Employing F-1 Students on Optional Practical Training

International students enrolled and completing degree programs are often sponsored by their schools in the F-1 student visa category. This category allows the school to sponsor students for a period of practical training so they can enhance their academic degree known as Optional Practical Training (OPT).

If the training period is approved by the sponsoring school, the student will apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Once OPT is approved by the USCIS, the students will be allowed to work in a field related to their degree for the duration of approval.  UCSF departments employ OPT students for the duration of their EAD approval.

Types of OPT

Post-Completion OPT (Initial)

All F-1 students are eligible for up to 12 months of OPT for employment in their field of study. If a UCSF department wishes to host a student utilizing OPT, they should first contact their HR Service Center to arrange an appropriate appointment. Please keep in mind that the student cannot begin working prior to the start date on their EAD card.

STEM OPT (Extension)

STEM OPT allows international students with a U.S. Bachelors, Masters, or Doctoral degree in certain Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) fields to work beyond the initial 12-month OPT period.

Basics of STEM OPT

  • Duration: Up to 24-months (for a total of 36 eligible months of employment with initial OPT)
  • Training Plan, Form I-983: Students and employers must complete and submit a training plan to their international student adviser before an application can be sent to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)
  • Training Plan Modifications: Material changes to employment require that students and employers update and submit the training plan to their international student adviser
  • Evaluations: Requires annual and final supervisor evaluation
  • Employment Requirements: Must work a minimum of 20-hours per week and be paid employment; without salary appointments are not eligible for OPT STEM
  • Termination: Terminations prior to the authorized employment end date must be reported to the sponsoring F-1 school within 5-business days

Important Considerations for STEM OPT

  • It will require the employer and employee to create a training plan using DHS form I-983. Guidance for completing the I-983 can be found at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security webpage.
  • The employee’s supervisor will need to evaluate the student on an annual basis and complete a final evaluation.
  • Termination of employment prior to the end date of authorized employment will need to be reported to the sponsoring school within 5-business days. The supervisor completing the training plan will be required to notify the sponsoring institution’s international office.

Completing the I-983 form

The sections below refer to the sections of the Form I-983. Any material changes to any of the information below, after the I-983 has been completed, will require completing a new I-983.

  • Sections 1 and 2

The required information for this section should be obtained by the student completing the I-983. Some fields may require information from the school the student most recently graduated from and the DSO at the school, whose name is printed on the I-20 form.

  • Section 3

If needed, the student should reach out to their UCSF HR representative for the most up-to-date compensation information. The NAICS code is 611310. For all other UCSF information, including the UCSF EIN, address, number of employees and other e-Verify information please visit the UCSF Controller's E-Verify webpage or contact the UCSF Controller's Office at [email protected].

The start date listed on the I-983 should be the start date of the STEM OPT extension period. Please use the date after the current EAD end date as the STEM OPT start date.

  • Section 4

This section may be signed and dated by anyone in the department who is able to attest to the bulleted items above the signature line. The signer may be the same signer as Section 6 (the PI or supervisor) or a different person.

  • Sections 5 and 6

This is the actual STEM OPT training plan and should be completed by the PI or supervisor in cooperation with the student. Generally, the PI or supervisor signs the training plan in Section 6.


When completing the Form I-765 for the STEM OPT EAD, the student will be required to enter the UCSF e-verify number. This number can be obtained from the UCSF Controller's Office.


  • If you are employing a UCSF-sponsored F-1 OPT STEM student, please contact [email protected]. An F-1 “UCSF-sponsored student” is an international student who has been awarded a degree from UCSF.
  • If you are employing a non-UCSF sponsored F-1 OPT STEM student, the student must contact the international adviser at the institution that granted their degree for additional guidance.
  • If you are a UCSF department representative who has questions about employing a STEM OPT student, please contact the ISSO at [email protected].