Optional Practical Training (OPT) - Post-completion
Post completion OPT allows international students to gain temporary off-campus employment directly related to the studentsí major field of study after graduation. It is limited to 12 months per degree level. A job offer is not required to apply for OPT.
- Student must have been enrolled as an F-1 full-time student for at least one academic year.
- Student must be in valid F-1 status including valid passport and SEVIS I-20.
Answering a few questions you might have about OPT:
- When to apply? Applications may be submitted to the correct Service Center from 90 days before the completion of the academic program to 60 days after the completion of the academic program. Applications should be done during the studentís last semester of study. Also, The OPT application must be sent to the correct USCIS Service Center within 30 days of the International student coordinatorís recommendation in SEVIS. This means within 30 days of the date on the OPT I-20.
- If I had CPT, can I still have OPT? Yes, as long as you did not have full-time CPT for at least one year.
- Do I need a job offer in order to apply? No.
- Is OPT a different visa? No. A person with OPT authorization is an F-1 student holding an EAD for OPT.
- When can I start OPT work? When you have the EAD (OPT card) and the start date on the EAD has been reached. Both conditions should be met before you can start working.
- Does OPT employment need to be full time? It needs to be at least 20 hours per week.
- Can I change employers if I have OPT? Yes. There is no immigration-related procedure required for doing so. As long as the employment is related to your field of study and is at your level of study (Bachelorís/ Masterís levels), you can work for any employer.
- How long can I stay in the United States after my OPT expires? Sixty days.
- Can I return to school after completing OPT? Yes. You need to obtain an I-20 for the next program of studies, and complete the Immigration procedure for moving to a "new level of studies" (if you resume studies at MSU), or the procedure for school transfer if you go to a different school.
- If I have OPT for a year and return to school for another degree, can I have another year of OPT? Only if your degree is at a higher level.
OPT Filing Instructions:
You may meet with the International Student Coordinator before you send the OPT application package if you would like it to be reviewed. Please call 701-858-3348 to schedule a time to meet, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to request an appointment. Make sure you to bring a completed OPT application package with you at the appointment.
Documents for OPT application (to obtain the EAD card):
- Completed G-1145 email notification Form (must be downloaded and completed from USCIS): www.uscis.gov/files/form/g-1145.pdf. This form must be on top of all the forms and documents sent to the Service Center.
- Completed I-765 Application Form (must be downloaded and completed from USCIS): http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-765.pdf You should make a copy for yourself and bring a copy for your file.
- I-765 Filing fee currently $380.00 U.S. funds. Make your check or money order payable to the
U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Check www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis and link to Ďformsí and to "I-765" to verify the amount;
- Two passport-style color photos with a white background taken no earlier than 30 days before submission to USCIS. They should be unmounted, glossy and unretouched. The photos should show a full-frontal facial position. Your head should be bare unless you are wearing a headdress as required by a religious order to which you belong. The photo should not be larger than 2 x 2 inches, with the distance from the top of the head to just below the chin about 1 1/4 inches. Lightly print your name and your I-94 number (or "A" number if you have one) on the back of each photo with a ball point pen or a pencil.
- A copy of your previously-issued I-20s
- Copy of valid passport
- Copy of valid visa
- Copy of I-94 (front & back)
- The original new SEVIS form I-20 issued by Office of International Programs. You need to send the application package within 30 days of the date your I-20 was updated with the OPT recommendation.
In order for the Office of International Programs to issue you a new I-20 with the OPT recommendation on it, you will need to provide the International Student Coordinator with:
- The graduation date letter filled out by your academic advisor. Please drop it in the drop box outside the Office of International Programs' door, if door is closed when you stop by. You may also ask your Academic Advisor to send it to the Office of International Programs through intra-campus mail.
- You also need to choose a start date for your OPT. The date needs to be within 60 days after your graduation date. You won’t be able to start working before the start date, or before you have received your card. It usually takes 90 to 120 days to process a card. Please email me your OPT start date once you have made your decision.
Mail the above materials to:
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
For Express mail and courier service deliveries:
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
Mail with return receipt requested as proof of mailing. It must be received by USCIS before the end of your 60 grace period.
EAD card processing:
- You should receive a receipt from USCIS. Please make certain that a copy of that receipt is in your file in the Office of International Programs.
Note: To verify your application status, use your LIN number which you will find in your receipt and call 402-323-7830 (24 hours line), or you can check at: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/Dashboard.do
- Processing the EAD can takes up to 120 days, so please mail as soon as possible and be patient.
- Remember that, while you are in the U.S. on OPT, you are still in student status. Therefore, you must notify your International Student Coordinator of all address changes within 10 days of the change (please only provide a physical address, since the SEVIS database does not accept P.O box addresses). Your SEVIS record will then be updated.
- You are also required to keep the International Student Coordinator informed and up-to-date on your employment status, whether you are seeking employment, have decided to leave the U.S., or have accepted an employment offer.
- You must have secured employment within 90 days of your OPT start date.
- If you get employment, you must provide the International Student Coordinator with a letter on company letterhead with the following information: description of employment, start date, and number of hours worked during a week. Any time this changes, you must notify the International Student Coordinator. Your SEVIS record will be updated so you remain in legal student status.
- Students must maintain employment while on OPT. Excessive unemployment will cause a studentís OPT to be cancelled. Students may not be unemployed for more than 90 days during their initial 12 months of OPT.
- If you travel outside the U.S. while on OPT, for re-entry you will need your I-20 that has been endorsed by the International Student Coordinator within the last 6 months. You will also need your OPT card, and evidence that you are returning to the U.S. to resume or accept employment. A letter from your employer would be the best. It is very risky to travel outside the U.S. after your program completion date if you have not yet secured employment as it may be considered an abandonment of your OPT authorization. I also recommend you carry your MSU transcript.
- Once your OPT has ended, you have a 60-day grace period in which to exit the U.S.
- Transferring to another school or beginning study at another educational level automatically ends OPT.
- Students should contact the International Student Coordinator if they plan to transfer to another school, or begin study at new educational level.
OPT extension to 29 months for STEM students:
- Students with certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) degrees may apply for an OPT extension of 17 months. This will give a total of 29 months of OPT. Check the following Internet site for a list of approved STEM degrees: www.ice.gov/sevis/stemlist.htm
- Students must apply for this extension before their current OPT EAD expires. Student may apply for the extension starting 120 days (4 months) before the initial OPT period ends. The OPT form I-765 now includes number 17: degree, name of employer as listed in E-Verify, and the companyís E-Verify identification number or E-Verify Client Company identification number. (Studentsí employers must have an E-Verify number in order for the student to apply for the OPT extension.)
The student will send the following to USCIS to apply for the extension:
- I-765 Form
- Copy of I-20 issued by IPSO with OPT Extension Recommendation
- Copy of Last EAD (front & back)
- Copy of Passport
- Copy of Visa
- 2 Color Passport Photos
- Copy of PSU Degree
- Check or Money Order for $340 (Made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security)
During the STEM Extension
- Send a report to the International Student Coordinator months 6 and 12 of the extension that includes the studentís name and address, and the employerís name and address. Any unemployment must also be reported. This report confirms that our information is correct and accurate. This report must be sent whether there are changes or not.
- Report any changes of the following within ten (10) days of the change:
- the student's legal name and address
- the employer name and address
Last updated June 25, 2014