are unemployed in the future, the days you have already accrued will continue to count against the allotment in addition to any future days you may accrue.
  • OPTION 2: Apply for and be accepted to a new program at CMU. Once you gain admission, you should contact to inquire about how to begin the change of education level process. You must be issued a new I-20 by CMU by the end of the day on day 90 at the latest. Your new program must also start within 5 months of the last day of your OPT in order to remain in valid status.
  • OPTION 3:Apply for and be accepted to a new school and request to transfer your I-20. You must request to transfer your I-20 by day 90. In order to request this, you must have an approved admission to your new school. Your new program must start within 5 months of the last day of your OPT in order for you to remain in the United States in valid F-1 status. You should speak to your new school about this timeline. See the information on the I-20 transfer out page for more information on how to request this.
  • OPTION 4: File for a change of status that allows you to remain in the United States while your application is pending. This is a long and complicated process with few options. You should work with an immigration attorney on this if you wish to pursue this option. OGE is unable to assist with the change of status requests.

I am on STEM OPT. What are all the steps I need to complete to report that I've changed employers?

STEP 1: Complete a new Form I-983 with your employer (download blank copy here). Keep in mind that any and all new employment you undertake on STEM OPT must meet the STEM OPT employer requirements. You can read about those requirements on the STEM OPT page.

STEP 2: Submit a new employer report by clicking on the button under the "Report that I have started a job" heading above. Make sure to mark "Yes" for question 1 and attach your completed I-983 to question 2.

STEP 3: Complete and submit the final evaluation on student progress for your old employer using Form I-983 you completed with them. This is the bottom box on page 5. Instructions on how to submit this are located under the "Report that I have ended a job" heading above. This final evaluation is in addition to the ongoing 6-month participation reports you must complete (see "Report STEM extension participation" above).

The 6- and 18-month STEM participation report questionnaires do not include a location to upload my I-983. What should I do?

The 6- and 18-month STEM participation reports do not require completion of an I-983 evaluation. Therefore, there is no reason to upload one. Only the 12- and 24-month reports require completion of an I-983 evaluation. The 6- and 18-month reports simply ask that you confirm your physical address and your employer information.