Form I-9

Form I-9 Instructions for CPT & OPT Students

Published On
Oct 6, 2020
Read Time
7 Minutes
OnBlick Inc

Form I-9: A must need form for all the employees who are working for pay in the US. Though Form I-9 is a part of the onboarding process for long, many employers still have uncertainties about its completion and retention.

As an employer, you must remember that completion of I-9 is a must for all your employees working for pay. So, it is advisable to stay prepared with best practices for I-9 completion of your new hires. When we talk about I-9s, one of the major concern many employers have is:

Is Form I-9 needed for CPT & OPT employees?

Yes. The purpose of the I-9 is to help employers verify the identity and employment authorization of each person they hire. Every new employee hired after November 6, 1986, is required to have an I-9 form. So, employers should complete I-9s for students who are working on either CPT or OPT.

Let’s have a quick glance at how both these training programs function.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a program that temporarily allows international students with an F-1 visa to gain practical experience directly related to their major through employment. It must be part of an established curriculum. CPT must be completed before graduating and it can be either part-time or full-time. However, if a student works full-time for 12 months in CPT, they will lose eligibility for OPT.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) temporarily allows international students with an F-1 visa to work up to 12 months concerning their major of study. They are eligible for OPT after completing their first academic year. OPT can be completed both before or after completing your studies, but it’s important to remember that it is allowed only for 12 months.


STEM OPT stands for "Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Optional Practical Training." It is a program that allows international students who have graduated with degrees in STEM fields from U.S. colleges and universities to work in the United States.

To be eligible for STEM OPT, students must have obtained a degree in a qualifying STEM field from an accredited U.S. institution, and they must have a job offer from an employer that is enrolled in the E-Verify program. Additionally, the employer must provide the student with a formal training plan that is designed to enhance the student's knowledge and skills in their field of study.

International students with an F-1 visa who have completed degrees in STEM are eligible for a 24-month extension. This is referred to as the STEM OPT extension.

Now, we are aware that completing Form I-9s for student employees is a must. As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure proper completion, supporting document collection, and retention of these I-9s.

Some common questions that may arise during completion of I-9s are:

* Which supporting document should be collected for CPT employees?

* Which document should be considered as work authorization document for OPT employees?

* Do I need to complete I-9s for unpaid interns as well?

Here is an article that provides Form I-9 Instructions for completion and supporting document collection for F-1 students.

Completing Section-1 of the Form I-9 for CPT & OPT Students

An F-1 nonimmigrant student may begin CPT after the Designated School Official (DSO) has authorized CPT on the student’s Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. As an employer, it is your responsibility to share the Form I-9’s section-1 with these new hires on the date of hire. You can also send this section for completion once your new hire accepts the job offer, but not before.

As per the norm, your student employee should complete section-1 by the end of first day of work. This section includes employee information and the employee must complete this section with utmost accuracy to prevent any violations and penalties. It includes employee information like last name, first name, middle initial, other last names used, along with their address and date of birth.

Now, the confusing question in section-1 is about the citizenship status of the student employee.

Citizenship Status for CPT

Any student working on an F-1 visa should select “An alien authorized to work until” when completing this Section 1. These students should enter the CPT employment end date from the employment authorization section of their Form I-20 in Section 1 as the date employment authorization expires.

Citizenship Status for OPT

Foreign students who are in F-1 nonimmigrant status and wish to participate in OPT must obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS before they are authorized to work. The student cannot begin employment until the date indicated on this EAD.

The students who are working under OPT program should select the same citizenship status “An alien authorized to work until” as CPT students. But, they must enter the “Card Expires” date from their EAD in the Authorized to Work Until field in Section 1. As EAD establishes their identity and employment authorization, they should enter the card information including the number and expiration date under List A in Section 2 of Form I-9. If this EAD expires, you must re-verify the F-1 student’s employment authorization in Section 3.

A Tabular form indicating the “Authorized to work until” date and supporting documents based on the employment type

Form I-9 Supporting Documents for CPT & OPT Students

F-1 students participating in CPT must present the following documents from the list of acceptable documents to establish their identity and employment authorization:

A List-A document, including the combination of:

* Unexpired foreign passport;

* Form I-20 with the DSO endorsement for employment; and

* Form I-94 indicating F-1 nonimmigrant status.


* List B and List C documents.

For example, a state driver’s license from List B and a Form I-94 indicating F-1 nonimmigrant status with a properly endorsed Form I-20 from List C.

Students participating under the OPT training may present their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as a supporting document. This a List A document that establishes their identity and employment authorization. As an employer, you should enter the card information including the number and expiration date in Section 2 of Form I-9. Else the employee can submit a combination of List B and List C documents.

Cap-Gap Extension

“Cap-gap” refers to the period between the time an F-1 student’s status would end and their H-1B status begins. F-1 students who timely file their H-1B petitions (before October 1st) and seek a change of status may be eligible for a cap-gap extension of status and employment authorization. This Cap-gap period ends on September 30th of the year you filed Form I-129, but only if the student’s H-1B status begins on Oct. 1.

So, if you employ an F-1 nonimmigrant student in OPT and you have timely filed an H-1B petition for that student, they can continue working beyond the expiration date on their OPT EAD while waiting for the start date of an approved or pending H-1B petition.

But, this cap-gap extension ends earlier than September 30th if the H-1B petition is rejected, denied, or revoked.

Citizenship Status and Expiry Date for Cap-Gap Students

A student under the Cap-Gap extension should select “An alien authorized to work until” under citizenship status in Section -1. The expiration date for work authorization would be September 30th of that year.

Supporting Documents for Students under Cap-Gap Extension

A document from List- A that includes

* The expired EAD; and

* Form I-797C, Notice of Action.

* A combination of List B and List C documents.

Cap-Gap Reverification

If an employee’s EAD automatic extension expires on Oct. 1, the employer must reverify their employment authorization in Section 3 by Sept. 30 of the year they filed the petition.

When USCIS approves the H-1B petition, the employer will receive a Form I-797 with their employee’s new Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record.

Enter the Form I-94 document title, number, and expiration date in Section 3 to complete reverification.

The employee may also present any document from List A or C, or an acceptable List A or C receipt described in Section 4.3, Acceptable Receipts, to reverify their employment authorization.

Even after decades of its existence, employers still struggle to ensure Form I-9 compliance. This is due to the complications involved in staying up-to-date with it or due to lack of awareness about Form I-9 instructions. Let the experts guide you.

OnBlick’s electronic Form I-9 is developed with an intention of providing end-to-end guidance to employers on I-9 completion. Right from sharing section-1 to employee, supporting document collection, digital signatures, remote hire verification, and timely alerts about expiring documents. OnBlick is capable of doing all of it and much more. Try OnBlick’s electronic Form I-9 today and ensure I-9 compliance.

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