As long as an F-1 student's STEM OPT extension is timely filed (properly delivered to USCIS before the expiration of their current OPT EAD card), the student benefit from an automatic extension of their work authorization for up to 180 days after the expiration of the current card while the extension application is pending with USCIS. Students may elect to show their employer the USCIS issued I-797C, Receipt Notice for the extension, but the receipt notice is not required to keep working and students are not required to provide it to their employer.
The ability to continue working while the STEM OPT extension application is pending is written in the immigration regulations at: 8 CFR § 214.2(f)(11)(i)(C)
- USCIS addresses this in their STEM OPT extension FAQ
- Employer's I-9 obligations are explained in I-9 Central and the evidence section of the M-274 Handbook For Employers
- Students can legally verify their continued work authorization using the following documents:
- Current (expired) OPT EAD Card
- STEM OPT I-20 (with new validity dates) issued by our office at the time of your application
Students are allowed to begin work as soon as their work authorization is valid (CPT I-20, OPT EAD card), even if they do not yet have an SSN. We've included some additional resources on this below:
The Social Security Administration has provided the following guidance in a Dear Colleague letter:
"An F-1 or M-1 student may work while the Social Security number application is being processed. Employers may wish to reference Social Security's fact sheet, Employer Responsibilities When Hiring Foreign Workers. This fact sheet contains information on how to report wages for an employee who has not yet received an SSN and is available online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/employer/hiring.htm. There is no provision in the Social Security Act (the Act) that employers must have their employees' SSNs before hiring them. Neither is there any provision in the Act that prohibits an employee from beginning work if he or she has not yet obtained an SSN."
IRS has provided guidance "Delays in Issuing SSNs to Aliens by the Social Security Administration"
"There is no federal law administered by any federal agency which prohibits the hiring of a person based solely on the fact that the person does not have a Social Security Number (SSN). Similarly, there is no federal law which prohibits the making of a payment to a person based solely on the fact that the person does not have an SSN."
IRS's "Employer's Tax Guide" contains the following instruction regarding paperwork filing requirements for employees who have applied for, but not yet received, a Social Security Number:
"If you file Form W-2 on paper and your employee applied for an SSN but does not have one when you must file Form W-2, enter "Applied For" on the form. If you are filing electronically, enter all zeros (000-00-000) in the social security number field. When the employee receives the SSN, file Copy A of Form W-2c, Corrected Wage and Tax Statement, with the SSA to show the employee's SSN. Furnish copies B, C, and 2 of Form W-2c to the employee. Up to five Forms W-2c for each Form W-3c may now be filed per session over the Internet, with no limit on the number of sessions. For more information, visit the SSA's Employer W-2 Filing Instructions & Information webpage at www.socialsecurity.gov/employer. Advise your employee to correct the SSN on his or her original Form W-2. Page 9, Publication 15, Circular E: Employer's Tax Guide"
USCIS's I-9 fact sheet for F-1 students contains the following guidance to students about I-9 validation:
"What if I have not yet received a Social Security number (SSN)? An SSN is not required for Form I-9. It is required if your employer uses E-Verify, but E-Verify allows you to work while you wait for an SSN."
Disclaimer: U.S. immigration regulations are complex and change frequently. While we strive to maintain a website that is both current and helpful, Santa Clara University is not responsible for students maintaining lawful immigration status; this is the responsibility of the student. Links provided do not constitute endorsement by Santa Clara University.