F-1 Employees Working Under OPT or STEM-OPT
All employees at Vanderbilt, working under OPT, are required to fully exhaust all available OPT, including STEM-OPT before we begin the H-1B, E-3, O-1 or TN employment period. Barring exceptional or unusual circumstances, Vanderbilt will begin the employment visa petition process no earlier than 6 months before the OPT expiration date.
F-1/OPT employees have between 12 and 29 months of OPT time available to them. STEM employees can use 29 months of OPT; non-STEM employees have 12 months of OPT. The employment visa (H-1B, TN, E-3 or O-1) will begin the day after the 12 or 29 month period – whichever is relevant --- ends.
Only certain F-1 employees are eligible for the STEM-OPT. To determine if you are eligible for the STEM-OPT please look at the page 3 of your I-20 and the line that says "Primary Major." Your area of study and a six digit code (xx.xxxx) will be listed there. Once you have the six digit code, you can see if it is listed on the STEM-OPT CIP Code List. (or pdf of STEM-OPT Eligibility List). If your code is listed, you must apply for the STEM-OPT extension with the assistance of your F-1 sponsoring institution. Please contact your DSO for additional assistance.
Vanderbilt University is an E-Verify employer. As such, we are able to utilize the benefit of the STEM-OPT extension which allows certain employees in the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics an additional 17 months of OPT. Therefore, these particular employees are eligible for 29 months of employment in the area of their academic discipline. Vanderbilt's E-Verify number is required on the I-765 application when a STEM-OPT extension is requested. Vanderbilt's Company Identification Number is 29832 and the Client Company ID number is 573107. The I-765 asks for either the company identification number or the client company ID number. It may be best to provide the Client Company ID number of 573107 as that number is specific to Vanderbilt. If you are filing the I-765 STEM--OPT online you must add three zeros to the number: "000573107."
The university is also listed as "Vanderbilt University" in the E-Verify system. You do not need to use the name "The Vanderbilt University." For more information about completing the I-765 application, please view our EAD Categories & E-Verify Information For I-765 page.
The 17 month extension requires the F-1/OPT employee to do a simple immigration filing that is exactly the same as the filing done to get the original OPT-EAD approval. The employee contacts their DSO, obtains a new I-20 showing the STEM-OPT extension information and files another I-765 application with USCIS. Each higher education institution has information about the STEM-OPT process and the F-1/OPT employee is strongly advised to contact their DSO at least four months before their current OPT-EAD expires.
The STEM-OPT extension also provides F-1/OPT employees with the benefit of receiving an automatic 180 day extension of employment. All the employee must do is file the I-765 (STEM-OPT) extension before the current OPT/EAD expires and bring the USCIS receipt to the HR Express office at 2525 West End. A timely filing ensures uninterrupted employment for our F-1/OPT employees. OIS advisors will happily work with the F-1/OPT employee and the DSO from the F-1 sponsoring institution to ensure the OPT extension filing is done in a timely and accurate manner. Please note that if you are a Vanderbilt sponsored F-1 (i.e. Vanderbilt ISSS issued your I-20 document) you should contact ISSS for assistance with your STEM-OPT extension filing. ISSS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Traveling as an F-1 with OPT or STEM-OPT:
Employees with F-1/OPT can also travel abroad and obtain new F-1 visa stamps (if necessary). The process and documents needed are very clearly laid out on US consulate and immigration websites. In addition, as with all international employees, should the F-1 employee travel abroad, OIS will provide direction, employment verification letters and review their documentation to ensure that they have everything necessary to obtain an F-1 visa stamp and readmission into the USA. Should there be a delay with visa issuance due to an administrative security check --- this occurs most often with our H-1B employees --- we also monitor the process and follow up with both the consulate and Dept. of State headquarters until the matter is resolved.
Again, please note that if you are a Vanderbilt sponsored F-1 (i.e. Vanderbilt ISSS issued your I-20 document) you should contact ISSS for information about traveling abroad, F-1 visa stamp processing and consular assistance.